Dear Dad.

Dear Dad,

you are lucky I’m even using a name as you certainly don’t deserve one. The only form of letters I ever wrote to you were to apologize profusely for upsetting you. Letters that I was forced to write. This letter will be different. There will be no apologies.

I have almost said everything I could ever want to say to you. The longer your presence remains gone, the easier it’s becoming to forget you. Your spirit is not kept burning by me. I want to forget you and all the things that you did. I want to obliterate any memory I have of the pain you caused. But I can’t. You have done too much damage.

Most recently and tragically before you died.

Why did you gain so much enjoyment from secrets? I suppose they gave you power, something that you needed to survive. You liked to know secrets, share them, hide them and keep them. You used them to your advantage. Your biggest secret to date has to be your rediscovered relationship with my sister. Your staggering, cocksure attitude led you into this deceptive journey. You reveled in it. It benefited you to be seen as the perfect father. My sister would eventually make you feel like that. I never made you feel like that and had no intention of doing so.

Both of you say the other got in touch first. Who knows who was telling the truth. Either way it doesn’t matter. You both got what you wanted.

You always talked about her when I lived at home. You regularly compared me to her. I know I rarely met your expectations but they were impossible to meet. If you knew the real person my sister was then you would see for yourself she would never have met them either. However, she like you, is very good at tricking others to believe what she wants them to. Perhaps that’s a skill she inherited from her father.

I wonder what you did to convince her you’d changed. She was wary at first after all. You must have been very cunning to change her perception of you so swiftly. You clearly did a grand job and were a great actor. I applaud your performance.

I especially congratulate you on your ability to continue to burn bridges within this family. You were certain and adamant that no course would be taken on your part to help to reconcile the gap between your two daughters. You reiterated this on your death bed to me as you lay in the hospital. It was my duty as the younger sister to reach out the olive branch and build our broken relationship. You defended your other daughter and her childish actions until the end. Your pathetic need for her adoration amounted to destroying any last shred of kindness I had for you. Love had disappeared a long time ago.

I guess it was your way of sticking your middle finger up at me. A nice little reminder that you were in charge eh? You were the puppet master, holding up and strings as we danced around you, bending to your every need. Yet, the day I found out about your terminal illness, I immediately cut those strings you controlled me with for so long. I deliberately only visited you three times that month. I even wish it was less than that. Each time was dreadful. Not seeing you like that – deteriorating away but just being there, watching you, hearing you moan and complain that I wasn’t visiting enough when my sister and her family were going out of their way to care for you and make you feel better. I did not want you to feel better. I wanted it to be over. Hell, they even left their holiday early to be by your bedside, grapes and newspaper too! You were a very lucky man.

David mentioned something the other day.

Thinking back, he was the last person to speak to you before you slipped out of consciousness. He remembered what you said,

“I’d rather have had my brains blown out by a burglar than be dying slowly of Cancer!”

“Well I’m sure that would have been much nicer for your daughters (!)” David replied.

You really were a selfish, insensitive man. There are many people who suffer for years with Cancer. You were sick for less than a month! You drifted out of consciousness and slowly slipped away. There was no pain. Do you know how lucky you were?! We all hope for a painless death as we leave this world and there you were making a mockery of the thousands of people who suffer horrific deaths beyond their control.

There never was any good in you was there?

Some people are born bad.

You were one of them.

21st August 2012 – Freedom. At last.

21st August 2012:

  • Seven people are feared dead after a bomb blast by Syria border
  • Comedian Phyllis Diller dies, aged 95 in her home in Los Angeles
  • Witchcraft related products are to be banned on eBay

And my father, aged 75, takes his last breath and dies.

The following is a short extract from the penultimate chapter of my autobiography – “The release” describing the events that took place one year ago today.

Tuesday 21st August 2012.

I awoke at 7.am  to my sister ringing me. She said our father had slipped out of consciousness that night and although he was still breathing, there would not be much time. She insisted that I left home at that point in order to reach him in time and meet her there. I told her it would take me over two hours when she would be there in thirty minutes. I was making excuses; I did not want to go. I just couldn’t do it again, feel suffocated and trapped, staring at his lifeless body, but more than that –  be alone, watching her fawn and weep over my abuser.

After a stressful morning and what seemed like an eternity of waiting, I checked my phone. I had received several calls from my brother-in law but had not heard him ringing. I phoned back only for it go straight to his voice-mail.

  Suddenly, my phone buzzed; it was David.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Ros….honey….”

It didn’t take many words.

I knew.

My husband told me he was on his way home to me as I put down the phone.

Emotion encompassed me as I stepped into the kitchen and I finally broke down. But the words that left my mouth are the words that I truly felt at that moment.

“I’m free, I’m free!”

I wept and cried loudly, shouting these words repeatedly.

I was finally free from him.

Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything. It’s the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.
Trey Parker

I absolutely agree with this quote. I could not say ‘goodbye’ to him. It is only a word, it has no meaning. This is very poignant and I’m assuming that “Trey Parker” is referring to a positive memory about someone he loved. I’m not. In the years my father and I spent together, he mentally tortured, insulted, hated me and that will always be how I look back on our relationship.

The memories are tainted and no longer innocent. The love I had for him as a young child has disappeared and only a sea of disappointment spreads across a land of sadness.

Today is one year since my father died and although he left a mound of issues behind him for us to deal with (well, he was never going to make my life easy alive or dead), I can finally begin to move on.

I am free. I am free.

I am finally free from that monster.

19th August 2012 – My stony heart.

It must’ve been the hottest day of the year.

