Things will never be the same….
I came here via C-Section after I took my mothers body through 27hrs of labour.I came out blue as i had already attempted suicide after wrapping myself in the umbilical cord. From day one I made it known that I do things on my time.
I was the first child of both my parents, Richard Michael Brown a banker with a sharp tongue and sharper attitude and Junnie Joanne Brathwaite, a reserved young woman who saw beauty in everyone.
They split when I was 8 months old. I was primarily raised by my mothers father Bentley George Brathwaite whom had moved to the UK from Barbados when he was 21years old. He was sat next to a woman of the same age, who he liked instantly. He would later court her and make her his wife and they would be married for 37 years.
My childhood, while ad hoc was perfect to me. I would see my Dad every other weekend and I was the apple of everyones eye.
While my mother and Nana went to work my Grandad was my primary carer. Following a mugging, he was left blind in his left eye and unable to work. He made raising me, his number one priority.
I remember my Grandad teaching me how to ride, a yellow BMX my Dad had given me for my birthday. He locked me in the garden. I was not allowed in until i had mastered the art of balancing on a two wheeler. I cried. Then I learned to ride.
He attended every parent evening, class assembly and doctors appointment. He would iron every thing, down to my hair ribbons, which he would tie in disabled looking bows before taking me to school. Without fail at 3:30 he would be there, pipe in one hand and a milky bar in the other.
On weekends, my mum & nan would take over. Dance class began at 10 and they made sure I was never late and never missed a class. Front and centre. They would watch my lesson and try and interrupt the teacher if they thought I was not being seen too.
I spent summer holidays, climbing trees in Barbados and winter ones, picking out a new BMX with my Dad. Dad was Mr cool. I remember the first time he took his hands off the steering wheel. Ray bans and leather gloves where part of his seasonal uniform.
At the top of the Empire State Building, I pushed the camera in his face ‘How do you feel dad?’ My eight year old reporter self questioned.
'Like the man.' he simply replied.
And for a while he was.
My sister was born when I was seven. I hated her and what she had done to my family. All of a sudden, there was a new man around and this gorgeous baby everyone gushed over, while I tried to do dancing pony tricks in the background. Anything for attention.
My Dads house became my haven. Time where I got the attention I craved. Peter Andre and Spice Girl posters covered every inch of my bedroom walls. Playstation games lay all over the floor, stuffed animals lined the bed like a personal version of Noah’s Ark.
Occasionally Dad would knock on the door.
"Cand, you decent?"
He would perch himself on the end of the bed. A white robe would hug his growing beer belly and a steaming mug of coffee would be used as a prop of sorts.
He would remind me that I could talk to him at anytime. About anything. We would make plans for the day and promise not to get on each others nerves. Then we would get on with it.
As they years moved on and the posters got removed, he was more aware of my personal space and stopped by less and less.
But we would stay up until gone midnight, then I would climb into his bed. MOTD would be on the TV and we would perform our ritual. One leg out of the duvet. A pillow to hug and one to sleep on. Glasses off and thrown askew below the bed.
At Thirteen we decided that sharing a bed was no longer appropriate. We were both heartbroken but understood it was for the best. loll
My brother came around when I was fourteen. I loved him instantly. Upon his first night home, he slept on my chest and I promised him, that no matter what, I would be there for him.
I grew up. And Out.
Attending a performing arts school, I was having a good time. I was young. Then at 15, I had my first boyfriend.
"This won’t last." Dad quipped as I cancelled another dinner meeting
"I think your jealous." I teased
"You are right."
The boy and I spent every waking day together. It was as every first love should be; damaging and excessive.
But then my mum was diagnosed with Cancer. Everything moved but didn’t I became a zombie, who between coursework and cleaning up vomit, couldn’t do much.
The boy became a really important fixture in my life. I pushed everyone else away and clung to him.
Mum went into remission when I was 17. And Dad was as supportive as he could be. But I pushed him away, all I wanted was the boy.
A the years passed we stayed together. Much to Dads annoyance.
I studied, Drama, Art, English lit and Government and politics at A-Level. I had no idea about what I wanted to be but my folks never put any pressure on me. I worked with Dad at Birnberg Pierce and Partners law firm. I was the first out of my friends to have a job. I spent money like water. my lack of responsibilities enabled my ‘only live once’ mentality.
At 19, I became my brothers legal guardian. This was not a shock to me, nor a disablement. I had to make good on my promise.
Between school, work and making sure my brother and sister did there homework, I had not thought about what I wanted from life.
At 20, I stumbled across the chance to spend three months in India.
I rang Dad first.
"India? Fucking hell, Cand. Let me call you back."
*an hour later*
"Sorry, I had to let that digest. Trust you. You’re a fucking hippy anyway. Should be right up your alley. Go. Live a little before you become ‘that guys’ arm candy"
Three months later, I had a rucksack strapped to my back and I was off.
Needless to say, it changed my life. And sparked something within me. I wanted to travel.
How could I pull this off? I had the responsibilities of a 40yr old.
I found away. I promised Dad that when I was finished, I would return home and head to uni.
I spoke to a friend who was travelling and had picked up a gig as an english teacher. At 21, I packed up all my worldly goods and moved to Napoli, Italy. It wasn’t easy. I missed the boy. Weekend flights would have to suffice. The inhabitants were unforgiving but the views made up for any cantankerous meetings.
I was living.
I spoke to Mum and Dad everyday.
They both seemed happy.
