I'm still alive and writing is my fighting
A year ago, film director SIMON FITZMAURICE, who has motor neuron disease, and his wife Ruth had just discovered they were expecting twins. Here, he writes of a new phase of his life
People are amazing. I’m in the back of the car. We’re moving fast. Riding bumps like waves. My chair lifting off the floor. In the back with me is my friend Cait from Limerick. Crazy. Has me in stitches most of the time. In the front is my brother-in-law, Pierre-Yves. French. Crazy. Drives like a madman. But he’s not driving today. He’s on the phone to his mother, speaking in a rapid rush of French. It’s her birthday. My mother is driving. Bray. Crazy. Drives like a madwoman. I’m on my way to the hospital. Ruth’s Caesarian is taking place at 12. It’s 20 to 12.
It’s all there for the taking
I believe in birthdays. I count forwards now not back. I look ahead to 40 and think yes. Yes please. When I hear someone’s age I subtract mine from theirs. 67. Thirty years more than me. Old people are the worst. 99. Sixty years more. Jesus. I look at older people with awe. You did it.
It’s easier looking back. Twenty five. I’ve lived 10 years more. Yes.
Then I look at my children, six, four and three, and I see how much they’ve lived in their lives, how much they’ve become, and I say wake up, learn something. It’s all there for the taking.
Quite often, people who haven’t seen me in the last four or five years find it almost impossible to reconcile the difference in me in that time. I don’t blame them. I often find it hard myself. One way, for me, is to think I’m in my fifth year of motor neuron disease (MND). The second World War lasted for six.
I’m nervous. In my stomach. I’ve been on this road before but nothing changes. Pierre-Yves turns from the front, his phone still pressed to his ear: “Mum says did you know that Caesarian got its name because Caesar was the first child to be born that way?”
No, I didn’t know that. He slips back into the silk of spoken French. Caesar, I think. Caesar was born that way. Okay. The nerves in my stomach ease a little. We’re approaching Holles Street.
History. All around us. Buildings older than any of us. The news telling us what’s important every day. Yet there is a more important history. The things we gather. The photographs we hang. The things we use. Our living memory. The wake we leave behind.
When Ruth and I were searching for our first home, we walked into a bungalow we could not afford. Other people were walking around the house, in and out of doors. It was inviting, old fashioned, but immediately warm. The kitchen presses were simple 1970s-style and the window above the sink looked out on to a garden run round with flowering plants.
People stood in the garden. Ruth went out. I stood in the room alone. I opened a narrow press by the back door. On a shelf were a pair of gardening gloves, fresh dark earth still crumbling on the fingertips. I am transfixed. Embarrassed. Suddenly aware of doing something wrong. Why did I open the press? I shouldn’t be here. I close it quickly and hurry out after Ruth.