WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO …

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - LORENZO NOVA NI, WRITER AND PER­FORMER

MY dad was typ­i­cally Ital­ian. He had al­ways been gen­er­ous, es­pe­cially with food and wine. He loved to see peo­ple in­dulging in the finer things and en­joy­ing them­selves. When he did some­thing it was never by half – he took up karate around the age of 40 and reached 3rd dan, quite an achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing he was a fam­ily man and busi­ness owner.

I was 14 years old and fo­cused on do­ing things I shouldn’t have been do­ing; al­co­hol and meet­ing girls. My first kiss ar­rived at a house party and was fol­lowed by four more in the same evening. I was the man – un­til my mum caught wind of the party and dragged me out. I woke up the next morning with the lin­ger­ing hu­mil­i­a­tion of the night be­fore but my ado­les­cent ego was feel­ing good about at least mak­ing an im­pres­sion.

I had no idea that one of the most pro­found mo­ments of my life lay a few min­utes away. I went down­stairs for break­fast but was in­ter­cepted by my mum and given a ri­fle to hide from my fa­ther. I won­dered who my dad might have been con­sid­er­ing us­ing the weapon on.

I found him with an­other firearm, ready to take his own life. A few words were ex­changed be­fore he let it go. My dad hadn’t been pro­tect­ing us from an in­truder, we’d been pro­tect­ing him from him­self. It took me a long time to ac­cept that. No hand had forced him to pick up that gun and point it at his chest. It had been a choice. That knocked the wind out of my teenage re­bel­lion.

He was 46 years old and his psy­chotic de­pres­sion lasted for the next six to seven years. It was char­ac­terised by si­lence and long pe­ri­ods of sit­ting and star­ing, usu­ally at noth­ing, some­times at home, some­times in a ward. At points he was able to re­turn to work in his chip shop but he seemed dis­tant and with­out warn­ing a heav­i­ness could re­turn. The si­lence, the slow move­ments and the ex­pres­sion of a mind com­pletely con­sumed by it­self.

I re­mem­ber walk­ing through East Kil­bride af­ter school and start­ing to sob. I found a toi­let cu­bi­cle and cried my eyes out. I’m not sure why. Re­jec­tion? Trauma? Com­pas­sion? I was con­fused. What was the point in lov­ing peo­ple when, like ma­chines, they can just break down? Was I faulty too? Would I break down?

My fa­ther died of can­cer in 2011. For his last few years he was in a healthy state of mind. I wanted to

ask ques­tions but didn’t. Ask­ing about his ill­ness while he was in a good state of mind felt self­ish, like I was risk­ing his well­be­ing for the sake of my cu­rios­ity. In­stead, I en­joyed his gre­gar­i­ous­ness, his sense of hu­mour, and many a cap­puc­cino to­gether as we chat­ted away about mar­tial arts and busi­ness.

Psy­chotic de­pres­sion might have cast a shadow over his life at points but more than any­thing my fa­ther will be re­mem­bered for his warmth and gen­eros­ity when he was truly him­self.

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PHO­TO­GRAPH: JAMIE SIMP­SON

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