How family have shaped who i am today.

by Dr Anthony D. Cliffe

So it’s been a long time since I’ve wrote a blog and it was not so long ago while waiting on the platform for another cancelled train, that I went back and read some of my old blogs. One that caught my eye was the one how female friends had shaped who I am. I still enjoy reading that but it also makes me appreciate how things in life change so quickly. That was around two to three years ago that I wrote that and in that time, even that’s changed!

I remember saying to myself that I should do a series of blogs about how people have shaped who I am today, life however got in the way and I never got the time to do it. Best friends and certainly female best friends both old and new; do continue to be one of my biggest influences. There is nevertheless one of the biggest and constant influences of support and love and that is family.

Most people will be adamant that their family is the best. I have to disagree! I firmly believe that I come from the best family around, at least I’m yet to meet one as crazy, as loyal, as supportive as my one to prove me wrong. I don’t say this lightly either, after years of having the piss taking out of me by family and no more so than my wonderful cousins (I think it’s called character building? In a supportive manner I suspect. DEBBIEEEE! Need I say more?) I’m more qualified than most to comment on my family.

I’m not a straight forward person, not by any stretch of the imagination. I say that because even from day 0 I was complicated. I’m pretty sure my family knew that I would be a little different. So much so that I had my umbilical cord wrapped around my feet, neck  and tied into a giant knot (in fact, once the doctors stopped laughing after they saved me, my umbilical cord is still in storage in Liverpool hospital as evidence as how huge  a knot can be in an umbilical cord, seriously!). Like I said, complicated.

Most children, their first words they hear is the relief and joy of their mothers after giving birth to a beautiful baby. By beautiful, I mean subjective beauty here, no new born is beautiful. They’re disgusting! They look like a wrinkly new potato, all covered in a light Jus of amniotic sack fluid, not beautiful at all! My delicate little ears heard these words instead.

Mum: *Gasps* Midwife: *Sharp in-take of breath* Mum: “OH MY GOD! What is it!? I’ve given birth to an alien!”

Yep. “Given birth to an alien” is what my first words in this world were. As much as I do still complain about this I can’t say I blame my mother. After being starved of oxygen intermittently due to the umbilical cord situation, I was blue and apparently my legs where about 3 times the length of my torso and my fingers were really long. So a blue spindly creature all covered in sack fluid I can see how my mum thought I may well have been an alien!

Despite the traumatic and drama filled entrance into this world, if I was indeed an alien then the little Green Blue men that dropped me off certainly gave me a good home. It saddens me deeply when people don’t get on with their parents, in fact it frustrates me. Especially those who do it just because they want to, or to seem cool and edgy around their mates. Fuck that, there is nothing cooler than hanging out with your parents! I never went through that teenage phase of being a rebel against them or shutting them out. I actively did the opposite and I feel so much more connected to my parents than others I know. People forget that parents don’t get a manual to read, they don’t get to go to the school of parenting or get any help. They haven’t got a pissing clue how to be a parent when you’re nothing but a determined sperm and an accepting egg. Their plans and life have changed now that you’re on the way kiddo. Like it or not you’re now their number one priority and they will sacrifice so many many things for you to be you and to support you. People forget that as you’re growing up learning about yourself and facing all those different life challenges, so are your parents. While you’re too busy trying to grow up you forget that they’re growing older and that they never stop learning. They’re learning how to deal with you coming home from school upset because of a bully. They’re learning how to deal with you breaking up with someone and seeing you incredibly hurt. They’re learning how to support your grand dreams and make you the best you, you can be.

Parents don’t go to parenting school but if mine did, they’d be graduating with first class honours. I have two of the best parents I could ever ask for in this world. If I become a parent one day, if I am a tenth of the parents mine are, then my child will have one hell of a life. My Dad will always be a larger than life character, not only from his physical presence (Yeah Papa Santa!) but his intellect and caring compassionate nature. He goes to work every day to save people’s lives and he’s been a paramedic for 36 years. 36 years doing that! I am in awe. He’s my first best mate and he’ll always be my best friend. He has taught me so much in this life that there is just too much to mention. The amount of sacrifices and hard work that he does to have given me the opportunities in this life, I cannot thank enough.  Along with my mum, the holidays we’ve had all over North America have been outstanding memories I treasure forever. We’re not a well off family but we’re not poor and so many times people take that as life is easy. Fuck no. My parents are in bits today because they work their arses to the bone. Hard work is a quality that bleeds out of both of my parents. Every holiday, every penny spent on me, every memory was made possible by their shear hard work and determination. I am forever grateful for that because it’s always been about me and my sister and never them. Utterly selfless.

There are two distinct sides to me. My intellect, rational and logical side and then my more personal, creative, social side. I certainly get my creative side and my confidence to talk to people from my mother. My mum is an amazing artist and she’s great in a group. She’s always the laugh at a party and her life skills and advice are second to none. However annoying it is at times, your mum is always right…about everything! She’s fought in my corner so many times and she’s always encouraging me to do things and supporting my decisions.

She works on her hands and knees as an industrial cleaner in Jacobs for over 25 years. I’m terrified of manual work, she does one of the most demanding, dangerous and physical exhausting jobs there is! All so you can eat your club biscuits and crackers. Working in 60c ovens daily is no mean feat!

I have a brilliant relationship with my parents and I treasure every success and failure with them. It’s a journey but one we’ve shared together, through my personal highs and lows. Throughout all of that time they’ve always supported me, guided me but the thing I am most grateful for is they let me be me. They got that distance perfectly right. Close enough to guide and encourage but far enough away for me to discover who I am, to follow what I wanted to do and to thrive in this world. That, to me, is something I am forever grateful for. My parents are probably the biggest influence in my life. Who I am today could physically not happen without them. Their love and continued support has been amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their sacrifices. I love you guys and thanks for making me who I am today. You’re not just my parents you’re some of my best friends too!

