My father had been moved to the cancer unit at University College Hospital in Central London. It was the hospital where I was born. I met David after work and we went there to visit him. I was nervous; shaking. The unit was based on the top floor and there were views across the whole of London from his ward.
As we walked to him, my sister was sat on the bed. I could not believe that once again he had timed our meetings flawlessly. Our last encounter was at the previous hospital and it was less than perfect. The children were there and I got to meet my niece for the first time since she was born; she was 11 months and beautiful. But as I reached out to hold her my sister unbelievably remarked,
“She doesn’t go to strangers.”
I held her anyway and gave her all the love I could in those few seconds before they took her back like the possession she was to them. My six year nephew, a boy I’d once been so close to, barely interacted with me. I missed him so much but he did not know me any more. My sister was partly correct. In many ways I was a stranger to them. However, I never asked for that role. All I wanted was to be in their lives but just like my father, my sister used the things I loved to control and own power. It was easier to allow this than fight it; I’d never been a fighter. She knew this and exploited it.
It was massively uncomfortable being there again with her. I could barely be myself in front of my father, let alone my estranged sister too.
My father decided this was the time to raise the awkward subject of money. I thought I had already dealt with this subject during the last phone call however my father was refusing to let it lie. He had a point to make and he was willing to push me to breaking point.
It was though he was using his upcoming death as another source of control. I did not want to talk about the topic of inheritance under the watchful eyes of my sister. I had always been accused of being materialistic and greedy by her, something he knew and revelled in. I attempted to change the subject but that failed miserably. I looked at him knowingly but he avoided my glance. Instead, he proceeded to instruct me on how my inheritance was to be spent.
I wanted to leave immediately.
I stared at the state of my father. He had lost a dramatic amount of weight. I knew very little of his condition and he avoided my questions. My sister however knew everything. She was his confidante, a position she had a long time ago with my mother. She berated her for this. She punished Ma for putting her in that position. So why did she so happily take on this role with my father? Perhaps, it made her feel special and wanted. I know how much she has always enjoyed her influence on my parents. Each of them at some point in their lives have relied on her, confided in her and portrayed her as the perfect daughter. She had a reputation to uphold. I was happy for her to have that part, I never wanted it. When I had it; I hated it.
I felt incredibly emotional. Most of the emotions were anger and hurt. My sister was watching me as my father continued to dictate his inheritance conditions. There were no conditions written into the will so I knew that either his idea had been refuted to put it in there by his solicitor or that he didn’t have the courage to put it there in the first place. That or he just wanted to say it. He got tremendous satisfaction from saying it, imposing it and ordering me around.
I sat there silently for what seemed like an eternity. David said nothing. He never knew how to deal with my father. I understood that. It was a difficult situation and he often felt it was not his place. But, secretly, I wanted him to shout, to tell my Dad to ‘back off’ and frankly, just to STOP. It was even more upsetting that clearly I was still on my own.
After several minutes I think my father recognised my apparent discomfort. I wouldn’t look him in the eye and looked very uncomfortable. He tried to move the topic onto something else but by that time I was far too upset to stay. My cousin from America had called and it all felt a little too weird. My sister used to call her all sorts of derogatory names. She hated her but all of a sudden she was acting like her best friend as though they told each other everything. I was confused and horrified by her behaviour. If my sister was such a forgiving person then why is she still punishing my mother? Our mother who never abused us, who made mistakes but recognises them, who just wants to be there for us? She welcomed my abusive, dangerous father back into her life, to be a granddad to her children, forgetting how he treated her as a child herself. How he called her names and accused her of creating the depression she had suffered with for years. She has forgotten that. She has forgiven that.
Yet she still punishes my mum. I cannot even tell you what for. I do not truly know if there is a reason. It just seems that she always needs to punish someone. That is how she copes.
I left my father’s bedside and although the two of them attempted to convince me to stay, I knew I needed to get out of there. I needed fresh air, I needed to breathe and be free. I couldn’t look at him any more. He had taken it too far.
He messaged me that night.
“Babitago, I am so sorry to see you go through the very stressful situation yesterday. I love you darling. Can you give me a call”.
I didn’t call him.
His message was just words.
His actions were the things I read now and they were clear to me. My humiliation was key. It gave him everything he needed. His sickly sweet, patronising words washed over me.
Was it really an apology? He was apologising for the way I felt and NOT for what he did! The man was a total joke – dying or not.