…All that man is,
All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins. W B Yeats
In the playground at the farm park my daughter effortfully drags herself across the rope bridge and then jumps down and turns back towards the line of ashen-faced children behind her. Standing next to them she shouts “Come on, you can do it!” like an army sergeant at an assault course. “Well done” she says as they make their way down one by one, while I fish off those too scared to move. There are older children than her pushing and fighting and plunging in front of others, and she’s stepping back and encouraging people. It makes me want to weep for myself and my craven self-indulgence and sell all my possessions and become a Buddhist. Well, maybe weep anyway.
It comes from my wife, this stubborn streak of niceness. What I saw twenty years ago in my wife I am now seeing all over again in my daughter. I had forgotten about it one way or another, and it’s a treat to be reminded. It’s not the only thing of course. I see my wife in a turn of the foot here, a wrinkle of the eyebrow there. I see my father too. When my daughter shrugs it is as if there’s a thumbprint on her genetic code that means like a stuck CD she replicates his shoulders to ears flinch time after time. On other occasions I turn round and find myself caught in my sister’s or mother’s gaze. I treasure all these little parts of other people and I want to find more. My daughter sometimes catches me looking at her and grins, lopsidedly, like me.
My father had lung problems and heart problems by the end. His body just gave out. If he had been a car you wouldn’t have wanted to open up the bonnet. You’d have just carried on sticking in the leaded and hoping. He knew, but he didn’t want the doctors to confirm it. I imagined them telling him to cut out the drinking and pack in the smoking. They might as well have told him to go easy on the breathing. He couldn’t really see the point of life a lot of the time. Sometimes I can understand that, sometimes though I think he didn’t search the most obvious places. I look at my daughter and see the glimpses of others that make time less lost.