Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Who Am I?

What kind of person am I? Who am I? For some it may seem hard to believe, but I am fairly introspective. These days it becomes more than just something I do every once in a while. As my life progresses towards its inevitable end, I think more and more about the kind of life I've had and the kind of man I am. There are a few things about me that really set the stage for my life, only a very few things that are my true identity.

If you had asked me, five years ago, "who are you", I would have responded with "a husband and a father". If you had asked me, five years ago, what I liked to do, I would have said "I divide my life into three seasons, sailing, hunting, and work". The summer was for sailing, the fall was for hunting and fishing, while winter and spring were for work. Somehow my life made sense; it worked. As a family we spent summers exploring on the boat. Hunting trips were with my Dad, my daughter, my cousins, my in-laws. Work was simply the way I paid the bills; it was the least important thing on my list of things to do.

For much of my life I tried to keep a work/life balance where I did not identify myself by the work that I did, but more by the life that I lead. My role as a father was central to that life. I loved having my children around, having an active and lively home, filled with kids and conversation, laughter and life. I lived for my children and my marriage. This feeling is strong in me still, so strong in fact that one of my friends recently said "I think you are more broken up about the loss of your marriage than you are about dying from ALS". I had to agree; this is true.

In the last two years I have had to let go of all that I felt identified me. I am still a father but my children are scattered. Ricky lives with me, filled with the resentment and anger of a young man. Mary, Meaghan and Kate all live far away. My only contact is online although Kate makes sure to call me every week. Still, my days as a Dad appear to be over and it doesn't look like I will get to be much of a Grandpa. I can no longer spend time on my boat; ALS has taken that from me. Fishing and hunting are near impossibilities. I have even lost my work.

I am no longer a husband, and that feels more like a complete loss of family than anything else. The heart and soul of a family is the two people at the core of it. The loss of that core, of that foundation, has left me bereft. To have been so pushed out as to be irrelevant in the home, to have been so ignored as to be pointless, this was the most damaging loss of all. I liked being married. I loved having a family. Now I feel so much like I am alone, without identity, simply leaving, stripped of all that was me.


  1. There's a Buddhist response to this that bears investigating. Buddhism says that your identity is within yourself, and not tied to your other relationship. (Everyone has been our mother, we have been everyone's mother, so the relationships of this incarnation are not identifying.) Buddhists don't say things like "you complete me" to their partners. They are whole and complete in themselves. You know how in airplanes the flight attendants tell mothers to put on their own oxygen masks first before helping their child? Same approach. Look after yourself first so you can be strong for others. Find your identity inside you, not in your family, and it never was in your job.

    BTW, sign in a North Van park: We're all so busy looking out for Number One, who's taking care of Number Two? Please pick up after your dog!

    1. It would appear that life, the Universe and God are all compelling me to do just that, look inward for self. Life is a long journey that ends just when it starts getting good.

  2. Richard, you are so brave sharing your inner turmoil. Know that from Ottawa I am somehow walking with you.
    Gilles, Siobhan's papa

  3. Thanks, Gilles. Personally I think Siobhan is a whole lot braver than me. She is amazing.