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.

2nd August 2012 – The epiphany.

Today would have been my father’s 76th birthday.

A year ago, on his 75th, I was not at the hospital celebrating it with him. I was at home attempting to block out that this was a significant day. To me, it had to remain as ‘normal’ as possible. I did not want to, in the future, associate this day with him.

There was too much pressure and I was really struggling. I needed to keep the boundaries in place, they were keeping me strong. I could not destroy them because my father was dying. I could not ruin all my hard work for emotion.

David, my husband, had visited my father the day before to drop off a birthday card. I wasn’t cold-hearted as he made out. I wanted to give him something. In the card I wrote some special, thoughtful words. I wanted to say something kind to him, I wanted to go against the image he always portrayed me as. I was not a monster, as much as he accused me of being one. I was not heartless, I still remained his daughter. Maybe I was forgiving him in the card. Or perhaps I was forgiving myself. Ultimately, it was the right thing to do.

On the 2nd of August 2012, I received a phone call from my father.

He rang me to say thank you. It would be the first time in over sixteen years that those two words seemed genuine.

Then came the moment in the phone call where I finally thought I would hear what I have always longed for:

An apology

Just one, just one admission for all the abuse, all the terror. He began to cry, he commented on my sweet words and how they have soothed him. I cried too. I was willing the words out of him, just say sorry!

“I often thought, after arguments, Babitago, I regretted shouting at you,”

I was shocked to hear him saying it. It was finally coming, the moment I had waited my life for.

“It was wrong of me, but Babitago; you needed to be corrected.”

However, it was those five words that rang in my ear. I immediately wiped away my tears.

He continued speaking, saying how I would provoke his anger which caused him to react badly towards me and I could not blame him for that. That I was willing him to fight me, attack me and how much I wanted him to berate me. He said I put myself into situations deliberately and taunted him wanting a reaction and needing an argument. After a while into his detailing of me, I had stopped listening. We seemed to be taking a few steps forward for a second but ultimately he was always going to pull me back down.

What did I expect?

I expected that.

Our desires always disappoint us; for though we meet with something that gives us satisfaction, yet it never thoroughly answers our expectation.
Elbert Hubbard

Friday 20th July 2012 – The visit.

My father-in law had kindly offered to drive me, David and my mother down to the hospital to see my Dad. My mother came for several reasons. She predominately came to support me. I was highly emotional and fragile; she knew I needed her. As soon as my Dad told me the severity of his condition, I called my mum. She had to know. Her hate for him ran deeper than any ocean but I knew she would regret it for the rest of her life if she did not go and see him one last time.

Being back in the same hospital that my father was admitted to when he tore the ligament in his thigh, was unbearable. I felt stifled as soon as I entered the doors. I wanted to run back into the blazing sun and let it burn my face. Anything felt better than the way I felt as we walked sombrely to his cubicle. My mother and father-in law waited in a quiet area. My husband held me tightly; he knew my fear. My stomach was in knots as we approached his bed. He was sitting upright; his shallow breathing prompted my own chest to tighten. I knew what I was supposed to do so I did it.

He hugged David too.

It was a shock to see him like that. He was a shadow of the man he was three weeks ago. The powerful, frightening image of him was fading. The sad smell of sickness enveloped me as I sat down in the hospital chair. My father began chatting to us and although I could hear his voice, I was not listening. I looked around at other the other patients The room was bare and lonely, only beds and the odd T.V to keep one company, nurses drifted in and out with medication and comfort for the ill. I knew I could not stay there for very long, I felt suffocated, exposed and vulnerable. The sound of muted coughing and painful wheezing choked me. I wished for the exit and the breeze on my face. I felt hot and nauseous but what could I do, I had to face my fears.

I soon discovered that my sister was on her way. If she arrived before I left, it would be our first meeting in over three years. It only added to my suffocation. I did not want to feel imprisoned.

“Ma’s here,” I whispered.

“Why is she here?” he seemed surprised.

“She wanted to see you, speak to her Daddy”.

“Maybe another time, I’m not ready.”

“There won’t be another time. She won’t shout, she just wants to say goodbye”.

“Fine,”

He agreed.

I thought it would take more convincing.

I left to get her. She too was amazed he allowed it.

They were both mature, incredibly mature. It would be the only time in my whole life that I would see them respect each other. They spoke in English at first and then in their native language Bengali. It was emotional for my mother; I could feel her breaking as I held her close. The conversation was short and as we walked away I could not have been more proud of my parents for that one moment in time.

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.

Wednesday 18th July 2012 – The phone call.

My father called me that afternoon as I made my way to meet a friend for dinner. It was two days since we had last spoken and I was wary when answering the phone. We were not back to having regular contact and I was worried that getting in touch on the 16th was the wrong decision.

As I was on the bus, he told me he had been rushed to hospital the previous night. My heart sank. My memories of him being in hospital had never been good. I began to worry of what he may expect from me.

He said it was serious and again my heart dropped. Now I had to deal with the fact that it wasn’t a prostate problem or a torn ligament, my father may actually be seriously ill. It was a lot to take in so quickly. The doctors at the hospital, after numerous tests, had come to the conclusion that his suffering was either Tuberculosis or Lung Cancer. Both sounded horrific and both petrified me. More tests were needed to determine what it actually was. As I took in the magnitude of the situation, I asked him how he got to the hospital. He explained how he had called an ambulance in the night when realising he could not breathe.

I could not believe it. Three years back when I had my Asthma attack, he refused to call me an ambulance! My life was clearly not as important as his.

He began listing orders:

  • I was to come the next day and bring him a set of clothes including underwear
  • He needed all his bank cards
  • I had to bring his mobile phone
  • David or I needed to check the house to make sure it was okay.

Many other things were said but I had stopped listening. I did not want this role he was forcing on me. I had not talked to him for two weeks because he had told me never to speak to him again. He condemned me as a daughter and now he expected me to take care of him and the house, that it all gets forgotten just because he is ill. Is that selfish? Is that evil? Yes, it probably is but I was working so hard to break free, to cut all the emotional ties and feel secure and strong. This was the worst thing that could’ve happened.

I told him it would be impossible to come the next day. He said he would’ve asked my sister but she wouldn’t return from Norfolk until Friday. I had to do it. Of course, I wasn’t surprised she knew his state before me. I barely knew anything about my father any more. I reminded him that I had a job to do and that it was a very important week at work. He muttered angrily down the phone, scolding me for being so insensitive. I told him I would come on Friday too as I was working a half day. It was just about enough to pacify him.