Geordie

The night sky burst into colour and fire illuminating our upturned faces. I felt safe. My arms were wrapped around his neck, his left arm laced under the back of my legs, holding close. My curly hair kept blowing into his face but all he would do was shake me loose as if to put me down, giggling I would push it back and away. I rested my cheek against his, warm, rough and so comforting. His very being was not defined by physical limits, it was as if there were some undefined glow, his love? I think maybe more his compassion, for that is surely what it was. It encompassed us both, Daniel and I. We would often squabble for his time and on this occasion I had won. Truth be known I was probably heavy on his arm but you would never have known. Mum was stood the other side with uncle Chris who was busy munching on a hot dog. Daniel had alternated between mum and Chris' shoulders but all the time scared: the fireworks left his eyes wide and the corners of his mouth turned down. In the end we went home early after he started crying. I think it was because he couldn't be where I was. That was November 5th, 1988, Saturday I am pretty sure.

It is ironic I suppose. I love dad, he has a whole bunch of problems and loving him isn't always a two way deal but he is my dad and anything I do for him is of my own free will. Daniel doesn't remember when they split up, just that dad was always someone we went to, for the longest time it was Fridays: nan would pick us up from school and feed us - dad couldn't always be counted upon for either - and then away we would go. Occasionally he would hitch up with someone for a while and Saturdays would be about eating normal food, for which we would give our best toothy grins in appreciation. It seldom lasted.

Saturday nights were about coming home with mum. She would immediately trot us upstairs and 'disinfect us', that's not some waspish antagonism on her part, it's the truth. We would come back smelling of smoke and covered in dog hairs, making us wash was not a priority for dad, as far as we were concerned that was just fine.

One Saturday night we got into the car and waved goodbye to dad. Daniel was sitting in his booster seat, me next to him, mum in front. She told us there was someone special she wanted us to meet. That was how we met Geordie. When we got home he was sitting on the sofa casually flicking through a magazine. I didn't know at the time but he later told us he was real nervous and didn't read a word, amazing really: a fully grown adult male, sitting there nervous as hell at the prospect of meeting a seven year old boy and a nine year old girl - I am the girl by the way, if that has not been apparent.

I am writing this now I suppose, to get it out of my system. Sometimes something hurts, not really in the classic emotional sense, more like a deep ache that will not go away and the only way to get it out is to write it down. I don't remember a whole lot about being a child I have to say, mostly because of the routine I suppose. There are images here and there but for some reason that time, two summers and one winter sticks. I can even remember his face: round with sparkling playful eyes and short mousy hair. You could say that is because I have just seen him again but it isn't, seeing his face was just a confirmation of the image in my mind. His face would light up when he smiled, mum would joke she could turn out the lights.

I am sitting in a café, alfresco and it's mid October. Everywhere you go there are fireworks for sale and at night it is all you can hear. Nobody seems to make Guy Fawkes dummies any more, we always used to. I am sat here with my notebook and pen, it's mild, that halfway stage you get at this time of year, my coffee is half full but past being warm, it's an hour past midday. The table and chairs are all a shiny thin metal set on one of those pedestrianised high streets that are constructed with bricks of a pinkish hue, stretching in all directions. I am twenty six now.

I can't really explain what it was about Geordie. He just was. He was there and if you wanted anything from him he just would, mostly. We met him on the Saturday and by Sunday afternoon, I remember, I was on his back screaming for fear of falling while he ran across the field. It wasn't so much that he wanted to give us piggy backs it was like: 'Can I have a piggy back?' and the answer would always be: 'Sure.' He would then do his best to make you scream and beg to be put down; it was huge fun, it always was. He cracked two ribs that Christmas racing us down a hill in the New Forest: two thirds the way down his body overtook his legs and he took off, landing about five meters diagonally to the left in a ditch. I thought he was dead for a while but he got up on all fours, wheezed: 'Fuck me,' and then, 'sorry!' I put my arms around him to try and help him up. Within ten minutes Daniel was jumping up at him like a puppy wanting to be carried on his shoulders, of course he did, it was only the next week when he couldn't breath did we find out there were cracked ribs. It makes me laugh even now. There are so many things I can tell you.

Daniel and I would be arguing, especially in the back of the car. Mum would be driving, Daniel next to me and Geordie beside mum. We would get louder and louder until just as mum was about to pop Geordie would start singing, can you believe that! He couldn't sing to save his life but he would turn around and facing us start banging out: 'rhinestone cowboy'. By the time he got to: 'Where hustle is the name of the game' both of us would be screaming for him to shut up: 'Geooordieeee!!' He would sing a line or two more and then ask us where we were going, stupid! Of course by the time we told him he was stupid we had forgotten what we were arguing about and discussion would be about what we were going to do, when we got wherever we were going. Mostly that was walking and swinging off Geordie of course, mum loved to wear us out. What I remember most though, I suppose more now I am a mother is the time he had for us. Children just want your time, it's the most precious thing you can give them.