So I’ve grew up in a loving and supporting home and I’ve grew up with my sister who’s older by three years. I always find it a little creepy when brothers and sisters get on like best friends. Me and my sister are so incredibly different in many ways and more often than not growing up we’d be arguing or shouting at each other. But no sooner have we fought that we’d be playing a game together or doing something together. I don’t say it often enough but I do really appreciate my big sister. No matter how many times we clash heads, I’ll always be there for her and she is for me. She has so much potential and she has a brain that is much more clever than I am. She isn’t as driven as me to apply that potential but I think that’s because she doesn’t see that potential in herself like I do. Sometimes we clash heads because I get so frustrated over that. You can do it dude. But that’s enough niceness, I can feel myself feeling sick just by typing that. Eeee! Only joking 😉

Many people have their grandparents as their big influences and they are mine too. I never got a chance to know my grandparents from my mums side. They were long gone before I was old enough to meet them. I love all the stories and I so wish I could have met them. I certainly would have gotten on so well with my Nan by all accounts. My mum would often say I am so on her wavelength on so many things. Those stolen moments from time I never got to share but they’re still a part of me and I know they’re around somewhere looking down and I hope they’re proud of their grandson they never got to meet.

My Grandparents on my Dads side are now in their 80’s and they’re amazing! I do love them and unlike most people who get to pop round every Sunday to see theirs, I only get to see them max 3 or 4 times a year due to living in Ireland. Just like my parents they’ve given me so much love and support over the years and I cherish every moment with them. Without them I would not have been able to do my masters and be in the position I am now. They’re always believing in you and that’s bigger than anything in this world.

But finally, I cannot do a family blog without mentioning my cousins. I have so many great Aunties and Uncles in my family. They make this family what it is! I will do a blog dedicated to them all but my cousins were my first friends and my first best friends too. I genuinely believe to this day that I get on better with women because of them. Growing up with all girl cousins is like some sort of social experiment. They have even said this at times that they tried to teach me and mould me into the perfect man and boyfriend for someone one day! (Juries out on that one for now!). But there is some truth to it. I do have a great knack of reading women, to hear all those words that are unspoken, what to say and when to say it and just having a much more general understanding of their behaviours and thought processes. I learnt from a young age and all of this has continued to help as I’ve grown older. Being the youngest in the family and the only guy I’ve had plenty of years of being subjected to their ways! But I do enjoy it and they’ve always protected me. I do feel sorry for ex girlfriends who’ve been given the interrogation at family parties!

Like some sort of group we all have our distinct personalities and when we all meet up it’s like we’re all best friends and we have such a laugh. Katy is the oldest of the group and certainly is the most family orientated out of all of us. I see her as the mother hen. She’s always looking out for us, including us all in everything and making sure we’re all okay. She’s the first to have a child too to her brilliant husband Lee and it’s like the cycle is starting all over again (thank god I’ll be the last to have a kid!). Beth, her daughter and my little cousin is going to be such a character when she grows up! I can’t wait to see the new generation growing up together.

Jenny is next and I see her as the adventurer and explorer. She’s a real get up and go person. Throw an obstacle in her way? She’ll climb it. Give her a challenge to do, she’ll do it. I admire her courage if I’m honest. No challenge or obstacle is too big, she’ll find a way to make it work. She’s explored so many parts of the world and to take a job in Bangkok teaching and to make a life out of there on her own to begin with takes huge balls! Jen is definitely the adventurer of the group and I can learn a lot from her.

Lish is the free spirit of the group, the wild flower. Always the cool quirky one with her own distinct persona and identity. Who drives a Morris minor and lives on a canal boat these days? Yeah she does! Because she’s bad ass and doesn’t give a shit if you think that’s weird. I happen to think its frickin’ cool! She’s so laid back and chilled and has such a self-aware knowledge of herself that I think is amazing. How many times do you think about what someone else might think or get so het up about things? I learnt a lot from Lish that being different is better than being a sheep and there is so much win in just going with the flow and being confident with who you are.

Finally is Keggs, or should I prefix that name with crazy in front of it! She’s a nutter alright. I love all of my cousins very much and we all have great times together  but I do see Keggs as close to my wavelength as the others. She’s probably the most protective over me and our sense of humour is much more closely aligned too. I really enjoy pissing myself laughing whenever we catch up. So many random things happen in my life that is usually at the expense of myself and luckily it seems that Keggs has been dealt that shame gene too! We’re always swopping hilarious stories and I still laugh about looking like a Roman coin even now. She’s usually the one to subject taunts and pranks that usually happen to me in this family because Keggs has organised it or planned it or in most cases executed it against me! How many times have I had plates of cream thrown in my face, silly stringed to death and many other embarrassing things done to me because of her! She has however given me great advice over the years and I hope I’ve repaid some of that along the way too.

My cousins were my first friends and I feel as we’ve got older we’ve grown closer too, we’re always looking out for each other and supporting each other. Even though we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. Cousins are that perfect medium between friends and family. They’re in the centre of those two bubbles. If we were not in each other’s houses every week playing, then we were making igloos in the snow. If we weren’t doing that then they were unfortunately as much as I do try to repress those memories, I was their newest make up model. If that wasn’t happening then we’d be doing something crazy.

I am privileged to have had a brilliant childhood in a loving and caring home and family around me. Family have shown me what love is and how supportive it can be through the highs and lows. I love my family for all of their support, friendship, loyalty, advice and laughs over the years. From my immediate family to my cousins you’ve all shaped me into who I am today. Someone I hope you are proud to call one of your own. I certainly know that I am proud to be part of this family and proud to say I am related to you. Family is huge to me, it always has been and always will.