More Dad stuff

This will probably be a recurring theme over the next few months as I come to terms with the death of my dad and my feelings about his passing. Sorry ’bout that. I doubt it will be a morbid postmortem of his life, or a raft of “I’m so sad” posts because, all things considered, his passing does not effect me very much. So if you are a reader, please bare with me as I get over this and get back to being the little shit you know and love so well.

Today I have ignored two calls and one text message from Dad’s third wife. I don’t want to talk to her because it reminds me what’s happened and reminds me that I should, if generic-society-behaviour is to be considered, in mourning. I’m not. In fact, when my step-dad said to me today, “must have been quite a strange week, then, eh?” today, I had to stop and think a while on what he was talking about. “Oh yes, my dad died… that’s right”. When he was alive I thought of him very little. Now that he has passed I don’t see that changing. I think I came to terms with the lack of relationship I have with my father some years ago and I didn’t even realise. Maybe it was when I became a dad myself. Generations move on. Eventually I will die and Tom will have his family, and them their family and so on. People die, get over it. Are we to focus on the generation before, or on the generation to come? Where does our focus need to be?

Part of me doesn’t want to speak to her because she feels something like which I should be feeling. Great loss, a void, mourning. I don’t and in part I don’t want her to know that. How do you explain to the wife of your father that you’re not actually all that bothered that he’s dead? Well, you don’t without being a callous insensitive prick. I can be a callous, insensitive prick, but I have my boundaries. Something’s are just too close to the bone.

She said, in her message, that she “just rang 2 c how things where”. Things are very well, thank you very much. Joe comes to visit on Tuesday. I’ve just been paid. My belly is full and I have the next two weeks off work. That isn’t what she will want to hear and I’m not in the mood to lie. Don’t get me wrong. I lie easily, and I lie very well. But that doesn’t mean I always want to do it. Especially when there is little to be gained from lying.

When talking to J about this earlier I said that after the funeral the likelihood is that I will have nothing more to do with Dad’s new family. Wifey wants to keep in touch. She wants to meet Tom, meet J, spend time with me. Perhaps it is her way of dealing with the loss of her husband to cling onto the living remnants of his life. I don’t want to be reminded day in, day out, of my dad; Living or dead. I want to move on with my life. I’m 32 and I have so much to live for. I don’t want to be reminded of a dark chapter in my life. As I said in the previous post, I’m not sad he died, I’m sad we never had a relationship. But I made a conscious, adult decision on that front. Sure, he helped things by being just as stubborn as I am, but it was ultimately my decision to stop contact. He tried to rekindle something and I rejected it. I can’t say it’s not fair that the situation is how it is, because I chose the situation. I had no choice in losing him last week, but I made my choice seven years ago. I accept it. I live with it.

I’ve dealt with it.

Eventually I’ll have to call her back. I suppose even just to find out when the funeral will be. I will attend. I want to be with my brothers. My dad always said that he dreamt his sons would be together again at his grave. We will be.

‘See you later, mate’

When I was stood on the train platform, at twenty to two on a Wednesday morning all I could think to myself was, “I don’t want to be here”. Fourteen hours previously my mother called me to tell me that my Dad had suffered a heart attack and was bleeding from his brain. At least, I think that is what she said. I hadn’t seen my Dad in seven years and my mother never talked of him. She thought that I might want to know.

“Okay, thanks for telling me”. I hung up. Sat at my desk at work. I had not seen him in a long time and didn’t have any relationship with him. We parted company back in 2003 or 2004 after an exchange of letters. I wrote, he wrote back, I said “fxxk you” and threw the letter away. He then tried to call me a couple of times but I ignored the call. Then his fiancé called me and I told her not to ever call again please and thank you very much. That was seven years ago and my life has moved on. I’m a Dad myself now to a (nearly) three year old. I’ve moved on. My Dad no longer is part of my life.

So why then did I feel compelled to leave work, get in the car and drive the 140 miles from Darlington to Nottingham? I’m still trying to come out with a sensible honest answer for that. But as I hit the motorway I thought to myself that I didn’t want him to die, that I wanted to see him again, and I resolved to get to Nottingham. I’m uncertain what I thought I would find when I got there. It was a shock. I didn’t have time to think things through. Someone tells you your Dad is ill (dying) and your instinct is to go. We often do things on instinct which we later wonder about.

