"mum? Do You Have Cancer?"

My home town back in the UK had a cute railway bridge. Cute because it seemed to have a personality, well to me as a kid, I felt it had feelings. It was a servant. Hundreds of people everday used it to get from one side to the other and it seemed like it was an appreciative bridge. It's sole purpose for being in existence was being utilised to the max and this bridge was happy to know it's purpose and had the strength to fulfill it.

My mum and I were walking across this small 50 metre bridge one day, hand in hand, cold but well rugged up. The 50 metre bridge today was serving it's purpose well. It had the decency to make me feel like I was walking upon it's chest and it was there to support me, this day in particular, the bridge was like a mile long.

The silence between my mum and I, is, in adult terms, called an awkward silence. As a child, me being 11 at the time, it was a silence that had a weird sense of excitement about it, I had a hunch and I wanted to know if I was right. The answer bore no meaning, just so long as I was right. "Mum?, do you have cancer.?"  "Why do you ask that?" she replied in a calm manner that had already sated my curiosity.

Even now, as I write this, her black and white photo sits atop the microwave oven, her beaming smile of approval for all that I do and have done is the only connection I have or ever had with her. A connection that may have existed when she was alive but my early years were too cuaght up in rebellion, violence and independence to see her as one with apron strings. I didn't knnow what love was back then, however I soon learned after she died two years later.

In 'people coming in to our lives for a reason' I often reflect back at some of the darkest characters I was destined to meet at an early age and even 38 years hence have decided to forgive them. Take 'Tony's gang' for example. A group of six teenagers with one girl amongst them that would beat up anyone in their pathway. We became a feudal gang that never stood down to them despite their average age being 5 years above ours. Tony's gang were cowards however. They had no honour, just hatred and disgust and fear of facing who they really were.

I am not sure what to make of the few memories I have with mum considering many of them were sad. One memory that stands out is when we were walking through a park and the leader of the gang got his little troup to surround me and mum. I was wide eyed and terrified. I was terrified because I knew I couldn't take all six on and therefore lose face in front of mum.

Tony looked at me, all superior as if catching one of his prey all by himself. The very thought of evil seemed to arouse him in a way I can only describe as ************. I said to him "Tony, not here."   Mum had been oblivious to this feuding for the years it went on and now she was about to discover what her son got up to when not in school.  "What do you want?" she asked innocently  "Shut up c***" Tony replied to her.

Mum's jaw dropped, speechless. I stepped forward, willing Tony to let us pass. "Who is this?" mum asked "I said shut up c***" Tony repeated and managed to muster a throat full of phlegm and spit it at our feet. I looked at Tony as if to say, "have your day now, but this will be over when we meet next"

Tony at least had decided not to beat the hell out of us, I think even his fellow gang members were surprised at how low he could go. They passed us by but left me with a feeling that I couldn't protect myself anymore and the feeling that I had deeply let mum down, I felt a coward for not at least having a go, I was ashamed they had won and that mum had witnessed her son a loser. This took years to overcome.

As with Baxter in the previous story, good seemed to prevail....... eventually. Baxter and I had our grand final showdown on a hilltop one day after school. It was the fight to end all fights. Kids from three different schools gathered to watch as the grapevine worked its magic whenever a battle was to be fought.

The fight started with Baxter resorting to using a biro pen as his weapon and stabbed me in the ribs with it. I don't what it is when people use weapons that seems to set me off. We fought for 20 minutes, wrestling, punching, twisting headlocks, kicking and being spat upon by the crowd. Each time either myself or Baxter broke free, the crowd would push us back in the ring, Baxter and I were not fighting each other all of a sudden, it's like one of us had to mame the other to please the crowd, blood and broken teeth were not enough.

As the crowd grew impatient at the sight of us tiring, there was a defining moment that will stay with me forever. Baxter and I had both made it to our feet, swinging crunching punches, yet the pain non existent. The eyes of Baxter that were so full of hatred and revenge all these years looked into my soul and mine to his. We slowly stopped fighting, it was like neither of us wanted to hurt each other anymore - the heartless crowd sensed this and the jeers became warm respectful commentary; I have no idea why they changed their tune, where had their empathy suddenly come from?

Baxter and I put our arms across one another's shoulders. Exhausted by the fight, by the fighting, by the hatred, exhausted by the need to win. In an instant, I felt compassion and respect. Our friendship grew to an understanding that neither of us needed to know how it all began and why. It just did, and now that lesson would be a great gift to serve us in our later years.

Tony's gang split up after they recieved some of their own medicine by a couple of heavies they chose to mix it up with and all these little episodes in my life were coming to a close. Chapters were settled, friends gained and divine providence dispensed and of course even my mother's fight with cancer came to a close. Her fear of living was greater than that of dying. Her condition would have been unbearable should she have continued the struggle. The need to fight was over.

People fight because they are scared. It's all they have at times. I have been to soccor matches in the UK and seen some of the most frightful acts of violence imaginable, knivings, glassing, faces slit apart and lifes irreversibly changed in the name of sport. Well, in the name of fear really. I witnessed a young 15 year old black kid, slit open someones face just so he could pass the test to becoming accepted in to a gang of skinheads. Fear consumed him.

Of these and many other things that came my way, I managed to finally break free from the violence and futility and take counsel of my inner voice. The voice, maybe it was mum, said 'wake up, or you will never realise just who you are...'

At 44, the message is louder and clearer than ever before. To all those that have come into my life so far, I wish you well, I wish that for those of you still terrified of living that you give up the fight to survive that part of your life, don't fight fear, its here to teach us, try to live the part of your life that matters to you first and then others will begin to see you, the real you.  Love is an option you may never have experienced. Try it on yourselves first, it's a great place to start and it is never too late.

jagacafad jagacafad
41-45, M
Aug 11, 2010