Tuesday, 8 December 2015

My dad.

Mum and Dad on their wedding day 1957 - Kenya
This week I learnt that my Dad died. He had a virus that wasn't deemed to be life threatening, yet on his own at home, lying on his bed, he died.

I hadn't seen him for several years and the last time we'd spoken, a few days after my mum had died, we'd exchanged cross words. That was the last time we'd spoken.

I never write about my Dad because we didn't have the easiest of relationships after he left. We'd both tried but for reasons too numerous, painful and subjective to elaborate on, we became estranged from one another.

If that in some way is supposed to make his death any easier to bear, it doesn't.
The greatest misunderstanding of love is that it only exists through regular and positive contact. My parents were married for 21 year and I was 12. So from my perspective we'd been a family for 12 years before he left and my brother then  died.

He was my Dad,  just because I didn't see him after we stopped speaking in 2011, doesn't mean that I didn't love him.

I find myself now in a strange position. I'm his daughter yet I'm not even sure that I'm going to be able to go to his funeral, uninvited. I very much want to go, as any child would but I don't want to impose.
I have spoken to his shocked and devastated wife and told her how much my father loved her and their child and how sorry I am for their loss, but I did so as a polite acquaintance unable to express that this is my loss too, for fear of offending her.

The arrangements are not requiring of my input. I mention this without acrimony just a flat statement of fact. His family are far more able to arrange and detail his funeral than I am, because they know him better than I do.

This doesn't mean that I don't love him.

The pain I feel, carries with it the barbed complexity of distance and time. Both geographical and emotional distance, and length and waste of time. For 36 years after he left, I tried and failed to get close to the man I'd idolised in childhood and he tried and failed to re-frame our connection as a friendship, devoid of familial ties.

That didn't work for either of us. I didn't want to be his friend and he didn't want to be my Dad. His request when I was 14, that I call him by his first name, as that would make things easier for him, was like a slap in the face.

I'd already lost my brother and though my dad was living away from us, he was and would always be my father. His name change request caused me to stand back and evaluate everything I'd understood to be true about us.

This didn't mean that I stopped loving him.

I'm not sure what the next few days will bring, whether I'll be able to say goodbye or whether our estrangement will be the defining echo of our relationship, but if I were allowed a moment alone with him, I'd tell him what he meant to me. I'd tell him some of the words of the song that he used to play me every morning when he drove me to school, I'd thank him for the qualities he gave me that were good and I sympathise with him for the ones he gave me that weren't so good. I'd forgive him for some things and I'd tell him that I've reconciled my heart and mind on others.

You only get one father, that's scientifically inescapable.

For my part, this is also true, I never stopped loving my Dad, and I never will.

Me at 2 months 1966 - Ireland