A little under three hours later I was sat in the relatives room in the intensive care unit wondering what I was doing there.

It’s only now three days or so later that I have managed to get a handle on the situation and more my feelings. It is through my brothers who we share a Dad with, that I understood how I was feeling and where I was coming from regarding this whole thing. Mike was stuck off shore and he said he could get back if I wanted him to. I told him he needed to do this for himself and not for me. He said that he was worried that he would regret not coming over later in life. Mike hadn’t seen Dad in 20 years. I told Mike that same thing that I later told Joe. That even if Dad was dead, it did not effect the relationship either of us had with him. Dead or alive we never saw him. He had his life, we had ours. That is all there is to it.

I think back now and I was upset, but my sadness was not because my Dad was dead/dying, but because I missed out on having a Dad. Having a son of my own really hit that home and I realised the absolute importance of the father-son relationship. I was robbed of that. Of the silly little things like discussing your first girlfriend, or being taught how to shave properly. Stupid things mostly. I was sad because I wasn’t sad about losing my Dad, if that makes sense. I almost wanted to feel the pain, however masochistic that might be. I wanted to feel the rawness of loss. Most of us will only go through that twice. Losing a parent should be a life experience. Something that effects you.

This never did. That is my loss. Talk about a paradox, eh?

…and I think it was when Joe arrived in the early hours of the morning of Tuesday 21st July, the day he was pronounced dead, that I was hit by the realisation that I actually didn’t care about the dead dad thing, and that I was hurting because I wasn’t hurting. To mourn death is one thing, to mourn life is quite another.
I saw him on Tuesday and I said ‘see you later, mate’. But I wasn’t saying goodbye to the man in the bed before me, I was saying goodbye to the Dad I wish I had. To the relationship I wish I had experienced. To that chance to love someone who should have been everything to me but was nothing.

To say I’ll miss him is wrong. I missed him every damn day since I was 13. I missed him for 20 years, even for those brief two years we spent together when I lived in Nottingham. Even then he wasn’t the Dad that I wanted or needed. We were close, like I am close to other friends. But it was not what it should have been.

The Doctor said he died from an aneurysm which caused a heart attack. He said that he was dead by the time he got to the hospital on Tuesday morning and that it was only his age which meant they operated to relieve the pressure on the brain and hooked him up to life support.

I take a huge amount of comfort from the fact that he died happy. He was remarried and his new wife had children who loved my Dad. One of them was expecting a baby on the very same day he died. Bittersweet that life and death can coincide like that, huh? He was taken quickly, without pain, suffering or illness. Planning a future and not lamenting the past. I think that’s a good way to go. If only we were all as lucky.

I’m going to sign off with a song that was significant to my dad. It was the song that defined large parts of his life. He used to say to me about this song, “You can keeping trying to knock me down, but I’m still fxxking standing!”

Elton John – I’m Still Standing.

Goodbye Dad.

.

Righto, let’s have some good news.

Okay. Beyond the internet frustrations, things are actually pretty good. Some of you will know that I applied to join the Police a loooong time ago. Two years now since I applied and since then I’ve been beset by delay upon delay. The upshot of that is I’m stuck doing a job which, although I’m good at it, offers almost zero satisfaction.

In April I had a final interview with the Police. They introduced this step because it had been 18 months since the assessment and, naturally, things may have changed. I’m pleased to say that I got through the interview. They took the assessment centre score, added the interview score and put us in a ‘pecking order’ from highest to lowest. Out of 80 candidates I came out as one of 24 who made it through to the next round. That is something to be happy with. The other 56 people will have been told thank you very much for your interest, but no thanks this time. I’m through. Yipee!!

But, it’s not time yet to go dancing around in a celebratory fashion. Rather than try to explain, I’ll just publish the letter for you to read:

Dear Alan,

Application for Police Constable

May I first take this opportunity to thank you for the interest you have taken in pursuit of your desire to become a Police Constable with Cleveland Police. Following your recent interview, I can advise you are one of a pool of 24 people who are now on a select list for possible recruitment into the Force.

