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.