I don’t know how to feel. I can lie to myself; I’ve been lying to myself for years. But I can’t lie to the blog. The blog demands the truth, you see. My father has just died. But I am not in any way deserving of your pity. I haven’t spoken to my father in five years – not since last Tuesday, when I went to visit him in hospital to say goodbye. After a two-and-a-half hour train journey to London, and one-and-a-half hours of bus journeys (I hate driving in London), I finally made it to his bedside. And even then, I’m fairly certain he didn’t know I was there. But I had to pay my respects; I held his hand in the brief time I had, kissed his forehead, stroked his curly hair (he always had a lovely, full head of curly hair – that’s where I get mine), and said goodbye for the last time. I knew it was going to be the last time. But you see, I still don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.
Almost from the day I was born, I have always had a difficult and strained relationship with my dad. I won’t speak ill of the dead; it isn’t right, because they can’t defend themselves. But it would be hypocritical of me to write this blog and extol his virtues; sing his praises. He was never an abusive man, but he was a selfish man. Like I say, we hadn’t spoken in five years. It was an easy decision to make, too; to cut him out of my life at the time. My sister had just died, and he refused to attend the funeral. He had his reasons; agoraphobia, mental illness issues – there was certainly no malice involved. But to me, that bereaved and bitter woman of five years ago, I just felt a man must attend his own daughter’s funeral. No question. But he didn’t, or he couldn’t. I don’t know which. Either way, that was the end of our father-daughter relationship – one that had never been very good in the first place.
I was talking to a friend and colleague the other day. Mike had written a speech for his daughter’s wedding this coming weekend (today). For some reason, Mike sometimes chooses to waste his time reading this blog, and he wanted my advice on the speech (I’m not sure why anybody should want my advice on such an important thing, but he did). So he read out his ‘father of the bride’s speech’ for my opinion; it was funny and touching in all the right places. I don’t think I’ve heard a better one. I know for a fact that his daughter will find it very emotional (particularly towards the end). I think he will find it emotional to read. I didn’t say so at the time, because I was feeling a little emosh’ myself, but my father didn’t come to my wedding. I got married just a few months after my sister’s death. I can’t honestly even remember if I invited him or not, but he wouldn’t have come anyway, because of the agoraphobia. Anyhow, there certainly wasn’t any ‘father-of-the-bride’s speech’ at my wedding; my lovely brother walked me down the aisle, and gave a beautiful speech instead. But if my dad had been able to write and read aloud a speech, like Mike will for his daughter, I’d have been immensely proud. His daughter is lucky to have him.
This is a very different blog to the one I was going to write a week ago. That blog was still very bitter; still aggrieved. That aggrieved child has been in me all this time, you see. I am slightly scarred as an adult because of my childhood, less and less so as the years go by, but the damage you do when raising a kid is irrevocable. But when I saw my dad in that hospital bed; eyes rolling into the back of his head, limbs flailing, clearly distressed, hollow cheekbones, all that bitterness was knocked out of me. I just felt very sad. He was a tortured soul in his life; a troubled man, with his own demons. And seeing that shell of a man who had once seemed so big, and such a huge barrier to all my future hopes when I was a kid, I stopped feeling resentment. Lying in that hospital bed, he was so weak and vulnerable; so close to death. That was a blog that didn’t need to be written. So I simply deleted it, because the anger has gone. I’m merely regretful now.
So as I sit here and cry now (I’m often crying when I write this blog, usually not from fits of laughter, unfortunately – although, I am one to laugh at my own jokes. Just ask my kids), I’m not crying for the relationship with my father that I had. I’m crying for the relationship I wish it was. If you have a dysfunctional relationship with your parent, you don’t even get to look back at the good times like normal people. People like us are only left with regret, and a strange, lost feeling you don’t quite know what to do with. So I’m not deserving of pity, no. But that doesn’t make it any less hard. You only get one set of parents, and he was my dad. The only one I had. And for all his flaws, and there were many, I say again – he never did anything out of maliciousness. He was a complicated man, who probably didn’t know any better. I hope my mother and siblings don’t think badly of me for writing this, but like I say, I may lie to myself – but never to the blog. So, goodbye, Daddy. I hope you’re in a better place now. I hope that place is free from whatever it was that frightened you so much, that you had to hide yourself away from the world. I hope that place brings you the peace that this world never could. xx