Happy Birthday Hunter: 9 lessons for a 9 year old.
Dear Hunter Steen McFaull,
Happy Birthday, son. 9 years old. Pfft. Where does the time go? Perhaps you’ll read your old man’s ramblings some day. Some distant day, far from now, when you’ve fulfilled your childhood dreams and become a Ninja…with your younger brother nipping at your heels, desperate for guidance from his hero on how to best wield his katana…
“Buddy, no! Not near Daddy’s balls!”.
You have been unwell all day and off school. You passed out on the living room sofa and said “I feel like I’m in another world”. Your brother is ill, too. Meanwhile, I’ve not long finished writing your birthday card. I feel great, as it happens!
Anyhow, indulge your old man for a whistle-stop tour of the past 9 years. Buckle up, kiddo!
I always wanted children. I’m not sure why, to be honest. Your Aunty Sarah may be a lovely burst of sun-kissed kindness now, but honestly…she was a complete cunt when we were kids! Remind me to tell you about the time she deliberately threw me down the stairs or when she faked her own death to get some sweets in a Glaswegian supermarket. Lesson #1 People change, son.
I wonder if you’ll be the same? Will you want offspring? Buddy’s intensity may have put you off. Or perhaps his wide-eyed innocence will, in time, prove infectious? Nah, probably the former. You are so understanding of your brother’s autism even if you don’t understand its true meaning…you just know. We are so proud of you for this and all the compromises you have made and continue to make. Buddy worships you.
When your Mum and I were first ‘dating’ (Jesus. What will dating be deemed when you’re in your 20's? Courting seems so archaic and genteel to my generation…) we had a series of exceedingly odd, intense and curious chats about life, love and the future. I’m sure you’ve guessed, son, that this was mostly driven by your mentally deranged Father. Years before you came along, I remember your Mother and I sitting in The Shore and being the youngest people there by approximately 77,000 years…
“Do you want to get married? Have kids and stuff, then?”, I asked, downing a double JD & Diet Coke.
“Erm. Yes, I think so”, said your Mum, tentatively.
“Good. Two kids would be ideal, I think. Hey! Did you know dogs have forked penises? Or is it penii? Who can say? The boffins need to look into it!”.
It was at that moment that your Mother knew I was the one. Perhaps it is she who is unhinged? What a twist in the McFaull annals! We were in school together for 7 years and barely noticed one another! A few minutes with her later on and I was smitten. There’s nobody funnier or sweeter. But, of course, you know this. YOU BLOODY OEDIPUS. Anyhow…Lesson #2 Love is the everything.
Years passed and they were glorious fun. Your Grandmothers drove us demented in myriad ways but they were very much alive and you, well you still lived in my balls. Ha! The boy who is so obsessed with balls he is compelled to grasp any spherical item and clutch it by his nethers before decrying with a wink, “Hey? Dada? Look? Hey? HEY? BALLS”. Yeah, well you lived in mine. A win for Dad!
Your Mother and I got married by mistake. We hadn’t planned to settle down. I had wildly pretentious plans to live in Brazil, writing novels nobody would read, burning terribly in the searing Rio fiery heat, while your Mother had to focus on her career of sponge bathing and putting plasters on lairy old people (no, I still don’t truly know what nurses do). Lesson #3 Your Mum is the best. Don’t take her for granted.
But marriage? Too deeply cynical souls, utter atheist pragmatists…it seemed far-fetched. But, and it’s probably apparent by now, your Mother and I are both insanely fickle creatures and prone to bouts of impressionable impulsivity.
“You should get married in Gretna Green”, said your Aunty Shona, quite casually. So we did!
There was no proposal. No getting down on one knee. Just a simple, banal conversation, akin to trivially discussing today’s papers not making it due to volatile weather, or whether rock / paper / scissors needed a new competitor to spice things up. ICE!
That night, your Mother and I went to The Bridge pub on Douglas Quay and put on our favourite album, Rilo Kiley’s — Under the Blacklight. I even resisted telling her that the album was a proto-Rumours, full of lacerating lyrics about dissolved in-band divorce and bitterness. Mainly because the melodies were so damn sweet! Again, what a keeper! Lesson #4 Music is the language of the soul.
Some more years passed. And your cousins came along, 3 singular, very different boys, all brimming with personality, and who you’re very close with. Your Mother and I travelled parts of the globe. I ended up spectacularly ill. There’s a blog about all that…a solid 40,000 words which can be easily condensed to: Daddy shat himself for 6 months straight. Thanks a lot, India.
