I stare at this wall with crumbling stone the hard texture stares back at me I can not see a way through it seems impossible A crack appears a tiny space of light and if I pull each side the stone may fall or at least loosen It seems a mammoth task albeit the strength I think I have my arms are weak my body is tired my mind consumed I close my eyes and imagine a mighty gust a powerful force rising up from the earth and with one fair bash the wall is loosened if I dare to dream the wall may fall
“The prisoner, having reached the depth of his depression, gradually reawakens to the life around him. He licks himself and his wounded pride, opens his eyes, and finds that far away on the horizon there is still a ray of sunlight left.” – P. H. Newman
There was no ray of sunshine left for my father, in-fact his mind was far, far away and damaged beyond all comprehensibility.
I stood staring at the door.
Fight or flight at its finest…
I looked towards my Mother for some sort of reassurance, but she had none to give. How could she? She was going out of her mind with fear. Those few seconds felt like pandemonium in my frightened little mind, not knowing what to do next. It was the ultimate of dilemas;
Open the door and she might die?
Stay where I was, relatively safe and he might die!
There was still no sound at all from the outside of our room and it was eerily quiet. With every ounce of courage I could muster up, I pulled the door open.
My father was lying naked and completely out of it, having collapsed on the bathroom floor.
I don’t know why he was naked!
I thought he was dead and my mother’s natural nursing instincts kicked in ready to save his life and she checked for his breathing.
Not this time.
He was still breathing.
It was my first experience of seeing the male anatomy and I had no time to feel shock or embarrassment.
It seemed insignificant.
And yet it was significant for the 13 year old, who was too young to witness that.
The drugs were taking there toll on my fathers body and he was an absolute mess. His head was floppy and rolling from one side to the other and his face looked blown up with being so swollen. His hair was grey and looked frantic and his belly was solid with bloated-ness.
This was my Dad.
This was the poor, fractured little boy with his ravaged mind living in the sick body of a grown up man.
All these things and yet none of them too.
He never ever left the prison camp.
His mind became his own prison.
My mother said his name loudly several times trying to rouse him into standing up and together we hauled his massive body upwards and he would slump back down again.
He was a big, heavy man.
Eventually he began muttering a slurry of nonsense words in his heavily confused state and we managed to get him up on his feet. He was able to take some of his own weight and we walked him to my bedroom.
My Father laid down on my bed and my Mother covered him up.
I kissed his cheek and left him to sleep.
That was the last time I saw him alive.
How I wish with all my heart that I held him tight that early Sunday morning and whispered ‘I love you Dad’ in his ear.
To love a person is to see all of their magic and to remind them of it when they have forgotten.
There is a space in between a quiet place serene so still. The stillness is laden with sorrow and remembering what was, the sadness of what could have been and the reality of what is. Who am I now? is a question that I ask on this merry go round of a fragmented life, love and accountability. Am I lost in the stillness? Can the sorrow be released? Am I bold enough to own my beauty and serve the sorrow with endearment?
Oh how my playing with words can free this weary mind for a while and breathe life on to my plain paper.
I could hear him banging around in the kitchen preparing his next available powerful supressant, those tiny little pills that that took him some place else.
I don’t remember if he made his sandwich that night!
My mother was shaking, colour drained from her face, terrified he was going to come back into the room and finish what he started. She literally didn’t know what to do with herself and must have felt like a trapped animal.
I know I did.
The front door to the street was closer to us than him and we could have made a run for it but we didn’t.
I realise now how strong and brave the 13 year old part of me was.
At that point there was no question of leaving him. My mother had always taken her vows seriously;
In sickness and in health.
He was a sick man, she was a trained nurse and you never leave a sick patient.
My father took himself off up stairs and I can’t seem to recall exactly what happened next but I do remember him telling me that he would sleep in my bed and I was to sleep in with Mum. It would safer for us.
He looked directly into my eyes and said;
“Lock the door and keep it locked. Barricade it if you have to because if you don’t I will kill your Mother.”
He must have passed out because it went quiet for a short while.
My Mother and I were in seperate beds in my parents bedroom. I just remember feeling sick in my stomach absolutely terrified and I know its a word that I have used consistently throughout my writing but its true, I was terrified. We couldn’t sleep through fear of him breaking down the door to get to her and it felt like there was no way out. We were trapped and waiting once again for the onslaught.
As the night went on there was movement outside of the bedroom door, I think he was in and out of the bathroom and his drugged up condition created his drunken-like stupor.
We didn’t sleep.
I don’t remember us talking much either.
I wonder now, where my dog was?
Again, I wanted to run to get help, get out of there but I couldn’t.
I couldn’t go through that door.
Remember the door–the metaphor for my life.
