Opinion with Matthew Munson: At the sharp end of history

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

I am now double-jabbed – it’s funny the words that enter our lexicon, isn’t it? A year ago, no-one would have dreamt of using that expression; now, you all know what I mean without me needing to explain it.

I took Bryan along to the surgery so that he could watch; he’s experiencing history at the sharp end (history that his own children and grandchildren will probably study when at school), so to see someone having the vaccine might stick in his mind.

I have a tattoo of a snake on my right arm, and the woman administering the jab asked Bryan which part of the snake she should “stab” with the needle. When she followed through by jabbing the snake’s jaw, Bryan exclaimed, “Daddy, she’s only gone and done it!” How the woman kept her hand steady as we burst out laughing, I don’t know, but she did.

I was only one when the Falklands War happened, so I’m a bit hazy on the details, but I remember watching the news in 1989 (at the delicate age of eight) and watching the Berlin Wall come down. I didn’t understand the significance, but it seemed like the adults around me found it interesting. And when I was 16, the Tories were replaced with Labour in the Houses of Parliament – that turned me onto politics, as I recall, because there was a lot of passion involved, and I was suddenly aware that I’d be able to vote two years later.

It’s interesting to see what Bryan remembers of the pandemic; he went into school during the second and third lockdowns, but stayed at home with me during the first (and longest). He remembers a lot of the topics I set for him during those long months (we did a lot of different things to keep his mind active) and seems to have forgotten the one time I shouted because I was under pressure and forgot myself (I’m not a natural shouter, and haven’t done it before or since – that lockdown period put emotional pressure on all of us).

When I asked him what he missed during lockdown, his answer was unsurprising – “my friends” and “my school”. He told me that he enjoyed being with his family during the lockdown – we got to facetime his siblings a hell of a lot more, as we did lessons together every week – and that reassured me. He was eight when we went into lockdown; I don’t honestly know how I would have dealt with all of that if it had happened when I was eight.

The other day, I bumped into a lady whose child goes to the same school as Bryan, and we chatted for a few minutes; she then commented, as she looked at Bryan, how much we look alike and that she could see how I was his father. I was surprised; for obvious reasons, given the way in which he and I became a family, I didn’t give him any of my genes. However, it’s indisputable that there is a kind of physical resemblance; at the time, I didn’t know quite how to respond, and I felt clumsy.

After all, that was one of the best compliments she could have given me; neither Bryan nor I are in the slightest bit embarrassed by the word adoption, but we don’t talk about it every single day – life is too precious and busy to keep dwelling on it all the time.

So I am delighted that my son and I look alike; I’ve noticed that he’s taken on some of my mannerisms too, which will either be lovely or disturbing for him when he’s older, and his previous accent disappeared pretty quickly when he came home so that he ended up sounding like me. The poor boy.

As I say, children are resilient; more resilient than we give them credit for. When he’s an adult, I hope he remembers these times with some degree of positivity, and perhaps he’ll also be happy that he and his dad look alike.

1 Comment

  1. Matthew, as a man nearly in my 60’s, who decided early I would not be a father, I really appreciate you sharing that. I hope Bryan also shares your memory and interest in the moment.

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