It is seldom that I am truly uncertain of what course of action I should take. I will be the first to say that I more often than not, follow my heart and argue with my head, but tis is one of the rare times in my adult life, wherein my heart and head are at an impasse.
You see, next Saturday will see the memorial of someone who meant different things to different people here in Sheffield. To me he was a visionary painter of miniatures, a tormentor, sometimes an advisor to me when I was a kid and he was having one of his more compassionate moments in between fighting me and my mates off his counter in the store where he worked.
He grudgingly praised my figure painting as I learned from him and another painter of repute, broke a couple of models when my work got under his skin (high praise indeed, let me assure you) and taught me by example how to stand up for myself using my tongue rather than my fists - at a time when I was heading for a charge of common assault by defending myself against a bullying type, a couple of years older than me.
True, I can say in all honesty that sometimes in the last 10 years or so, I have had cause to curse his very name, for certain things which left me scarred, but equally, those scars are scars I am proud to have because they played a part in making me who and indeed, what I am.
And I miss the man...
So, what's eating me up?
The 80s were tribal times, even for those of us who attacked each other with dice. We all wanted to be accepted by the older gamers, staff in the numerous stores we frequented and those in our own age bracket as we tentatively found out what the world was really about.
Back then, I was giddy but gentle, loud outwardly but incredibly shy. I was not (and still in reality am not) confident in the company or others.
I was the only kid from my area and school who was part of the far reaching group of teen misfits on the local gaming scene - I say misfits, but that was only on the fantasy side of things, because within the historical wargaming community I was 'The Young 'Un' and I was looked after, nurtured and schooled in the ways of 'real adults'. I was a kid, I knew my place and therefore there was little if any dispute. But, in the fantasy arena, I was one of about 2 dozen, and kids being kids form into cliques. I was spread across several sub groups of the whole, and so was actually spread too thinly, unable to be counted as part of a given faction which made me ripe for being the butt of spiteful behaviour and in turn developing a general degree of spitefulness which was very capable, some may say excessively so, of metaphorically punching above it's weight.
Added to this was my inability to let go of things which got to me - a pattern which continues to this day. I am loyal as a friend, doubly so as an enemy...
Well, I reached a point where I was estranged from my peers, leading me to find new friends, mostly away from gaming and physically and emotionally adrift at a time when I needed those same people I was moving away from, but who in turn were busy feathering their socio-emotional nests at my expense without regard for I, who had thought of them all as friends, allies, brothers.
On reflection, this is how kids are, but, when it happens to you at a key formative stage of your emotional development, the scars and outcomes can really damage you for life, and in my case, have done.
I moved on... I went through a terrible first long term relationship, then met my wife of nearly 29 years, raised a daughter, did many things both good, bad and enlightening, and all without those people who I believed had betrayed my friendship and thereby lost the right to be trusted. In turn, I was seen as a wanker - and probably was by that time, embittered by how shallow those deep and meaningful relationships apparently were.
I am mature enough now to see that in 30 years, none of us have truly changed with the exception of Chris.G for whom I have a level of respect which would make the 14 year old me, vomit with surprise and probably even pass out. But, it's true, so my 14 year old self, if he ever reads this can go screw himself.
And there is the rub, and crux of my dilemma... OK, it's taken me all that time and typing to get to the point, but I trust you will see just how much thought is going into it.
In 7 days time, a group of people who to this day, are hierarchically and diametrically opposed to this or that person or faction will be voluntarily sitting in a pub in Sheffield from 15:30 until God knows what time to honour a mutual friend, acquaintance and inspiration. And I am not certain that age old politics and grievances are not going to surface, even if only subconsciously. And I count myself amongst those I suspect may be carrying well ground axes into the metaphorical holy place.
If any of those people are reading this, they will no doubt say like I, that they will not, would not behave in such a manner, but I would answer that history proves otherwise, friend.
And so, I am trying to balance and justify attending and paying my respects against the possibility of things going awry and thereby disrespecting a man's memory, or by being seen as ignorant by not attending for what I believe to be a well founded and possibly noble reason. When the egos of the living begin to put the memory of the deceased into shadow, one has to face oneself and weigh the heaviness of the soul against that of what is right and proper.
My head tells me that not attending would be best for me mentally, but that karmically the opposite is what I should do. But the 14 year old self, is feeling pretty vulnerable right now, and should the 49 year old self become fraternally defensive towards that self, I do not know what it may say or do. That disturbs me, disturbs me to the point that I am having nightmares about meetings taking place that do not end well.
I am a tormented soul...