Running for Portage

When you have children, you hope and pray that everything will be ok. That they will be born healthy and grow up just like everyone else.

When our second daughter, Imogen, was born that’s exactly how we felt. But when Immy was about 1 year old we realised that she was having significant difficulty sitting up, walking and talking. Nagging doubts turned into fully blown concerns and soon we were being referred to paediatricians and attending medical appointments to see what might be going on.

We were worried sick. Would she ever walk and talk? Would she always need extra support in life? Is this because of something we’ve failed to do as parents? We’re not the most laid back of parents anyway… this stressed us out more than we ever thought possible.

But nobody can give you an answer. There was no obvious cause. All we could do was wait and see.

Amidst this anxiety, we started to be visited by “Su” from a charity called Portage. Su was amazing. She came every week for an hour and worked with Imogen to develop her abilities. While the doctors, physios and speech therapists could only visit occasionally. Su was there every week, without fail, to improve Imogen’s skills, give us advice and help reassure us that it would be ok.

That helped a lot.

Imogen, big sister Hannah, and Su from Portage
Imogen, big sister Hannah, and Su from Portage

Imogen is 3 now, she’s walking a lot more steadily and she’s starting to say things that almost sound like words you would recognise. She’s still very behind but she’s doing ok. She’s also one of the happiest and most affectionate children I’ve ever known. We have a laugh together, me and Imms.

Imogen Imogen & Dan

But I’d like give something back to Portage for helping us out as a family over the past year or two. The’ve helped us so much it’s the least I could do.

So I’ve decided to run the Bupa Great Birmingham Run this October to raise money for the National Portage Association. I’ve never run a half marathon before. Actually, I’ve never run more than 6k before. It’s going to be a bloody hard work! (You can follow my training here). This is what I looked like after that last run:

Dan after running

As you can see, I’ve a long way to go. But here’s the thing: if you sponsor me, you’ll not only be helping more families can get the kind of support that we’ve been so fortunate to receive, you’ll also motivate me to keep going!

Please help me to support this charity by visiting my Just Giving page and making a donation.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Thank you.

Potato Salad

Tony Compolo once said to me “You know Daniel, you’re gonna die. You might not feel like it now, but one day you’ll die; your family will put you in the ground, go back to your house and eat potato salad!” He’s right of course, but I didn’t feel like it was really true at the time and didn’t until recently, when I had to watch my Dad slowly loose his battle with cancer. My Dad eventually died at 19:20 on Friday, he was 55.

Our culture does a pretty good job of teaching us what to say and do when somebody is about to die. We rush to be together, everyone hugs and says I love you. Trivial issues are put to one side, we send flowers or cards, and, if you’re English, you put the kettle on. It’s not easy, but a you’re running on auto pilot, you know how to behave because that’s what they do every few weeks in East Enders when there’s a death to boost the ratings.

But in many ways, our culture hides the reality of death from us. Hollywood lies to us about many things, not least dying. It’s not heroic, poignant or bitter-sweet. It’s not tinged with hope or melancholy or dignity, it’s not tinged with anything really. From what I’ve seen it’s actually horrific and yet also crushingly mundane.

Horrific

I’m sure that image of people lying peacefully in their beds and slowly closing their eyes ‘when their time comes’ is sanitised nonsense. Your body doesn’t just stop peacefully like that. It is programmed to keep on going until it absolutely can’t any more.

We’re like that spider you tormented as a child. It didn’t just give up because you pulled a couple of it’s legs off. Even when it only had half of one leg left and was being repeated hit by a stone, it kept on trying to escape. Just like that spider, we fight for every breath, we push on for every last second even when we know the game is up, because, well, because stopping just isn’t natural.

When it comes, death seems pretty gruesome too. The body repels fluids and oxygen. Everything gradually stops, and the person you knew evaporates frustratingly, like a document you forgot to save, all those memories and ideas and personality traits, they we’re right there in front of you, but now they’re lost.

Mundane

People often say about someone who has died “I keep expecting them to walk in the room”. I can relate to that, although it’s not as dramatic as it might sound. I doubt anyone imagines their dead relative marching into the room to great fanfare and announcing that their back from the grave. Rather, you just keep forgetting that they’re gone.

I used to meet my Dad in a pub every few weeks for a pint and a meal, just the two of us. It was a regular thing. But despite there being many pubs between our two houses, we hadn’t found one we were entirely happy with, so we kept trying new ones in the hope of finding the perfect place. Yesterday, as I was driving along I saw a pub and thought “That place looks OK  I’ll have to meet Dad there and see what it’s like”. A few seconds later, it hit me: “oh, I can’t, he’s not there any more”.

There is no such thing as a right to life; life is a delicate and transient thing. It’s gifted to us for a time, then wrestled back from our grasp. It’s sobering to think this will happen to me one day too. It puts a lot of things in perspective. It’s too soon and too raw to draw any conclusions about my life yet.

I’ll probably still keep looking for the perfect pub though.