In 2008, after a routine smear test, I was informed that my test showed abnormal cells in my cervix. I had been having smear tests for a couple of years before and the results were always good so I was surprised to see this change.
My initial reaction was “keep it a secret”. I couldn’t tell my mother in fear of her reaction. Her fear of anything related to my health frightened me into not immediately speaking of it. I couldn’t bear her gasps of worry from what was an easily dealt with complaint. The doctors had made it clear that I would have to go through a procedure called a Colposcopy. Here the surface of the cervix is closely examined with an instrument called a colposcope. This device carefully looks to see if their are any abnormalities or cancerous cells. I was warned that a biopsy of the cervix may also be undertaken to determine whether the cells were indeed cancerous. The doctors reassured me that it would not be painful, just uncomfortable but it felt pretty uncomfortable – borderline painful to me.
It didn’t even cross my mind to tell my father. It was plain to me that this would be another thing he would use against me. The myth that cervical cancer developed after being promiscuous was something my father believed. That the HPV virus (linked to Herpes and cold sores) must mean that I was a slut. He had implied how “promiscuous” I was before after a doctor friend (albeit drunken doctor friend who hated my mother and often flirted outrageously with my father) stumbled into my bedroom one day at a party at my father’s house. When I caught her in there, she muttered something in Bengali and left. I went over to my desk where she had been standing and noticed how things were slightly out of place. She had been spying on me and had clearly noticed my carefully placed medicine at the back of my desk. Behind a couple of asthma inhalers lay an open packet of contraceptive pills. I was twenty one years old. Surely, other than proving that I was sexually active, it also clarified that I was being safe.
My father didn’t see it like that and berated me for ruining his reputation. I was not to have any indiscretions or appear reckless with life. Sex was sure fire reckless and crude behaviour to him. Though he happily flirted and flaunted affection at his married, drunkard doctor friend.
Cervical abnormalities can affect most women in their lives but it doesn’t mean that they will certainly develop cancer.
My father did eventually find out whilst partaking in his usual habit of delving through my post. Medical letters were a thrill for him to find as it gave him tremendous power over my basic human right – my health. Of course, after discovering my ongoing problem, my father was quick to verbally scold me, humiliate me and lash out at me. An argument ensued and I was left defending a cause that my father should have been supporting me through.
Once he knew the truth, what was essentially manageable to me became a nightmare for the following three examinations over the next two years.
My father now had control over my mind and my body.
From what I hear, this was a decent time for the rest of my family. Although my parents did not have the best relationship, their hatred was not as magnified as it later became. My sister has fond memories of this time; the eight years before I was born.
The family took holidays together and spent time socialising, it seemed happier. That’s not to say there were not problems. My father was incredibly abusive to my mother behind closed doors and bang in front of open ones too. My sister was definitely a witness to the fights and abuse. Overall however, it was nothing like it would become.
My mother’s desperation for a second child was the catalyst in ripping the family apart. My father did not want me, he made that very clear to her but she longed for another baby. This obvious desperation only exaggerated his despise for her, he hated weakness in people. What’s a natural feeling for a woman was a weakness to him. He would never understand that feeling, a want to love, a longing to pour love into someone.
To give love, you need to feel love.
Eight years is a big gap between siblings. My mother was pregnant before having me but sadly lost her previous babies. He wasn’t there to support her through that. Instead he berated her and used it as another way to criticise her. He was moody and implied to her that he was not responsible for the loss of her child. He was that much of a narcissist that it had to be all about him! His love for her had faded and there was no respect. Within days of returning from the hospital my father was giving my mother demands. The want for a second child only amplified.
As my mother edged towards her 40th birthday her second daughter was born three weeks early.
He seemed happy – at least for a while.
Between the day after he died to the day of the actual funeral, was a very long two weeks; almost endless. I was on my school holidays still and aching to get back to work (that’s pretty unheard of!) but staying at home and dealing with the aftermath of his death was getting too much.
My sister, as executor, was in charge of organizing the funeral. She rarely spoke to me in this process often using her husband to deal with me via text message. It was completely inappropriate and inconsiderate. She was well aware that my relationship with my brother in-law was non-existent yet she could not face me. She had no reason to be so distant instead it would’ve made more sense for me to want to keep away from her. However, I wasn’t in need of attention or a spotlight. I didn’t get a kick out of making things difficult.
The only contact we had was one phone call. This was where she talked in detail about the lead up to the funeral. She was very well spoken almost putting on a fancy accent. It was another way of raising herself above me and appearing to be ‘together’. Clearly, the pressures that had been put on her were getting too much. As much as she held the pretense of being cool it was backfiring. I could hear the tension in her voice.
She talked about the funeral programme, the order of service and the people invited. She asked me if I wanted to say a few words about him at the funeral.
I paused. For a split second it occurred to me that this was my chance to reveal it to all of them, all of his worshipers, that he was an abuser, a tormentor and the man who ruined my life. It would be sweet revenge and satisfaction and my sister would never see it coming. She genuinely and naively believed that I wanted to praise my deceased father.
I refused her offer.
It wasn’t the right way to do it and I could not risk letting emotion get the better of me. When I eventually told my story and the truth about this horrible man, it would be on my terms and to the whole world not just the confines of his church.
My sister also had the audacity to ask me to contribute to the payment of the flowers for the funeral. I was shocked that she was able to justify spending one hundred pounds on the fact that simply, he was our father. I did not want to spend money on a man who monitored the flow of mine for years. I would’ve happily scattered some dead wood and rotting flowers around him if I could. She knew about the abuse and how he tortured me mentally but last summer she chose to forget it all. He had become a martyr, an idol and in her eyes he ‘saved’ her.
He never saved me.
I saved me.
Today is 27 degrees Celsius in London.
I am staying at my mother’s house today having just been at my school fete this afternoon. An ice cream van was parked up and David and I contemplated facing the large queue to enjoy some ice cold deliciousness but the heat became unbearable and as the later part of the afternoon consisted of doing some food shopping for dinner, we needed to leave sharpish.
Instead, I picked up two Twisters (an English ice lolly) for my mum and I to enjoy as David finished shopping. Once home, we both devoured the melting lolly and joked to each other about our memories of eating ice creams when we were children. My main memory of this was on my way home from school with my mother. Occasionally my sister would join us and on very hot days we would always buy an ice cream. My mother and sister always picked the same one: A mint crisp. I remarked to her that she used to tell me,
“You aren’t allowed these. They are only for grown ups”.
She laughed and found this hilarious. I suppose it was quite funny but the memory stands out. To me, it was just another example of how my mother and sister were in unison and cohesion with each other and that I was not a part of that.
My mum went on to reminisce herself. One summers day in my childhood, my mother remembers how the whole family were out and my father went to get ice cream for everyone. However, when he returned, he only came back with three lollies. One for me, him and one for my sister. There was nothing for my mother. She did not deserve one.
He always called himself generous however he did not have a decent bone in his body.
Enjoy the sunshine guys.