They Hung Him Out to Dry

Moving back home after my Father died, was extremely difficult for me.

I lived in fear before he died and now I was afraid he would appear as a ghost and having worked with children for many years, I now know and understand, that it really wasn’t necessary to be told that he died in my bed.

Some details are better left unsaid until a vulnerable mind is able to process it.

I was unable to enter the bedroom alone and refused to sleep in there too, so continued to share my Mother’s room for a further year.

Feelings of anxiety was rife and I can not say that anybody really understood how I felt-how could they? We are all individuals and make sense of our world differently and all those years ago, access to grief counselling or therapeutic help, wasn’t readily available.

Thank goodness things have advanced somewhat today.

There are three things in particular(apart from the obvious) that stand out for me that happened over the weeks that passed after his death.

At night my Mother would take me up to bed and say goodnight. She would then go downstairs to watch television. I’m sure, it was a much needed escape from the situation she found herself in and from a grieving teenager. I laid in what would have been my father’s bed and for as long as I possible, I managed the overwhelming fear that engulfed me.

All of a sudden the panic would take over and I’d rush down the stairs sobbing.

It felt impossible to contain the fear and anxiety.

My brothers were never really home at this point and my mother was trying to bring some normality back into our live’s. Bedtime for me, mean’t time out for her etc… I know that I would have felt safe, if the boys were upstairs nearby but instead I was alone in a room that was jammed packed with trauma, next to a room that felt full of loss and ultimately death.

My running downstairs went on for sometime and in the end my mother lost her patients with me and began to offer punishments as a threat if I didn’t stay in bed.

I just couldn’t do it.

She just couldn’t handle it… or me.

I remember clearly getting to the point where I would grab my bed pillow, creep down the staircase quietly and sit on the bottom step of the stairwell. I sat awkwardly on the step so that I could continuously turn my head upwards, in the direction of the landing, where my father may show himself.

I felt sure he would.

I was consumed with fear.

Eventually as I recall, one of my brothers found me sat upright, with my head in my lap on my pillow, asleep. On waking me, I cried telling him how afraid I was and that I was being told off for not staying in bed to which he reprimanded our Mother for not understanding.

Put simply, she didn’t have the energy or emotional understanding and was wrapped up in her own grief.

The second memory that is poignant, is when my big brother surprised me with a kitten one evening. Something of my own to love and nurture. He was living and working at a holiday camp at the time and a stray cat had given birth to a litter of kittens. My brother and his then girlfriend whose nickname was Tiggy, placed this tiny little tabby bundle of joy, into my arms whilst I was laying in bed, unable to sleep. My Mother knew nothing about it but my brother knew only too well, that she wouldn’t have the heart to take the kitten away from me.

I fell in love instantly and named the kitten Tiggy too.

My brother knew and understood how much I was struggling and I wanted so badly to go and live with him.

I hated it every time he left me.

At some stage I had to return to school and this is where the third most significant memory comes from. The day I went back, I remember walking up the main school pathway with my friend and people were staring at me. There was one particular group of girls stood to the side and one said very loudly;

“That’s the girl whose Dad just hung himself on the gas pipe out side of her house!”

The story that was spreading quickly around the school was that my father had hung himself on the gas pipe that lead from above the back door, to the shed, as a result of my mother failing to pay the bills.

©All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019/2020

His Deliverance Home

I love waking up to the sound of birdsong.

A gentle and courteous re-awakening for the coming day.

It is quite possible that the very last person to see my Father alive was my school friend Allie, whom had returned my roller boots home after borrowing them. They were also the last gift that my father had given me for my 13th birthday, 3 months previous to his passing.

Retro Mayfair roller boots

https://picclick.co.uk/Pair-of-Vintage-Retro-MAYFAIR-1970s-ROLLER-SKATES-391931986773.html

Allie told me sometime after he died, that she was worried about me because I hadn’t been attending school and decided to take my roller boots back to my house to see where I was. After several attempts of knocking on the door and as she turned around to leave, my father opened the door only very slightly and she asked;

“Is Michelle in please?” and my father told her I wasn’t there.

Allie passed the boots to him and he quickly shut the door without another word.

She said he looked unshaven and terrible.

As I have said before in my previous posts, I can not be exact about the timings of what happened but I do know that the boots were taken back, the day before my father died.

So right now I find myself back at the evening when I prayed for God to take him back to Heaven…

and the prayer was answered…

My Mother’s belief is that my father would have been cold because she left the house that Sunday morning, without lighting the fire. For years, the guilt about leaving him like that, has eaten away at her.

A neighbour had felt concerned because she hadn’t seen him for some time and as the gossip had hit the street so effortlessly, she contacted the police.

And she was right to do so because my father was found dead, lying on my bed wearing his Snorkel Parka coat zipped all the way up to the top, as if to keep warm.

