My dad's the typical strong, silent type. He mastered the art of conversation without really saying anything. I'm not saying he's a Clint Eastwood or John Wayne-esque character but he definitely has that air about him. He ruled the roost with an iron fist when I was a kid but I think it was a good way to be raised. People are far too lenient with their kids now but I get it, it's hard to punish and enforce rules onto somebody you love so much and so completely but at the end of the day, it has to be done. My dad was a fan of the belt when I was growing up. That was his choice of punishment generally. A few times he hit me so hard the belt split my skin. I have a couple of scars but there was no damage done really. Although that kind of violence isn't something I'd condone or recommend it kept my siblings and I in shape and in order. You don’t act out if you’re scared of the consequences. I wouldn’t raise my kids like that but I don’t resent him for doing it. It’s funny, even when I go round to see them he still calls me boy… I have a lot of love for the man. My mom was kinda the ‘stereotypical’ woman really, did whatever he asked, ran the household. Dinner was always home cooked and you could literally eat off the bathroom floor the place was so clean. It was a really traditional upbringing and I have no complaints. I think I would've been end up a lot differently if I hadn't been raised that way.
High school's probably where it started to get a little bit interesting. Like how much stories start, I met a girl. I kinda took after my father and was a man of few words. I guess I kinda looked dark and brooding to the majority of people but she saw straight through it. I was a very average student. I didn’t fail any classes but I didn’t do particularly well either and it was the same socially. I wasn’t particularly popular but I had a good group of friends and nobody tried to fuck with me because I was a big guy, people don’t mess with the big guy. I think academically Mellie and I were the same but socially she was far more successful than me. She was beautiful, funny, kind… perfect really. We were literally polar opposites but that was why we worked. Well, actually we weren't really all that different when we were alone, she put me at ease so I could open up and be myself. Honestly, I had those typical thoughts as a teen and I really thought I was going to end marrying this girl.
The college conversations got a little cut short. She got pregnant. It wasn't ideal, in fact it was the opposite of ideal. We discussed abortion but couldn't go through with it. Realistically we were quite naïve. It’s hard to really think and plan as a teen and a baby requires a lot of both but we loved each other so we thought we’d be fine. Telling my parents was probably one of the most terrifying moments of my life and they weren’t happy but they dealt with it and quickly came around. They had me at sixteen and seventeen respectively so I guess they just didn’t want me repeating the cycle. Mellie didn’t have an easy time pregnant. Her mom died and I was so sad for her. My parents and I have a complicated relationship but I couldn’t imagine losing them, especially at that age. She was so strong though, she just powered through it all and gave us the most amazing baby. The day she was born was the best day of my life. Nearly two weeks late but she was worth it. I never realized how much love a person was capable of for another until I laid eyes on her for the first time. Teresa Joanne Parry we named her after both our mothers but she ended up being called TJ a lot. She was perfect, absolutely perfect.
With us both being so young when TJ developed a cough I was sure we were just being overprotective by taking her to the doctor, I was convinced it was nothing. It was cancer. I never in the world thought it could be that. I couldn’t comprehend that a baby, that a new life so small and just starting could be potentially ended so soon. Surgery wasn’t an option, the only chance our baby would have would be a lung transplant. That’s hard to hear. Psychologically that had a really bad effect on me. Obviously all you want is to have your child better but that would mean another family having to lose their baby for an organ to become available… imagine having that in your head constantly? You’re essentially wishing another family your pain and that’s no way to live.
Months passed without a match. I remember being so angry about it all. Not finding that match just didn't seem possible to me. It's not like the diagnosis though, that hits you like a cannon ball to the stomach but this, the prospect of there never being a match, that creeps up on you. There's always a glimmer of hope, right to the very end. As the chances of finding a match dimmed she was started on chemotherapy. They thought the chemo could extend her life long enough for a match to be potentially found. Watching her hair fall out was excruciating. It felt like somebody was slicing at my heart little by little. She could barely keep anything down. At the start she smiled through it all, even with the IV in her arm she smiled but then it started to fade. The chemotherapy was only prolonging her suffering and once I saw what it was doing to her I couldn't let it go on. I stopped it, I stopped the treatment. It wasn't going to cure her and it was ruining the last few months of her life.
A little sparkle of our little girl came back but after a matter of months she passed away. I thought the day we found out she had cancer was the worst day of my life but that was worse. Even though I knew it was coming, I knew it was inevitable, it didn't stop the pain and it didn't stop the surprise. Even right until the end I thought there'd be some miracle cure. After a while I just stopped feeling anything. This, the illness, it didn't just take my daughter, it took my relationship and it took my life. Three months later I had to leave. I couldn't stay in my house and I couldn't keep bumping into my ex, they all just reminded me of Tess, of what I'd lost and it was killing me. People tried to help but in reality they just made it worse. They looked at me with the constant sympathetic look and I hated it. I know they meant well but there's nothing worse than everybody you know treating you like a china doll or something. I admit it, I ran away, ran all the way to join the US Army. Nobody knew me and so it just didn't get bought up and I didn't get reminded of it all the time. I needed it. The space and time gave me a chance to make myself human again. Why did I come back? I'm not really sure. I served my four years of active duty and now I'm serving my four years of Individual Ready Reserve whilst I decide what the hell I want to do. I missed my life, my family, even Ashwick just a little bit. It was time for me to come back.
I was back a long while before I started socialising and getting out there. Mellie and I are good friends again. Time passed and I learnt how to be around her again. Don’t get me wrong, our meetings are still tinged with sadness but we’re okay, we’re just getting on with our lives the best we can. I found work as a joiner and I build furniture in my spare time and I really enjoy it. Working with my hands is what I’m best at and I don’t have to socialise all that much so it works for me.
I also met a lady, a very beautiful, smart and interesting lady, Eli Parry. Yep, Parry… she married me. We met in a bar; she was getting harassed by some guy and I pretended to be her boyfriend and we became fast friends. I never would've had the balls to go talk to her so I owe that creep a lot. Honestly I still have to pinch myself sometimes, I can't believe a woman like her would want to be with me, never mind actually marry me. We actually eloped. There was nobody there we knew and it was kinda perfect. For me the idea of being surrounded by people and being the centre of attention for a whole day was terrifying and she's kinda quirky, eloping was her idea so yeah, it was perfect for us really. Things aren't always easy, she's a very complex lady but I love that about her. Sometimes she needs her space to think (and overthink) things through and other times she just needs a hug and I'm the same. We're two very similar people in a lot of respects but polar opposites in others and I think that's why we work so well together. Honestly I just can't imagine my life without her now. Her job means she has to travel a lot and it's difficult, it's hard being away from each other but I love her so I'll deal with it. In reality she’s far too good for me and I dread the day she actually realises that. I’m willing to work and do whatever it takes to make her happy because she makes me happy. She doesn’t realise it but she put me back together and I will always be thankful to her for that.