It had been eleven days since our last encounter. I had drawn it out as long as I could. He had tried to convince me to visit sooner but after the previous visit, I had no intention of falling into his emotional snares again. It was too much of a risk and I was barely keeping my head above the water as it was. Perhaps it was too long a break and I should have been there for him. But for those eleven days I had a small sense of normality again, I felt safe without him there and as wrong as it may sound, I felt free.

We left early on the Sunday on purpose. We wanted to avoid the heat of the tube and the crowds of people. The journey to the nursing home took over two hours door to door even though we were still in London; the hassles of not being able to drive. By the time we reached it, the temperature had picked up and I was already fanning myself with my hand.

It looked pretty from the outside, a tall white building decorated with pink flowers. Yet as we entered and followed the directions to his room, I was startled to how different a place could look inside compared to the outside. However, the biggest shock was to come.

My father was sat upright in a chair beside his bed.

I sat opposite and watched in horror as he drifted in and out of sleep and consciousness. He was sat in a t-shirt David had brought him from home the previous week. He had a towel covering his lower body. I looked away, feeling repulsed. How insensitive of me; I berated myself but my father had always made me feel uncomfortable. Even in his suffering I could not forget the painful memories that reflected in everything he did.

Babitago……I need you to go to the house tomorrow and find me some more t-shirts to wear,”

he said quietly, still managing to give me orders.

“Did you hear me?” he questioned, I nodded with no intention of stepping into his house.

“Your sister would do it for me; she has done so much for me but she has a family.”

He was still capable, even at his lowest point, to take a dig at me. I was trying so hard to feel something – sympathy, pain, sadness. I was willing these emotions out. All I could do was look at him.

His body was almost shrivelled. He hadn’t shaved for months and unable to grow a beard, his silver facial hair was dusted like sleet over his chin. His heavy eyes remained closed as I stared straight through him. His fragile arms gripped the chair and the only sound that could be heard was his shallow, stilted breathing.

I was waiting to feel something, anything! Love, hurt, fear. I felt none of those things.

I cannot describe what I felt.

8th August 2012 – Breaking point.

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.

Thursday 19th July 2012 – The results.

At six in the evening, my father rang to tell me it was terminal lung cancer.

I cannot even explain the emotions I felt. Anger, fear, sadness were the most obvious.

Shock was probably the clearest feeling. Without any warning I would have to prepare myself for a range of emotions to follow. My life had been turned upside down and everything I had been working towards, the chance to build a relatively normal relationship with him was about to be forgotten. I knew the next few months would be difficult. Not only dealing with that thought of him dying but also the realisation that I may never get the answers or apologies I wanted from him.

I cried when he told me. Who wouldn’t? He was still my father and I just couldn’t fathom his absence from my life. Hope was always there, albeit foolishly.

What are you afraid of?

I fear many things. I wish I was more daring and able to take more risks. I used to be able to especially as a child. Fear was something I lacked. I spoke my mind and challenged bad things, I defended myself and took emotional risks. I let myself fail believing that there was a lesson to learn from it. 

Fear grew quite quickly. By my teenage years I was becoming more afraid. I had been criticized by my mother and sister for being selfish and self-centered as a young child. The world revolved around me apparently. I was a confident child being punished for living life. Soon, the fear came. 

During the divorce and the pressures of choice, I feared everything. Outwardly, my family saw a show. I appeared to be calm and in control but mentally I was failing. I knew I was about to make the wrong decision but in fear of becoming targeted and bullied for even thinking it, I went with my father. It was, in my mind, the easiest thing to do. I had backed myself into a corner that could not be further from my mother and sister; we were practically strangers. I had to go with him and I was scared to do it. I did not know that he would be the man they said he was but I had my doubts. I had the fear. There was the possibility. 

My fears magnified when living with my father. they became embedded in me. Not only was I clearly petrified of him, I became a shadow of the girl I once was. To me, I was no longer myself. I was a nobody. 

Rejection.

I fear this still as an adult. I am married and I don’t feel it with my husband luckily. I do feel it in most walks of life especially with friends. I try to avoid it when I can, rarely asking anything of anyone. I thought I could depend on my father, he always told me I could but each time I confided in him or asked for anything, my request was rejected and berated. I have been rejected recently by some people, people I still see. One in particular I took as being a close friend but she has recently, within the last year, decided I am not worth her time. I do not know what happened as there was no explanation yet she continues to smile and play nice. I allow her to do it. I refuse to “chase” her and mend what was clearly already a broken friendship.

Criticism.

I often wait to be critiqued and devalued by people. I expect criticism. I fear it immensely. It is my biggest insecurity yet something I cannot confront.

Tempers.

I fear fights and aggression, I try to stay out of it but sometimes it cannot be avoided. I cannot stand someone raising their voice at me, it frightens me. I hate it. It only brings back every time my father did it. How he used his volume to belittle and demean me. 

Death.

Unbelievably, not my own. I often think about dying. I don’t think I am going to live very long. David hates it when I talk like that but to me it’s a matter of fact. I fear my mother dying. It is, at the moment, my greatest fear. I think about it a lot. She is 70 now and I have begun predicting how long I will have her for. When I speak to her I worry it’ll be the last time. I cry nearly every time after the phone has been put down. It took us so long to get a normal, loving relationship, I feel as though all those years fighting a pointless battle were wasted. Time has disappeared and I may not have her for long. I am angry at my sister for what she has done to her. My mother is a shell of the woman she once was. I know in many ways she resents her life. I hate that she feels like that. I fear the day when I won’t be able to hug my mother. Her touch immediately soothes me, her voice calms me, her little idiosyncrasies make me laugh. I don’t want them to be memories yet.

Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.
Charles Stanley