You died on Monday. Thoughts arrive in waves, usually crashing with grief. Not a grief of what I’ve lost but rather of what I never had. I had a dad but never a father. And I needed a father more than anything.
You never once told me you loved me. Not once, not ever. Yet you happily told me a number of times how you wish you’d hit me harder as a child. So I’d learn my lesson which is in fact your speak for you wish you’d beaten me into submission so I’d never challenge you or stand up to you. I remember the first time you told me that you wished you’d hit me harder. I felt sick. So sick I had to stop myself from throwing up while on the phone to you.
You’d fail to see the irony of the fact you hated that as a six year old I fought you not to get beaten as you’re telling me to take it like a man, yet you praised me for being gutsy on a sports field. I guess guts only matter as long as it suits you.
I have no idea who I’ve lost here with you dying. Certainly not a friend or a father. A dad I guess.
I hated your racism, sexism, misogyny. It’s what I was brought up with. You passed it onto me and I’ve done so much to try and heal this. And I’ve had to learn to apologise and accept I’m wrong because you certainly never showed me how to. You never said I’m sorry. Not once. Or admitted a mistake. I thought this was how to be, how a ‘man’ was. But you’re wrong. An apology is something beautiful. Yes, to apologise we choose to make ourselves vulnerable, yes this can be hard but it shows the other that we truly value them.
How I’d have embraced an apology or admitting you’re wrong. Even once.
You know, it wasn’t ok you owned a brothel. No! Whatever you say it’s not ok. Nor was taking me there as a child.
It wasn’t ok to ask me to give an affidavit against my mum when you wanted to get custody of my brother. You had no right to ask but at 17 and a clueless dutiful son I said yes. And broke mum’s heart. A heart that was already breaking enough. You don’t ask a child to betray their mother like that. But you didn’t care as long as you got what you wanted. I think of this often and how much I hurt mum and I know she never forgave me. I’ve done some shitty things in my life but that’s the worst. And you asked me to, forced me to.
I tried hard to love you. Tried even harder to be loved by you. I wanted that so much. To feel like you actually cared about me. But I never felt that once I started to grow up and mature. Once I realised the only thing you ever talked about was sport or gambling and that there was never a chance of intimacy, of adult conversation. I tried. Oh I tried, and each attempt brought an attack whatever the subject. Shaming me for being sensitive, for having claptrap philosophies. Anything you didn’t understand you attacked mercilessly.
So who the fuck have I lost? I really don’t know. I lost you years ago once I started being myself, not who you wanted me to be. It would have been amazing to sit down over dinner and be allowed to tell you who I am, for you to be interested. To tell you of mistakes I’ve made, fears I have and have you, my father, support me, love me. For you to have taught me it’s ok to be vulnerable. But dinner would be an endless procession of stories with you front and centre until you decided going out wasn’t an option and dinner would be watching something for you to gamble on so loud talk wasn’t possible or you’d sssh me like a little child. So I’m lost. Totally lost. Someone who was never there can’t be gone.
Yes we’d laugh. A lot, deeply knowing our sense of humour. But that’s not enough when it’s always the same and all there is. If only there’d been more. Intimacy, honesty, a father. I’m angry, really fucking angry and so confused because I lost you years ago. Lost unless I was exactly who and how you wanted me to be. Like when you offered me a great 21st birthday present…on the condition I split up with my girlfriend you didn’t approve of.
My head says I should be in bits crying but I’ve done that for years. I’ve missed you for years. I reached out to you for years and would be smacked back.
What do I do with the man who admits he used my uncle’s funeral to punish me? Refused to allow me to read yet my brother and sister read when my uncle was also my godfather? You told me not to come to the funeral, which I did, so you could tell everyone how bad I was for not coming. The man who destroyed my relationship with my sister so you weren’t challenged by her about hitting our mums and in the process crushed her as well? Who the fuck wants to destroy their daughter? Their son?
I don’t know what to do or how to feel except angry. And I know there’s deep sadness, I’ve felt it, carried it for years.
Dad, maybe you can be a father and come to me in a dream and help me find a way to you.
Two sets of lyrics come to me and trigger the sadness…
Oh dear dad…
I’ll ride the wave
Where it takes me
I’ll hold the pain
Tidal waves don’t beg forgiveness
Crashed and on their way
Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away
A snowflake falls in may.
And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out
Cause the man of the hour is taking his final bow
Goodbye for now.
Boy did you like a fight. Wow. And didn’t much care who you hurt. Just so long as you won. Christ, you’d even tell stories proudly of who you’d crushed. Makes me feel a little ill.
So, you tried to destroy me, crush me to your will. It didn’t work.
I’ll see you at the funeral.