Mum was in an amazing relationship and by the looks of it Dad had avoided a mid life crisis.
Christmas was approaching. Dad had booked my flights home seeing as I had blown all my money on a new pair of expensive shoes.
I reminded myself to send him an email of thanks in the AM. Plus he had come down with flu and I wanted to thank him.
Awaking bright and early that Sunday morning, I followed a routine. An espresso, followed by a apple juice. Walking barefoot out onto the balcony, I let a menthol extra slim hang from my lips as I watched filipino cleaners brush off rugs across the way. Wendy the dog, followed me until I sat at the table and she proceeded to nestle underneath my legs.
It was early and the sun was high. A crow swooped down onto the table. I shooed it away angrily. I was furious.
huffily, I headed back in and booted up the computer.
My emails looked suspiciously full.
After I had finished writing Dad, I would respond. After a thanks and many virtual kisses, I attached pictures that looked like I was having ‘safe fun’ I giggled as I pressed send.
Less than a minute later, he replied. He was usually quick but that was super fast, even for him.
It was from his office. Weird.
I didn’t read it.
"Dad, the office network has gone silly again. Fix it pronto. Love you"
Again within minutes, I had a reply. I read this one.
'CANDICE PLEASE CALL US URGENTLY'
That’s weird I thought.
I dialled his house number. It was engaged.
In the nine years, that my Dad had that number, it had never, ever been engaged.
The penny dropped.
Before, I could think about it I was crying.
I rang everyone. My Nana thought I was over reacting. But I just knew.
It couldn’t have been ten minutes but my Nana rang me back and confirmed my worst nightmare.
"He died yesterday."
"Not my Dad’ I shot back.
Needless to say, it was. What had begun as flu had actually developed into septicaemia. My Dads vital organs had been attacked. He was on his way to an Arsenal game when he decided to stop at Whipps Cross hospital cause he felt too bad.
Upon arrival, he had difficulty breathing, they saw to him straight away. Within minutes of being seen in a cubicle he had a heart attack which sent him into cardiac arrest. He fought. Kicking over a doctor in the struggle to stay alive. But he lost. My Dad died alone. Blackberry vibrating in his pocket, I was the last missed call.
I came home. I planned a funeral for someone I barely knew. Twenty one years was no time at all. As if to confuse me even more, Mum was getting married. I slipped back into my supportive part time mother role. I understood late night and early mornings.
Grandad came with me to see Dad in the chapel of rest. The boy wanted to come but I wouldn’t allow it.
The man in the box sure did resemble Dad. But he was cold. And the unfavourable work the mortician had done on his face turned me off. I stroked his head. I asked him why. I fixed his tie. And kissed his head. I almost jumped into the coffin.
The funeral is a balck hole in my mind. Only ever acsessed when I am alone.
Everyone and no one attended.
Life moved on. Without me. The boy was as supportive as ever.
I had to go. Again.
In March I went to Switzerland, staying with the same friend who encouraged me to travel.
Although, I was suffering some violent stomach cramps, it was what I needed.
I returned. And the cramps persisted.
Mum urged me to make a doctors appointment. I did.
And then cancelled it.
Life kept moving. I started baking to take my mind off grief.
The cramps returned in May.
I made a doctors appointment and stuck too it.
Still bitter about the fact their homeboys couldn’t save my Dad, I flung myself down like a sack of potatoes in the doctors chair.
She asked my symptoms.
I told her.
Then, shit got ridiculous.
She asked me to take a pregnancy test.
I giggled but headed of to the toilet anyway.
These doctors are so dumb, I thought. I just told her my period was lasts week. Jesus. I pissed in a pot and headed back to her little tomb.
I watched as she stuck a little papery thing in my piss.
I watched as nothing happened.
I watched as the faintest blue line crept upon it.
I watched as she watched me.
"As I thought" She said.
I watched as she wrote ‘Positive’ on a label, screwed the lid on my piss and put it in a tray with other mothers to be piss.
I was frozen.
She talked. And til this day I am aware of only one thing. Three months.
It was warm. I wanted to go home but walked in the opposite direction.
I was walking to Camberwell. I stopped at a chemist. I purchased seven pregnancy kits. Different brands. Just to be sure. I came out and kept walking.
I walked to my friends house.
I emptied the contents of the bag on the kitchen table.
Half an hour later, I was going to have a baby, I suppose.
Everyone inclusive of the boy and Madre, where over joyed.
I was not. I was overwhelmed and ashamed. I could see Dad’s eyes pregnant with disappointment.
"Does that mean, I can’t live with you anymore?" My brother asked.
"No." I assured him as I hugged him. "Us two forever, ok?"
Then a baby passed.
Swiftly followed by a Seven year relationship that could no longer carry the weight of grief.
Looking at each other became a pain, not a pleasure.
The dark clouds were rolling in, and I was locking my doors.
I turned off my phone.
And did not reappear until November 2010.
I suppose you are wondering why I wrote all of this. Just laid my life bare for the entire world to see. The answer is because I can.
It’s not enough for me to post some cute outfits, or rambling videos.
In order for you to understand where I am going, I must be grown enough to let you know where I am coming from.
I have nothing to hide. Not a single thought in my vacuous young mind is original. But I hope my intentions are.
Its more than running. Its finding something to live for when you feel that everything that was worth something, was taken before you truly got to appreciate it.
By the grace of God, I have yet not found the strength to extract myself from this realm. Which is good. Because I am not yet finished.