2021 Grateful 22: Two slices of a pizza life

Today is my mate’s birthday. Were he still gracing the world with his presence, he’d be in fancy dress somewhere celebrating. He was a great one for the costumes. Johnny P had mastered the art of staying young by simply refusing to grow old. And sadly, he never got the chance to try it on for size. Old age, that is.

He’d be the same age as an old schoolmate of mine who shuffled off his mortal coil a couple of weeks back. They belonged in different sections of my world.

Asked in a training course of some sort many years ago to describe my life as something, I chose a pizza.

The slices are all parts of my life, and I’m the white plastic bit in the middle that keeps the lid of the cardboard box from messing with the cheese. I’ve a finger in each slice. Some slices sit side by side; others don’t touch at all.

The two lads lived in separate slices. They never met. But if they had, they’d have gotten on like the proverbial house on fire. With similar senses of humour and a marked irreverence for life that had a protocol all of its own, they’d have entertained each other for hours. When I realised today was Johnny’s birthday, I had a quick flash of himself and Pat propping up a bar in heaven trying to outdo each other with tall stories, the place in stitches.

Pat was a great one for the rants, the insights, the bits of wisdom. I heard he sent out regular motivational WhatsApp messages to the young lads he was training and I hope someone has kept a record of them all. I still dip into my collection of his writings and after two weeks at home with the folks, Johnny’s birthday, and Pat’s passing, this one seemed appropriate to share.

For context, he wrote it when the father of one of our classmates dies a few years back.

I just want to offer my sincere condolences to M on the sad loss of his dad today. It brings me back to November 5th 3 years ago. My perfectly healthy dad of 83 and still driving was there one day and then gone the next.

Time heals all wounds but I miss the man as much now as I did then. We had this macho thing going on where we never showed how much we cared for one another which is and was bullshit. I regret never telling him how much I loved and respected him because we were “men”.

So now every chance I get to hug and kiss my ailing 85-year-old mum I do and hey it’s not macho but I feel the better for doing it and I know from the look on her face that she loves and appreciates it. Another thing which my mother always speaks about is loneliness. Although she is lucky to have most of her family very close she misses her husband, even though like all good marriages they fought at times.

If you’re lucky enough to have one or both of your parents alive, make a point of contacting them over the weekend and tell them that you are delighted to be their son or daughter and that you love them very much.

They will probably look at you and say to themselves ” Jesus, what’s gone wrong with that wan?”

But believe me, both you and your parents will feel so much better. As often as you can call in for that quick cuppa and talk trivialities for 10 minutes. It may seem like a waste of time to you but you may have just made their day.

Time eases the pain and hurt but that’s all it does.

What both these lads had in common was the manliness to be men. Neither of them was perfect. I’m sure the respective loves of their lives could lawfully have strung them up on occasion, but they knew who they were.

Am grateful to have reconnected with them both in recent years even if time wasn’t on our side.

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