I always wanted to be a writer, I love writing but back then it was an obsession, there just wasn't anyone to listen. I don't blame mum, I know she was busy doing the mother and father thing while providing a warm home. It must have worn her out... I know it has. So doing all this meant that when she had free time, it wasn't going to be listening to us reading our clumsy stories or looking through Daniel's book of home grown monster pictures.

Sunday mornings Daniel would wake me up about seven and by eight I was bored of dressing him in my clothes, so we would go downstairs and watch a video: a new acquisition courtesy of the big G! About ten we would get hungry and go pester them both, big lumps under the white duvet; more receptive if there was a cup of tea in our eager little hands. After a bit of bouncing around which mum would get bored of really quickly it would just be Geordie in bed, mum would be downstairs wafting grilled bacon up the stairs. Sometimes I would go get my story folder: 'Do you want to hear a story I wrote?' the answer, usually as Daniel squealed being dangled off the bed would be: 'Cool.' He would plonk Daniel down, prop himself up on the headboard and listen. He loved my stories; we even wrote a short story together you know: 'War Child'. I still have it.

There were almost two years of this. Mum was busy - I know now, you don't at the time. She did all the mundane stuff; getting us up, feeding us, packing us off to school, arranging for someone to look after us when it was the holidays and dad didn't show up; picking us up, getting nan to pick us up, feeding us and packing us to bed freshly scrubbed. As much as she adored Geordie, even now if his name comes up which is very rarely, the light leaves her eyes. As much as she adored him though she was our mother and very protective. Therein lay the problem. We knew she didn't have time for all the fun stuff, for some reason that was understood, I think even with Dan but she could never quite get to grips with us having that fun with Geordie. It's not like he wasn't hers. When Daniel asked Geordie: 'Who's your favourite?' without a pause he returned: 'Mummy.' She had her back to us at the time but I know her smile was ear to ear, Daniel wailed: 'Geoordieee!'

Over time it became a problem. Once, nearing the end of that second summer we were walking back from the shops, Geordie and mum were walking hand in hand. It was customary for Dan or me to charge and launch ourselves at his back, on this occasion I beat Dan to it and landed on Geordie just as a car stopped to turn right in the road; before you knew it there were three cars stacked into each other and the sound of screeching brakes and broken glass in our ears: all of the drivers were looking at us open mouthed and none at the car in front. Mum stropped off and for the first time we lay in bed listening to raised voices downstairs. We sometimes didn't see him during the next few months, mum organised whole weekends where we would stay with dad or nan. After one such weekend she sat us down at the table with eyes red rimmed and puffy: Geordie would not be coming again.

It hit Daniel the most. Geordie played with him like he was a yo yo and Dan loved it, he was just drawn to him all the while; it was horrible, after. Dan doesn't really remember now, or so he says. Occasionally when someone says: 'Geordie' it's like for a briefest moment I see it in his eye's.

I always wondered what happened and have deliberated lots of times on tracking him down. Mum didn't see anyone for a long while after. I know she saw people, but no one she felt happy introducing us to, especially after Geordie.

Last month I looked him up on the internet. I had to pester Uncle Chris for nigh on six weeks but he eventually gave up his real name and soon enough I had an email address. I wrote the email but it took me several days to send it.

I had a reply by the time I got home that evening, although the triumph was short lived: it was from his widow. She was very kind, had heard all about us and invited us over, address supplied. That's where I have been this morning. Dan doesn't know of course and she lived the other side of London, so I have only just got back. She was a lovely women, younger than mum which probably should not have been a surprise but it was. No kids either, I was expecting a bucket load. He died just this summer aged 52. In 1998 he was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. Seems that after 8 years of dialysis he or his body just gave up; his wife: Beth, got back from shopping one day and he was dead in his chair.

At some point in time Geordie had prepared a letter, Beth found it in his desk drawer, she showed it to me. The funny thing was he either knew I would track him down one day or hoped I would. Beside the letter he had left a picture for me and one other thing. The picture was of the time he cracked his ribs, at the end of the walk there was a long climb, he had alternated between carrying me and Daniel to the top: it was of him standing proud in that naff cream coat of his with us both collapsed against his legs. The other object was what had me in floods of tears. That one Christmas with Geordie it was a big dilemma for Dan and I what to do for a present. We had about 20 pence left after buying for mum, nan and dad. Dan had just made a clay bowl at school in one of those 'make mummy a present' lessons. Dan brought home this rough clay bowl shaped literally like it had been made by a seven year old and we both spent three nights painting it together. It looked truly awful: red, green, blue and yellow. Daniel gave it to him on Christmas day, so proud and Geordie opened the wrapping paper looking like it was what he had always hoped for. Daniel was so excited he was almost leaping out of his skin. I have it here now, that bowl, sat on this thin metal table. Apparently he kept it all these years like it was a priceless antique and had been sat next to the letter and picture when poor Beth opened that drawer.

We all die, that's a certainty, but I guess it's what we do in life that allows us to live on in peoples minds. I think I will show Dan this, Geordie kept all the photos and Beth so wants to meet him, she heard so much about us over all those years.

Submission: 30 October 2006
Last Revision: 15 January 2007
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