I missed the anniversary of my father’s death. He passed away in July 2013.
I had been sitting here for years waiting for someone to rescue me. A knight in shining armour perhaps. Or maybe a member of anonymous. For two years I waited on this island nation otherwise know as my sofa, surrounded by a sea of red carpet. But nobody came.
And then they told me that my father was dying. He had terminal cancer. But to my eternal shame even this failed to break the spell. I remained unable to tear myself away from the excuse for a life I had created for myself.
(And let me emphasise this: I did this to myself. What I did is widely know as ‘narcissistic withdrawal.)
I only visited my family three times a year and left the burden of caring for my father to my immediate family. They shouldered a heavy responsibility. I have no excuse for letting them do this without me. They spent a large part of their lives on the cancer ward of the general hospital, negotiating with consultants and making my father as comfortable as possible while I sat isolated on my sofa, paralysed by anxiety which sometimes spilled over into sheer terror, rocking backwards and forwards, playing ‘This Too Shall Pass’ on a continuous loop.
My father fought his cancer valiantly to his last breath. But in July 1913 I received the phone call I had been expecting. My father only had ‘He’ll be gone by the morning,; my aunt told me. ‘Come home if you can.
I whispered back, ‘I don’t think I can.’ And then a voice in my head said ‘You must. You will never forgive yourself if you don’t.’
So, in the end I did manage to tear myself away from my tiny four-walled country. I caught a train for the first time in a decade. I arrived at my father’s bedside at the last minute. The heart was still beating, the motor still running. I kissed him on the forehead and he responded by whispering my name.
They said that he had been waiting for me but the blanket skeptic in me rejects this notion.
A few hours after we returned home from the hospital my aunt kocked on the door of my childhood bedroom to tell me that he had died. ‘He’s gone, Louise’. And her choice of words somehow comforted me. For if he had gone then there was a possibilty that he might come back.
In situations like these magical thinking seems like the only option.