I have been stuck behind that Door for 38 fucking years.
The hours seemed endless, waiting for the sun to rise and for him to be less agitated. My hope was that things would look different in the morning and that he would be different too. Maybe sorry for his actions and willing to get some help for his addiction.
We all needed so much help but no one was coming to help us.
In the early hours of the morning a mighty loud crash came from the other side of the wall where the bathroom was.
I sat bolt upright and got out of bed. Creeping quietly towards the wall, I pressed my ear gently against it fearful of him knowing that we were awake.
I couldn’t hear anything.
Neither of us knew what had happened and I remember distinctly that my bladder needed emptying.
I feel compelled to write about a little girl I know who lost her Daddy suddenly, nearly a year ago.
This morning, she is unable to access the outside world because grief is her opponent and grief is winning.
She sits on the sofa with her pet dog, wrapped in soft blankets. To the left of her, close by are her Dad’s ashes – which, she says with slight confusion, are much smaller than the ashes of Fidget! Her recently deceased, much loved pussy cat.
She is 12 years old.
Her strength has the capacity to withstand the mightiest of storms. Her wit can enthrall an audience of listeners and her smile lights up the darkest of rooms and yet…
her heart is fractured.
Over the years, her survival techniques have pushed the closet of people away, often hurting them to release some of the burden that she carried. At times she unacceptably played the role of scapegoat when other children could do no wrong.
Trying to find a way back from the self destruction was so terribly difficult for her and although she longed to be accepted and forgiven, the path was somewhat difficult.
She really didn’t want to hurt others… just to show them how much she was hurting.
The pattern became familiar until it was a safe pattern of knowing and by that I mean she knew how to fill up other people’s convincer strategies of who she was and what she was about.
It really wasn’t true.
This child with her fractured heart is hurting and there aren’t enough words to describe the pain that she is in.
I feel the depth of an unforgiving, relentless and unbearable grief that she is carrying and trying to make sense of. I know that there are questions that she will be asking internally that can not be answered now, but still she carries them. There are days when the world forgets about this little girl and her struggles and I guess that is just a part of life.
Life carries on.
Grief carries on.
When a child loses a parent their whole experience of the world changes. When the death is sudden, no time to say goodbye, no time for a last hug, cuddle, giggle, sharing of stories, anything.
Just left with an ocean of overwhelming loss.
To the education system who lack the knowledge of how to help these children emotionally, day to day within their school life, please take the time to train your staff appropriately. Give them the tools that are so desperately needed to assist these kids.
To the education system who refuses to understand that there are days when these children cannot and will not be able to access the school day because grief will take over.
Let them be children who need time to grieve not an attendance statistic.
To all you Mums and Dads out there that are struggling with loss, please please know that you are doing an amazing job and ask for help if you need it. The earlier the intervention, the more a child can begin to work through and begin to process the trauma.
I am so very proud to know you and I am grateful to be able to walk alongside you and your Mum throughout your journey. Thank you for re-connecting with me and allowing a certain trust to begin to build between us. You are the most resilient child that I know and one day you too will rise up and show the world who you truly are.
With taking his evening medication, my father would sprinkle salt on two slices of bread and butter and then make them into a sandwich.
Who does that?
His days were spent in terrible physical pain and his night’s were plagued with horrendous nightmares – the kind that forced his body into a soaking wet sweat. That’s where the drugs came in and did their job of knocking him out into an unconcious state, often appearing dead with a cold and bluish complexion.
I wonder where he travelled in his sleep?
I wonder if he ever was able to access peace beyond the realms of being awake?
I hope so.
I have painted such a bad picture of the man I called my father and that’s not really the truth of it all. He was a good man and a very sick man, that’s the paradox. There is so much to write about him and the pain he must have endured as a child, also the rejection he sufferred from trying to tell his story and having it ignored.
Maybe that’s why it is so important for me to tell mine!
The atrocities he experienced from the age of 4 until 7 in a prisoner of war camp scarred his young mind and was enough to damage his life and the lives of the peoplehe loved. There have been many times when I have felt so desperate to see him again – to hold him close and tell him that I understand, tell him that I love him so much and tell him its okay.
I don’t know if he is resting?
He deserves to rest…
You see, we all have the power to judge another as my father was judged by his family, doctors, neighbours etc… everyone had something to say but never really gave him the time to begin to wonder why he behaved the way he did or even to try and unravel his pain.
I give people time to unravel.
I guess in that day and age it was just easier to shut him up with medication and send him on his way which ultimately, killed his body.
I can never justify his actions but I can always choose love over hate and ignorance.
The doctor that plied my father with drugs was stuck off some years later. He was well known for over prescribing medications for his patients.