Tribute (Robert Addison, July 1981 – July 2017)

A tribute to Robert ‘Bobby’ Addison, as read out at his service today.

It would be… incongruous to stand here and tell you all what an angelic life Bobby led. He was almost as well known by the local police as he was by us here today.

But, despite his misdemeanours and mistakes, it is no exaggeration to say that my brother had a huge impact on so many people’s lives, not least my own.

From my first days at school Bobby had my back. He, with our eldest brother Ian (RIP), dealt with a particularly annoying bully in ways that only an older brother can. He also took the piss in ways only an older brother can: with a delightful range of nicknames for me, all with a story… none of which I’m prepared to repeat to you now – I’ve enjoyed the reprieve since he left home.

When he wasn’t taking the mick, Bobby liked to get up to mischief. I remember one Christmas – I would have been around 7 years old – he showed me the present stash he’d discovered hidden behind a hole in the lining of mum & dad’s divan bed. I also remember the sweets and crisps he nicked from the shop where he and Ian did a paper round, but we probably shouldn’t talk about that.

Bobby bought me my first ever Terry Pratchett novel, inspiring a love for an author which endures both Pratchett’s death and Bobby’s – a love I’m sharing with my two children, thus influencing their little lives.

Bobby was unfailingly irresponsible with his life at times, ignoring danger and risk to tackle pursuits like climbing onto the rooves of high buildings, riding motorbikes at ridiculous speeds with barely any protection and, in one instance, using a rope swing over a drop at The Wrekin which seemed as deep as the Grand Canyon to me at the time.

I mention these things not to glorify his pastimes, but because he encouraged me to do the same; to take risks, to try things, to be BRAVE. He was one of very few people in my life who didn’t stop me doing things because I’m a girl. He thought that if he could do it, I could too.

While his encouragement didn’t inspire me to chuck myself around on motorbikes or throw myself over drops the size of the Grand Canyon, it did inspire me to explore other “boy” things like video games and computing. It gave me the confidence in my abilities to forge a career in a male dominated industry – a career which has shaped my life, allowing me to run a successful business despite the doubters and “but you’re a girl” naysayers.

Finally, Bobby taught me one of the most important lessons of my life: he taught me forgiveness. He taught me that a person’s worth is not the sum of their mistakes, and that despite everything life throws at you, there is always good in everyone.

Terry Pratchett once wrote “no one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away”. I like to think that the ripples Bobby caused will outlive us all.

Death, Depression and Drink

Content warning: suicide, mental health, addiction

On Wednesday I sat down and mentally compiled a tribute to my brother, whilst assembling an IKEA table. There’s something strangely therapeutic about putting flat-pack furniture together (at least when I’m doing it by myself).

My brother, Robert ‘Bobby’ Addison, took his own life some time around the 21st-22nd July. Securely fixed a piece of wood between the rafters in his loft directly above the access hatch, attached the rope, and… well, you get the idea. Obviously something he’d planned out; who just happens to have a piece of wood exactly the right width to slot between the rafters just sat around the house? He was found on the 25th by a neighbour.

Although we were once close, my relationship with my brother was complicated. He had extensive mental health issues, in part exacerbated by the suicide of our eldest brother Ian back in 2000, the fallout of which (long story short) broke down his relationships, his connections with his children, family and friends.

I hadn’t seen him in 7 years, since Isabel was tiny; bumped into him in a local shopping centre. I kept meaning to write, to find him, but put it off: I wasn’t sure I could cope with the risk of introducing someone explosive into my children’s lives, and I felt I needed to ensure the safety of his children too.

Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be talking about this – we’ve not even had the funeral yet. But how do we break down barriers about mental health if we don’t talk about it? Particularly when someone with issues is left with no support network. Yes, actions have consequences, but where do we draw the line if it means potentially saving someone’s life?

Anyway. Bobby had threatened suicide multiple times since 2000. Part of me was sure he’d never go through with it. I liked to believe that he would not want to put us through “it” all over again. But if you feel ostracised, if you feel nobody cares, would that have even crossed his mind? Either way, having to deal with a suicidal brother for 17 years… it numbs you. I grieved for him again and again, every time I thought it was the end. Watching him jump in front of a moving train. Seeing him surrounded by drugs and drink. Every text telling me he’d had enough, that he couldn’t cope, that he didn’t want to be here without Ian. I cried and I grieved and then he didn’t die, he missed the train, he survived the drug cocktails.

And now he’s gone, and I expected to grieve once more, and mostly all I feel is a complicated mess of shock, regret, and relief that he is finally free from his pain.

Unfortunately, being relieved doesn’t make this shit any easier. I have been drinking. Not “bottle of vodka on a school night” drinking, but drinking nonetheless. I use it to escape my head, my own mental health, but it’s cowardly and it doesn’t work. I have also slacked off at the gym and avoided people and responsibilities.

I like to think that I have the self-awareness to nip the unhealthy behaviours in the bud before they get to a “point of no return”. (And by self-awareness, I mean my habit of constantly over-analysing the minutiae of my life and then wondering why I have so much going on in my head that I can’t escape from.)

I like to think that having the privilege of a support network, of an unwavering rock of a husband, of friends who are there for me 24 hours a day, and a counsellor who willingly listens to my swear-filled rants punctuated with sobs and sniffles… that all of this means I will go on. That I will grieve, that time will heal the wounds of regret, that I will forgive myself for not being there.

Until then? One day at a time.

Death

I’m trying to crack on with some work but one of my servers is 503ing, which – as you can probably imagine – is not particularly conducive to “cracking on”, so as an interim measure I’ve just read Alison’s latest post Trying to be as strong as I want my children to be, which surfaced some thoughts that have been bubbling away lately…

Isabel has recently started asking questions about death, and showing an interest in the subject. We actually had a brush with the topic several months ago but a brief explanation seemed to satisfy any need for knowledge at the time. I had hoped this would be it for the foreseeable future but apparently not; like Alison’s son, she too said this week she doesn’t want to die. (Responding to that with “everybody dies eventually” was, in hindsight, probably not the smartest thing to say, but we live and we learn.)

I do not fear death and I’m not worried about Isabel learning about death and dying. It has to happen eventually, and given the state of Big Pig’s health it might be sooner rather than later, although I cling to the hope that she doesn’t experience it directly for as long as possible.

I am worried about how I ever broach the subject of people who choose the path that leads to death. I’m worried about how I tell Izzy there’s a special guy who’ll she’ll never get to meet because of a decision he made 14 years ago. How do you tell a little girl that someone who should be a huge part of their life, decided that they would rather die than deal with the consequences of their choices in life?

I can’t help but feel like I’m hiding a lie by not telling Izzy that she had an uncle she’ll never get to meet, but I’m not sure I am ready to tell her yet either. Mostly because I know she’ll ask “why”, and I still don’t have the answer to that question.