Dad died a couple of weeks ago and was cremated on Tuesday.
He was my hero until my journey into rehab and therapy opened my eyes. Opened my eyes to seeing that things that I shrugged my shoulders at because they’d simply been part of my life became real. Then therapy asked me to grow up, to mature and I accepted the question and became conscious. Not fully or perfect but awake. And this in turn created a chasm between me and my dad; and my family what little there is.
What I’ve realised this last few days is there is nothing in a relationship if it’s just a script. I loved my dad, I loved how our sense of humours were perfectly in sync. But the conversation never went past him. Never went past sport and gambling, past his stories about him and pretty much everyone had him as amazing.
He did do some truly awful things to me, both as an adult as well as a child. But as this week has passed and I’ve wondered, felt, mused upon things I realise the biggest heartbreak is I never knew him. I knew Tom Pugh (both Toms but not named after him) but not Tom. I knew dad but not a father. His masks were so fierce no one got in. Sure, some sentimental tears about my mum and grandfather but that was it.
Tom Pugh died the day he fell, drunk, and broke bones in his back in the summer of ’14. He was no longer able to play tennis, no longer able to be the sports star with his stories (he played cricket for Gloucestershire, won God knows how many racquets tournaments), no longer able to be the mask he’d worn for so long. And he had no idea how to be Tom, to be human.
I went to see him a lot early last year. In the end come May I didn’t bother and never spoke to him again. I knew he was going to die, knew I wanted him to. For me and for him. All last month I kept wanting to call but I couldn’t, I didn’t because I knew it would be just the same and my heart would break a little more. Although it’s only now I realised my heart was breaking each time we spoke. I’d get angry, frustrated, sometimes I’d hurt. But it was so usual my reaction was the same pretty much every time.
I wondered why did I go and see dad so often last year? The answer is I wanted to be able to love him and him love me. And he couldn’t allow either though in his own way he tried by leaving a note a couple of times. In the end we had one fight too many and I gave up. Maybe I shouldn’t have, maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I hadn’t he’d have written a note that said I love, the actual words. He never said that.
I wish I knew then that was what I was doing. I’d have simply told him I’m there because I want to love him before he dies. But I didn’t know consciously. And I’d walk in alone. No support or understanding from my very estranged brother and sister, no wife or partner to say take a breath or coax the tears at the end of the day. I didn’t really do very well but I tried. I’ve a long way to go.
I went to see him on Monday in the funeral home or whatever it was. I’m glad. I could be honest and vulnerable without him answering back and, to use one of his expressions, smashing me to smithereens which is what he did. I told him I loved him, which I’d forgotten in all the hurt, and I wished he’d once said he loved me or he’s proud of me. And he should have been proud. Yes, I did some really shitty stuff in my life when I was using and drinking. But without any help from my family I got myself back. Back after being homeless, many overdoses, suicidal, depression, back to living. But he never wanted to know, always changed the subject if I tried to bring it up.
And it’s so confusing because I only have his script, his masks to miss and I got so tired of those so long ago. Then I miss what could have been, what should have been and it’s hurts so much, so very much.
I loved him, I just wish I could’ve found him. Even once.