When we returned from our travels, we knew it was time to settle down. We were living in a cold, dank, old townhouse on Summerhill Road. It was full of character and your Dad was, for reasons unclear now, massively into running. I used to regularly run 16–20 mile runs and call for your Mother to pick me up when my dodgy knees buckled. One nondescript day, I came home from 5 a side and your Mum spoke with a grave tone about an extortionate bill for another failing car.
With a despondent air she said — “It’s a shame…but at least I’m pregnant”. It was a joyous moment in the narrow corridors of Summerhill and I was flabbergasted and full of joy and happiness. And I lifted her into the skies and beyond. Good god, your Mum looked so happy.
Lesson #5 Surprises are generally awful and anxiety-inducing. But sometimes, they make the stars shine that bit brighter and the world feels alive.
When you were busy being born, your Mum was screaming like a banshee death metal singer mid toe-stub. We had been watching House of Cards which was a great TV show until the main actor turned out to be a bit of a nonce. This was a big shock to us at the time but now you’re an adult I can only assume every human you’ve ever encountered has at least buggered a heron.
“Now, Lisa”, said the midwife, in a soothing, concerned voice. “The next bay can hear you very clearly and they’re worried. I’m worried too…you may have no voice left at the end of this. Just breathhhhhe”
“ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!”, shrieked your Mother, sounding like a seriously fucked off pneumatic drill.
I was bringing nothing to the table, son. Not gonna lie. Lesson #6 When the woman you love is giving birth, grab her some ice!
And then? You came. 11:52am, 31st March 2013. I was delighted you weren’t an April Fool’s Joke. You were a sacred testament I would read, unearthing hidden truths with every revisit. I was the first to hold you. Your eyes were massive. And mad. A right nosey git you were. And I didn’t want to let you go.
I still don’t…
I drove home in the ridiculous hours, flying through green lights and dead roads. My brain was a whirling washing machine, ever-spinning. Eventually, I hit a red light. God, I remember this so clearly. Some time past 4am and this song came on BBC Radio 6.
Vampire Weekend — Step
There’s a lyric that sticks…”wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth”. And I feel that wisdom is a mere bud within me and youth is a dying oak…
There’s something about the melody and arrangement that punch me; a kick of nostalgia in an already saccharine soul.
I don’t sleep, of course. And when I return to the hospital…you’ve been an absolute sloth and decided to stop FUCKING BREATHING in the night (sleep apnoea) and been stricken with a bit of jaundice (Look at the stars! And you were all yellow, dude). A lifetime of worrying commences, continues and consumes. Lesson #7 You change when you become a parent; you just do.
We got you home. And there were baths in an odd, tiny cylinder in the living room. Chest-cuddles and long stomps in the buggy. Your Dad lost it and ended up embarking upon a fucking mental DubSmash obsession. There are people he doesn’t know who comment on it, even now. Think of it like Tik-Tok but a bit shit. It was a different time, son…
Your nana died. Then your Granny died, too. And didn’t they just adore you. Nana used to look at you, transfixed, whispering to nobody “He’s amazing. He’s just amazing”. And your Granny termed you “Hunty” which has stuck. You have always been so loved.
And then Buddy came along! A whirlwind that continues to sap all the energy from your parent’s very states of being.
You have a Grandad, a Papa, cousins, Aunts, Uncles and friends who love the placid, kind, geeky, sweet-natured soul you are. I sure hope you don’t turn into a degenerate crackhead or this will have aged like milk…
Now, unbelievably, unfathomably…you’re 9 years old. The funniest person I’ve met is a child! It’s ridiculous, really.
There are too many quotes…and yes, I have assembled them all in a special “Hunter notes” section on my phone, compiling them over the years. Here are a selection…
“Get over it mate! That’s just life!”
“I’m a hot-blooded camel”
“My gonads are lonely”
“This town is full of plebs”
“My fingers are not reliable!”
“Davison’s? You’ve outdone yourself”
“I know Royal Park like the back of my balls”
“Some may never live…but the dinosaur nerds never die”
“Target acquired: Amputate hand!”
“Jeff is alive! Beware!”
The latest from today, as you struggled to come to terms with your new roller-skates — “Oh, just call A & E now, mate. Take me to the hospital!”
And on and on it goes. Lesson #8 You are and always have been hilarious. Use this superpower only for good! And wooing chicks, obvs.
I shall sign off with the following…one of your more sincere catchphrases:
“Are you with me, Daddy?”.
Always, son. Happy birthday.
Lesson #9 I’m always with you and always will be.