The economic situation affecting the entire public sector, including Cleveland Police, means that I cannot provide an assurance that we will be able to recruit you into the organisation over the remaining months of the financial year. Indeed, whilst we have been subject of significant in year budget cuts this financial year, we are yet to learn the outcome of the Government’s spending review, due to take place in October 2010. I can confirm that the outlook for recruitment into the Force in the short term is likely to be bleak.

I realise that your receipt of this letter with on the one hand be considered good news, but on the other not so good and I share in your frustration. I am able to confirm however, that should Cleveland be in a position over the forthcoming 10 months (up until April 2011), to recruit police officers into the organisation, you will be included for consideration of appointment, subject of course to relevant security checks, fitness and health requirements.

Again, I am sorry to bring such mixed news to you at this time, but I do wish you well for the future and provide the following personal commitment; that I will write to you again in October 2010, advising you of developments affecting your future with Cleveland Police.

Yours sincerely,

Chief Superintendent

Good news? Goddamn right it is. I’m through as far as I can go. The only thing in my way is not of my devising.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I got it. 24 is an ideal class size. The first 30 weeks of a Police career is a foundation degree in Policing. I’m part of the 24 who will be recruited if the circumstances allow it.

You have to consider also, that regardless of budget cuts etc, there will be a need to new officers. Through natural attrition and retirement, there must be spaces below any imposed threshold. As my friend said to me yesterday, if they had the chance they would have taken all 80 applicants who reached the interview stage. Therefore, they must be being realistic about the chances of recruitment. They must have some idea of what they’re going to be allowed to recruit. Otherwise, why come to a figure such as 24, and not just take all 80?

I think I could probably drive myself mad thinking of the different connotations. But, one fact stands out. I made it. I’m through.

You can do whatever you want to do

I’m currently reading (amongst others) a book called Masters of Doom by David Kushner. Subtitled, “How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture”. It tells the story of John Carmack and John Romero. Of Doom, Quake, and id Software. I’m about half way through. In book terms, Doom had just been released, and I’m eager to find out what happens next.

But reading it has given me pause for thought. When I was younger, when I was in my first couple of years at secondary school, I was a huge fan of arcade games. These aren’t the same arcades as you would expect to see in America, but I used to go to the local arcade after school and battle my way through Golden Axe and other total classics such as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. I’d take trips to the seaside and pump pounds worth of 10p pieces into the machines. Always action, side scrolling ‘beat ’em ups’ or shooters. I was hooked.

This all came to a stop when I was seen by my mother and forbidden from using the arcade machines. Then I was forbidden from even entering the arcade. We never had much money. She saw me putting money into an arcade machine as throwing it away, but I loved the escapism from my life. I loved to venture into fantasy to escape reality. The reality of not fitting in, or being apart from my family, from being the black sheep. I never felt wanted when I was in my early teens. Games gaves me a method of denying the destructive feelings of isolation. Things finally came to a head when I was attacked from behind by my mother when I was playing the aforementioned Golden Axe. I remember it so well, even though it was so many years ago. The year would have been 1991 or 1992. Eighteen years have passed but I still remember the humiliation I felt being dragged out of there by my mother in front of the kids from school. I still remember the hot tears and the stinging shock of that slap. I wasn’t allowed to do what I wanted to do.

I think back to that and I wonder what damage it did to my aspirations. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not going to sit here and proclaim to have missed my calling, or to be the next Sid Meier yet discovered and undeveloped. But games is something I wanted to do. I have always loved games. Who knows what I could have done had I been encouraged and not slapped down all those year ago. Who fucking knows….?

He may not yet be three. But I told Thomas today, I promised him, that he can do anything he wants to do. I promised him that if he wants to be a sportsman, or a writer, artist, musician, dancer, game designer (!) then I would support and encourage him in his dream. I promised him that I would never hold him back from pursuing his path or try and coerce him down a route that I want for him. It’s his life, and I will be there to help him in any way that I am physically, mentally, emotionally or financially able. Of course, he had no idea what I was talking about, but the words were for my benefit not just for his. I want him to have the life I never had. Christ that sounds fucking shit, doesn’t it? I haven’t had a bad life. Far from it. But with Tom I want only the best. That was my promise today. Tom can make his own choices, and I’ll be right behind him, supporting him on his way.