The sixth thing that reminds me of my Dad are furniture stores.
At the age of seventeen, a year after the divorce, my father decided it was time to update the décor of the house. He would spend the next three years doing this. He wanted to erase every sign of my mother. I thought the kitchen would be the first place to be changed as it was her area but he never updated it. I guess he didn’t want to part with his money as it would have been a big job.
I hated being seen with him in public. It was a horrible position to be in. I would worry as soon as we left the house. What mood would he be in? What if I say something wrong? I would be on a high level of anxiety the whole day. No wonder I was so ill all the time.
He enjoyed going to furniture stores. To him, it was a day out and I had to be there by his side. He was incapable of making decisions, weirdly, he needed my opinion; not that he used it much. I always thought, he needed it to use it as a weapon, an attack back at me, a reason to criticise me.
I tried to make it as clear as possible that he was my father. In my twenties, I tried out many techniques. I could pretend to be younger than I was, I looked a lot younger, if the store owners thought I was a teenager then they wouldn’t think he was my husband. Then, when that didn’t work, I became the helpful daughter, calling him Dad as loudly as possible, referring to him as my father when he sent me up to talk to the sales assistant about what he wanted.
Many an argument started in the furniture stores. I apparently had expensive taste and wanted to “suck up” all his money. Why ask my opinion then? I hated the gaudy items my father wanted and eventually got as our once cosy, sweet house had now become a fancy show room.
I can’t say how many times I cried in public, in his presence.
On one outing in my mid-twenties, my father and I had a blazing row in a carpet shop. He was very threatening and abusive. He cornered me in an aisle at the back of the store to let out his exasperations towards me. Often, if someone walked past he would stop. However, this time he didn’t and continued to vent about how embarrassing I was to cause a scene. (I asked if we could get something to eat, it had gone past lunchtime and I was starving.)
He stormed out of the store. With his long strides, he quickly gained speed on me. So much so, I had to quicken my pace out of the shop. Of course everyone was staring.
By the time I reached his space in the parking lot, my father was already pulling out. As I went to climb in, he took off. I couldn’t believe it. He had left me there. I called out to him.
In shock, I walked back to the front of the store and thought for a second; I had no way of getting home. We were in a Retail Park off the motorway. I couldn’t even walk. I didn’t have my bag so had no purse, no money, I couldn’t even call a cab. So I waited.
After half an hour he returned.
He pulled up beside me and said two words,