Posts Tagged ‘father’

My Late Father

August 18, 2016

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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.

Nothing Else to Say

August 31, 2013

Except this:



Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone

W. H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

In Retrospect

February 6, 2010

I must have been the only child in the world who wanted her parents to divorce. It was the eighties and all around us marriages were crumbling and children were pleading with their parents to stay together. Every night I prayed that my own parents wouldn’t.

I found it almost impossible to cope with the violence that could erupt at any moment in the house I called ‘home’. Especially when my father came home drunk and, shouting and smashing things. On these nights my stomach twisted itself into knots of fear. There was also anger there too. On those nights I hated him. On those nights I wanted to kill him. I live with the memory that I wished my own father dead. That is a painful admission to have to make.

I have forgiven but not forgotten. When I was very young my father was the best parent you could hope for. Our house was brimming over with books (ooh, get that, a cultured working class household) and I was taken to museums and art galleries. I never travelled abroad until I was eleven but I was taken to almost every ‘historic city’ in the UK. We visited historic monuments, great cathedrals and National Trust Houses. I was never deprived. There was those who would say that I had been somewhat spoilt.

When I was seven my father seemed to take on a whole new personality. He was distant and morose and for the first time he slapped me. His father had died and my brother had just been born. He seemed to fall apart. He came home from his father’s funeral and threw the Christmas presents my mother had thoughtfully hidden in the wardrobe down the stairs. He also attacked my mother: an unforgivable act without the context.

I see it through different coloured lenses now. I am convinced that my father had an undiagnosed nervous breakdown. A new son and a deceased father were a heavy burden to bear in the space of a few months. And he couldn’t tell us what was going on inside of him because men of his class simply did not to that. And yet women of that class spoke about their emotional problems. They may have received little help – a trip to the doctors and a prescription for ‘mothers little helpers’ but they had one another to confide in. My father had nothing. No one thought to ask how he was feeling because he was a man and a man is supposed to be ‘in control’. Permanently. Now how fair is that?

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