I have known Benjamin Gravestock since day one, his day one.
He ‘s the son of one of the doctors who worked with my dear departed dad. His Mum would turn up at our house and it was the perfect excuse for me to stop revising, the arrival of ‘favourite baby.’
I became his babysitter. Evenings were spent with me listening to endless corny jokes from a big joke book feigning laughter for him. I was good at that.
He has been a policeman for five years and is just about to plod on to the next career as an engineer.
Since our last conversation, when he rang to tell me his wife was expecting identical twin boys, he has become the daddy. They will be one year old in November.
‘Are you excited?’ I ask as if I am talking to the five year old Ben.
‘You should know I don’t do excited!’ he replies.
That’s right, I was always the excited one.
We chat away about the years when he was little and I was thinner, we talk about our pasts, our shared experiences in teen/childhood and the year he came out to Australia to live and learn.
He came to work with us here but I found him a job in the nearby Lighthouse. He spent all day washing up in the café and then he came back to us and washed up. The ‘hands in sink’ approach to ironing out egos seemed to work and over a short period of time his arguments lost a lot of their bite.
In this phone call he apologised to me saying that he was ‘monumentally shit at a lot of things in Australia’, he was ‘not a very nice person’ and ‘thank you for your patience.’
Really he didn’t have to apologise or thank me. He was 19. I sent him to a hairdresser forced him to be civil, made him do the ironing and brought him kicking and screaming into the adult world. I know what it is like to be the child of a high flying father, the expectations mixed with the sacrifice. It hits hard when you begin to think that you aren’t adding up to much. Everything can crumble.
He tells me that he has copped a few comments at work on account of his ‘sad resting face.’ He doesn’t feel sad, it’s just that everyone surmises that he is not enjoying himself when he is. (I think how funny it is that he follows Lewis in this blog, with Lewis’s resting face being everyone else’s party face!)
We cover religion and family at length. We talk for over an hour. I doodle away on my notes. And when we say ‘Goodbye’ I tell him he can ring me whenever he wants.
During the last few months I have been working at the lighthouse as the historical actress. I went into work and made everyone guess who I had been chatting to early this morning. We were laughing but it stopped me in my tracks when the chef told me that I was basically the court jester at the Lighthouse. I’d just been drawing jesters as Ben spoke, never having drawn a single on before.