I stand in front of you
I’ll take the force of the blow
Something a father should always offer his children. Something I would like to think I offer to my wife; your mum.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much protection those around us really need. I can mollycoddle you to the point where you will push me away. I can be overly protective of your mum to the point where people would accuse me of trying to lord over her – not letting her be her own person. That’s a lie, in so much as your mum would quite frankly ignore me if I was being overly protective, but you’ll understand the reasoning at some point.
Then there are times when you think you are doing your best by someone, until you realise that – well – am I now putting them in danger? Have I taking a bigger risk than I originally planned for?
That thought danced across my mind when we drove home from your Grandparents house in London on Saturday night. We knew it would snow. We watched countless weather forecasts, saw umpteen photos on twitter – all showing snow in Leeds. But we, I, so wanted to get down to London to let those who love you, see more of you.
I was foolhardy. I thought I knew better. I always think I know better.
So there we were, in London after a 3.5 hour drive – already planning our exit route. Not because we wanted to get away. I wanted to see my family as much as they want to see you – but at the same time I didn’t want to get stranded in London. What if the snow was so bad it blocked the middle part of the country for a day or so? Left Ice and treacherous driving conditions for our journey back. See I was thinking about you, and your mum, even if in the end it seemed quite the opposite.
We left before the snow started in London. Technically we left their front door before the snow had started – but it began to fall by the time we reached the car; all of 20 feet away.
We pushed on hard. We got on to the M1, and although the snow was falling it was not really settling. That was London. Move forward two hours and we find ourselves at the bottom of a hill, following a lorry with snow and slush all around us. Not just on the verges or the central reservation. In three of the four lanes we were meant to be driving on.
I hit the steering wheel. I berated myself for taking on this drive. I apologised to your mum, over and over again. Where was the protection I was meant to be offering at this point?
My fear, amongst other things, was that we – like many of those around us – would have to abandon our cars. Take you out in to the snow. Wrap you in as many layers and sit there, waiting for help to arrive. Waiting for someone else to save you from the situation you were placed in by your own dad.
You’re oblivious to all of this. The pounding of the wheel, the skidding of the car, the countless apologies – all happened whilst you slept. Soundly, in the back, no doubt contented with your lot.
We reached a point where the intensity of the situation grew; where the fear grew. Where the anger within – directed from me, to me – continued to grow. Another abandoned car blocked our path, two more pulled over, acknowledging the futility of their struggle. Only a single lorry seemed confident of ploughing through the snow.
Your mum was great. She focussed. She kept reassuring, kept guiding – giving advice as well as the option to pull over – but there was this lorry, our snow covered, break light flickering, beacon of hope. We knew the lorry was destined for Leeds. We knew this hill would eventually reach its summit, we knew – I knew, my pigheaded nature knew – I had to get you out of there. So for best part of three hours we followed that lorry.
Eventually the lorry pulled over, the driver no doubt reaching the maximum time limit by which he was allowed to drive. My nerves faltered. The driver had guided us this far, now it was down to me. We decided to go on.
Thankfully a team of ploughs and gritters were hard at work, clearing a path from Derbyshire to home. They gave us just one lane – one track like lane that we would not come off until we hit the local motorway outside of Leeds. A three hour journey took close on six hours. We had plenty of opportunities to stop, even turn back around and head for the safety of your family home in London. But still I pushed on – pushing the car, my frustrations and your protection to the limit.
I did it because. Well, because by that point I had to. There was nothing else to do but to get you home- to get you out in the garden, building snow “things”, unaware of the night passed.
I’ll never do that again. Never risk such a drive, such a journey, where others could question, not only my sanity, but also how much protection I really did provide you at the time.
You’re a girl and I’m a boy.
You slept as we struggled.
At least that’s something.