25 January, 2019 • 3 min read
I went to the gym on a Wednesday after work. I did shoulders. I’d been going to the gym a fair bit and felt better for it. I left the gym to get into my car, still in my kit, and drive home. I was working in Winchester and lived with my mum, dad, two brothers, and Tilly, our Labrador puppy. On the way home, an ambulance overtook me at speed. I remember getting this strange gut feeling as it sped past on the country road. As I arrived home, the same ambulance was sat on the driveway. I pulled in, nearly crashing into the wall. I didn’t care. The front door was open and I ran inside. My mum stood, shaking in the living room. She held me and said ‘I’m afraid it’s your father’. She looked up at me. ‘Whatever happens, we must be strong’. I went through to the next door where my father was laying on his back. Motionless. Still. A paramedic asked me to help as it was just him and Will, my younger brother. Will had an air bag and I had to perform chest compressions. The paramedic continued to inject dad with adrenaline over the course of 20 minutes. I continued to give chest compressions. I remember how much my shoulders hurt, I remember screaming ‘come on dad’, with my mum watching two of her sons doing all they could. There came a point when more paramedics arrived and we were advised to go next door. We sat on the sofas in silence. A man came through and said that they had done all they could. On March the 25th, 2015, at around 1930, my father died. He was 56, I was 19.
The moment the paramedic told us, I went to the kitchen, Will went upstairs, and mum stayed motionless. I cried. I hadn’t cried in years. We came back to the living and it was the first time I saw Will cry since he was a toddler. It was the same for him with me. We phoned Tom, my older brother, who was working in Lisbon as part of his undergraduate degree. I phoned my employer. I didn’t cry.
I went to work the next morning. I was at a small, loving company. I took them into the meeting room and told them my father died. They cried, I did not.
At the funeral I stood at the front and spoke about my amazing father. I did not cry.
To this day, three and a half years on, no one has seen me cry. To this day, no one has ever heard me recount the day my father died. My closest friends don’t know how he died. I’ve been told I’ve dealt with it amazingly, I’ve been told I need to open up, I’ve been told ‘I’m here for you’. My father dying became an elephant in the room.
As a boy growing up, you are told that ‘Boys don’t cry’, to ‘grow a pair’, to ‘man up’. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than someone seeing me cry. If boys don’t cry, men sure as hell don’t. Right?
By simply not talking about something that had such a profound impact on my life, by choosing to hide my emotions, I think I’ve made things a lot worse. What my friends never saw was that everyday for 6 months after dad died, I cried. Sometimes it was at work. I used to hide in the toilet so no one could see. More often than not it was in my room, alone. I’ve cried for three and a half years. I cried today. I cried writing this. I always made sure I was alone.
After my father died, I moved to London. I live with my two best mates in a flat I’m extremely lucky to call home. My mother moved to a new house in Southampton, so ‘going home’ is now ‘visiting mum’. We had to make the difficult decision to give Tilly, our dog, away to a friend. To anyone that ever met Tilly, they’ll know she could be a fucking nightmare. But what they didn’t see was that when it was just me and her, she was calm, loving. She used to lick the tears from my face. I cry about Tilly a lot. I cry about the house too.
I’m writing this because there are people, boys especially, that cry and no one can hear them. There are people that hide themselves away. I’d hope that anyone that’s taken the time to read this would feel empowered to cry, to talk, to help, to laugh, to hug the people they care about, because love, is love, is love, is love, is love, is love, and there is nothing more fucking manly than crying.
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