Retro Snorkel Parka coat 1980’s
https://www.ebay.co.uk
What I Imagine

His mind weary
wretched and confused
He laid down

Covered in a shroud of grief
cold and alone
to live no more

Once a handsome young boy
with jet black 
locks

A melancholy heart
so permanent
so prevalent

His eyes fell closed
his prayer unheard
by us

He gently whispered 
I'm sorry
forgive me

A thwarted Soul
A Ruptured life
A weeping child

Let this be his Deliverance

My eldest brother was asked to identify his body as my Mother was unable to do it and he told me many years later that he wanted to make sure that,

“The old man was definitely dead.”

He was only 21 years old.

My father was only 47 when he died.

There was no money to pay for a funeral and it must have been a nightmare for my Mother to arrange. I know that my Grandmother sent money from Australia to help with the costs and I believe my mother sold my father’s car too. My Godparents were a great help, organising the wake at there house.

The day of his cremation, seemed surreal and a bit of a blur really. I recall us having one black car for my Mother, my two brothers and myself. The neighbours were standing out in the street watching on, as we drove off down the road and I also remember my brothers laughing in the car at some point.

I felt terribly sad about that and the sadness turned into numbness.

At this point, I still hadn’t cried at all.

I don’t remember the service but I do remember sitting on the stairs of my Godmothers house during the wake, feeling angry at all the people who had come to eat and drink when my father had just left this world.

It felt very wrong…

A few years back, when having a conversation with my mother about my father, I asked her why she would allow my father’s coffin to be left open at the front of the Crematorium for people to pay their last respects? I told her that I felt it was a terrible thing to do, to allow a 13 year old child to see her father dead and that it had caused nightmares for several years. My Mother was mortified to say the very least, telling me that she didn’t know what I was talking about-that it had never happened.

Up until that point, I completely believed that my father’s coffin was left open during the service and he was wearing a blue hospital gown. His arms were crossed, resting upon his chest and he had a blue complexion. I had even shared this with friends during conversations about loss and grief etc…

My 13 year old mind made that part up.

I never got to say goodbye.

The trauma that settled in that day, had such an lasting impact that went on to effect my whole entire adult life.


https://www.google.com/search?q=when+death+is+welcome

 

The Post-Mortem determined that the cause of death was Ventricular Heart Failure.

He literally died of a broken heart…

A rare moment with my Dad.

© All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019-2020

An Unbearable Prison

Once upon a time there was a Mummy, a Daddy and two little boys who were excited to welcome the new baby into their family.

The rest of the day was a blur.

I have no recollection of what happened and it was sometime later that I found out my Father was at my Godmothers house when he made the call to us.

I wonder what they talked about?

I wonder if Aunty Barbara was able to console him?

I wonder if she held him just for a moment so that he knew he was loved?

I wonder what was going through his haggard mind?

He had lost everything, his wife, his children, his self respect-his mind…

At some stage, either that day or the next, my brothers went home to collect some belonging’s for us.

This is their account of what happened;

They awoke the sleeping Giant when going upstairs and his rage was tenfold. My father tried to stop my brother Ashley taking clothes from my bedroom and demanded to know where we were. He refused his fathers enforcing and all hell broke out.

The dog was going crazy once again, confused as to whom he should protect and somehow during the eruption, the younger of my two brothers, who was only 17, had his head jammed in-between my wardrobe sliding door by our father.

A scene of commotion.

My brothers have said that he would have killed them to get to us.

They escaped the house and took the dog with them.

Everything that he had ever loved was gone and now his home was not his home, it was his external prison too.

An unbearable prison.

During a conversation with my Mother not so long ago, she added another layer to the story that was kept from me for many years. On entering the house, my brothers were hit with the stench of gas. My father had opened the oven door, left the gas on and gone upstairs to lay down.

https://www.crisistextline.uk

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.mind.org.uk

I have no words to describe the pain that is inside of me now that must have been inside of him at that very moment, to arrive at a place in his life where he believed he could no longer live.

I felt that feeling for a split second some time ago when driving home one day in floods of angry tears. The thought crossed my mind at how easy it would be to drive the car at speed off of the downs and end all of the overwhelming inner turmoil that had been plaguing my life for so long.

Just for a split second…

and I reached out for help.

Depression, drugs, trauma, loss, grief, devastation, abuse, loneliness, self disgust and anything else you can throw into his dark pot, had WON the emotional and personal battle that he was fighting.

He didn’t want to live anymore.

He couldn’t live anymore.

Approximately 1970
Who was taking the picture?

 © All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

20.10.1981

Today, grief washes over me like a vicious ocean.

I have been running from this sadness for so long now and have felt too paralysed to work on my writing this past week. Some days I just wander in my mind looking for a safe place to rest but seemingly, it’s proving more difficult

I have to keep writing through it.

On the anniversary of my fathers passing I desperately want to acknowledge him and give meaning to his life as no other person ever does.

Nobody… and I feel very sad about that.

Was he that insignificant? Did he really matter to anyone? Was his life that unimportant?

If you were to ask my brothers to tell you the date of their father’s death, they wouldn’t have a clue and my Mother always needs reminding.

The date goes unnoticed.

