This date will forever stay in my mind.
After getting married at the end of May last year, the contact between my father and I had decreased. It was deliberate as I wanted to set firm rules in our relationship in place. The 30th of June had been my best friend’s hen party and I had stayed over at her house in Essex. Another friend had given me a ride back to London. My father and I had talked the previous weekend and I mentioned what was happening. He offered to pick me up from my friend’s flat in London as it was a distance from where I actually lived. I was wary. It wasn’t often that my father wanted to help me out especially without condition. I should have anticipated trouble but like a fool I accepted his offer. After all, it was rare to receive kindness and a part of me still longed for that from him.
On July 1st 2012, my father picked me up from my friend’s flat. I made sure I was ready for him, it was a mistake to ever keep that man waiting. It was a sweltering hot day and as well as having a rather large, self-inflicted hangover, I was also very tired. I was looking forward to getting home. As it was also a Sunday, I needed to get myself organised for work the following day.
In the car my father didn’t ask me about the party he rarely took any interest in what I did. However as soon as we had set off, the trouble began. On the previous day, when he dropped me to my friend’s flat, he had mentioned about a DVD he wanted to watch but was unsure of how to use the player. I had explained how to do it to him and assumed that was the end of it. After all, he had used the home DVD player many times before. On the return journey he mentioned his problem again. I asked him if I could roll down the window, the car was like an oven. He refused and went on to tell me how ill he was (he’d been suffering with COPD, a chronic pulmonary disease for several years) and that the air would ignite his cough. I cannot say I had any empathy for him, I had been his sounding board for his complaints and ailments my whole life, I knew it was time to switch off. It may sound ruthless and cold but all he ever did was complain about life and to stay positive with someone like that can be a struggle. I allowed him to rant but I rarely paid attention.
Of course I had my concerns. Even though he repulsed me in many ways, the sound of his coughing worried me. I am not made of stone. I asked if he was okay.
“What do you care?” was his pleasant response.
I remained silent, it made sense to.
As his coughing became progressively violent, I told him to take a sip of water. He laughed and replied,
“Be quiet if you have nothing useful to say!”
I was immediately scared. His voice had deepened and the volume had increased. I felt anxious and nauseous. I forgot how much he loved to attack me in the car. It was the perfect place – no escape.
“Before I drop you back, you are coming home with me to set up the DVD.” he stated.
I faced him. I did not want to go there. I spent most of my time avoiding going back there. I certainly did not want to be alone there with him. My silence began to annoy him.
“It won’t take long; just show me how to do it. It is very important that I watch this video, do you understand?”
I didn’t understand. There were other people he could ask. The old feelings of entrapment and suffocation began to appear. I could not breathe.
“Did you hear me? We’ll go home, you can sort that out and then I’ll take you for a nice lunch”.
Now it was lunch too! What next?
“Daddy……………” I began tensely, “I’m really tired, I’ve got a terrible headache. Can I give you the instructions over the phone when I get back, that way you can learn how to do it yourself?”
There was no easy way to say ‘No’. There was no certain way of saying it that would appease him. Of course, he was instantly infuriated by my ridiculous request and once again after several years, the car was the place for him to lose all patience with me and leave me fearing for my life.
“You do not want to do anything for anyone else! You are so selfish, so mean. I never want to speak to you again! I cannot believe you are my daughter!” he screamed.
Tears streamed down my cheeks uncontrollably. Nothing had changed, he was still the same man and I was foolish to believe otherwise. I rolled down my window ignoring his previous order and inhaled the cool air. As soon as we arrived at my apartment, I got out of the car, slammed the door and didn’t look back.
The next time we spoke would be the start of the journey that changed our lives altogether.