Most years I remember him in silence but this year I wrote a Facebook status which came completely out of the blue.

If there was a direct telephone line that could reach him now, I would choose to hear him speaking softly to me and listen carefully to the sound of his voice, savouring every moment. I would ask him how his day has been and tell him about mine. I would spend the time laughing with him and sharing the simple things I know he’d love to hear… and I’d love him just that little bit more.

We must never underestimate the power of un-resolved grief. Its a burden to carry for sure and one that is so heavy for me to this very day.

Even though I was very afraid of my father, my love for him is evident.

Our healing is unfolding

©All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

The Warrior Child

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.

A nothingness.

Gone.

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.

https://www.winstonswish.org/

And to the Warrier Child

I feel your pain.

I really do see you.

I know.

I understand.

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.

Summer 2019

I love you both.

Author unknown

© All Rights Reserved – The boy in the Chip Shop 2019

Number 13 – The house that nobody wanted

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live – Norman Cousins

Its cold outside today.

The weather has changed considerably.

The house that nobody wanted became our family home.

13!

Unlucky for some – unlucky for us.

Its not a case of luck really! The truth is that the families that lived within it’s walls, experienced such loss and sadness.

I’m not sure why my parents chose to move across the road and my guess is that the house was semi detached instead of mid-terraced. It was still a two bedroom property and we were a family of five (well seven if you include the dog and cat).

The previous tennants were a couple with two teenage boys and tragically one of the boys aged 17 died of suffocation in the upstairs airing cupboard. I have no idea how the tragedy happened and I didn’t find out about it until I was a young adult.

Knowing about the poor boy, escalated my fears of being alone in the house.

Number 13 stood empty for a while and it seemed that no other council tennants were remotely interested in making it their home accept for my parents of course!

And why not? You couldn’t get more of a religious, complete hypocrite of an un-Christian like father such as ours who would override any decision that wasn’t his.

But preach he did…

And listen we didn’t!

My father and Godfather separated the larger of the two bedrooms by erecting a false wall with a sliding door. I had the first small room which my brothers had to walk through to get to their room where the airing cupboard was housed. I remember them having bunk beds, a wardbrobe and an old dark wooden chest of drawers. The room was small, especially for two boys. When they were teenagers, my mother found a box full of condoms (un-opened packets) under the bottom bunk when she was doing the housework and I recall her being mortified to think that they may actually be having sex with their girlfriends. Feeling embarrassed, she never mentioned it. Well not to them anyway and personally, I think that it was incredibly responsible of them both.

My bedroom was small too – it seems we were cheated of space. I had a single wardbrobe, a small bed and a scruffy wooden toy box full of old jumble sale toys. The wall between the rooms was so thin that it was like being in the same space together and I often heard my brothers whispering to one another. I wondered what they were saying…

Little did I know how significant my bedroom would become in years to follow.

There are many difficult memories attached to living in the house that nobody wanted and I have often remarked that I couldn’t careless if it burnt down just as long as no one was harmed.

Writing all things difficult can take its toll and in particular this week, I have struggled and edited this post several times. So I’d like to share a fond childhood memory that warms my heart.

My brothers and I played a game of Mr & Mrs, talking through the wall whilst laying in our beds late one evening. The game show was popular on the television in the 70’s and our parents used to watch it and we copied the idea, asking each other silly questions. We were supposed to be going to sleep and I must have been quite young possibly, under the age of 10 but old enough to remember that we had to speak quietly in order not to wake the sleeping dragon. I remember the laughter we shared that night and the feeling that my brothers had included me in a game. That’s quite significant because of the age gap between us – it wasn’t a normal thing that we did. Something tells me that it had been a difficult evening in the house with our father and they were trying to alleviate my being scared as I was unable to sleep.

I am so grateful for my brothers.

I understand who they are 💙

A picture of our house drawn by my eldest brother. Approximately 54 years ago.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

Death

It can be difficult for a child to find the words to describe what it feels like to lose a parent and for me, there was such a sense of nothingness, not really understanding what happened, not believing, confusion – just strange and surreal. When a traumatic event  precedes the loss of a loved one it can exacerbate the emotions and personally, I can liken it to having a pile of breeze blocks lying on my chest, squeezing the breath out of my lungs and then being thrown into an abyss of anxiety…

I didn’t share my grief, I wasn’t able to as the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth and I shed no tears for some weeks afterwards. What I know and understand now is that I was in shock and a part of my sweet 13 year old self, shut down and went into survival mode.

She began using food to stuff down the pain.

I don’t remember being consoled by my Mother… I really don’t but I guess I must have been, thats what Mum’s do right? What I do remember is that everything changed about my whole exisitance within a few seconds of being told about my father’s death. I would never ever be the same again…

“I do not believe that grief changes who you are, if you let it… it will reveal who you are” – HRH Prince William

img_0815

My Parents passport photo (approximately 1960) taken for their passage to Australia on the Ten Pound Ticket Scheme - I wish I knew them then, before all of the difficulties that consumed their lives.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip 2019