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

Broken Man

It didn’t take much for my Father to find out where we were staying and I am surprised that he didn’t come to the house and smash the front door down.

He wasn’t the kind of man to follows rules and I think he had finally broken.

Going to school that Monday morning wasn’t really an option because of the severity of our situation and I remember quite distinctly, what I was given for breakfast;

Scrambled egg with ketchup.

“Go on eat it up, it’ll do you good to get something in your stomach and stop all that worrying, worrying won’t get you anywhere.”

Said the friend!

I had never tasted it before and I really didn’t like it-so I didn’t eat it.

The phone rang. It was my Father asking to speak to my Mother and that look upon her face returned… the one that she momentarily, had a reprieve from.

I can see clearly in my minds eye, her standing there holding the phone up to her ear. Words are coming out of her mouth and I can not hear what she is saying… but I do know that she denied his begging for us to go home.

He asked to speak to me and she handed the phone over and this time, was the very last time I heard his voice.

Hello darling, it’s me Dad.

Please come home I can’t live without you and Mum.

Please Shellie, please… it won’t happen again!

I’ll get help.

I don’t want to hurt you or Mum, she won’t listen to me just come home.

He was sobbing.

I was sobbing.

I didn’t know what to say, I had no words, just tears, uncontrollable tears, I could have drowned in them.

I couldn’t breathe… my father was pleading with me to come home and I could hear his desperation.

I could feel it…

His words were clear,

not slurred,

he was coherent,

he was present.

I told him that I was scared and sorry but I couldn’t come home.

There was silence-even though we were crying together and then he told me that he loved me and followed with, “I will always love you, you are my everything.”

He said he was sorry.

He hung up…

Ian Douglas Sinclair – Malaysia 1934
What a beautiful baby he was.
It could have all been so different.

 © 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

Two little dicky birds

Ryde Carnival is one of the oldest and biggest carnival’s in the UK and when I was a child, the parade used to walk right past the old hospital so that the patients could watch it too. I have always loved that idea and even more so, the children’s ward was situated in the round building with the big windows, right at the front of the hospital. As the parade walked past, the sick children along with the nurses would wave and the carnival participants would wave back. Such a lovely sharing of joy.

The hospital isn’t there anymore. It was knocked down in order to provide more housing for more people moving to the Island.

https://iowhospitals.org.uk/ryde.php

Mum and I had been warned about what we would see on entering the ward and told not to worry as it would look kind of scary buy it was okay. He was okay…

Of course he wasn’t okay.

My father laid there in his hospital bed covered in what seemed like a hundred wires stuck to his hairy, grey chest. I remember staring at his massive, bloated stomach. He looked like a mad man, with his hair all wild and stuck up and knowing how particular he was about combing his hair back neatly with brylcream every day, he would have hated me seeing him like that.

I think it was Old Spice! Can you get Old Spice brylcreem?

He was furious with Mum for letting me see him in the hospital and the aggression, in front of another male patient, was evident.

His stomach had been pumped.

I felt scared of what I saw. I couldn’t hug him. I couldn’t comfort him, I couldn’t do anything but endure this situation that we were in, seemingly alone without any support from anyone.

I don’t know where my older brothers were and I desperately needed them.

Why didn’t anybody pick up on the dysfunction of our family?

An elderly gentleman in the bed opposite my fathers, beckoned me over towards him, wanting to show me a trick. He took a cirgarette paper out of it’s packet and wripped two tiny pieces off. Then licking his index and middle fingers, he stuck a piece of paper on each one. Next came his rendition of the rhyme ‘Two Little Dicky Birds’, with the cigarette paper disappearing as Peter and Paul flew away and miraculously reappearing on their return.

I am grateful for the magic in that moment and the gift he brought to me during a very difficult situation.

My father wanted to leave with us and come home and he was told that it was safer for him to stay another night. So we left, believing he was in safe hands and thinking we could rest easy, just for one night.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019

Not this time

1978

I fear the dark
the dark fears me
we fight at night
won’t set me free.
Shadows creep
they terror my eyes
slow to sleep
how hard I try.

I’ve been struggling to write the next part of my story. Its been weeks since I have managed to even get this far, deleting my words over and over again. I guess I didn’t realise the magnitude of the emotional backlash I would feel just by revisiting my past in such detail, hence my breaking the story down in to manageable excerpts.

“Hey! I’m a therapist… I can sort my own shit out…”

It was the morning after the disco and Saturday morning’s were devoted to gymnastics, a place where he never came to watch me, a place where I found respite from my ‘torrid’ home life, a place of freedom (momentarily).

He remained in such a drugged up state that my mother couldn’t wake him and she had no choice but to call an ambulance. My father was slipping into a dangerous place of not-living, close to leaving his body, close to death. He hated hospitals and any form of institution after being contained as a child in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

Poor man.

I remember walking home from gym feeling that sense of dread in the pit of my stomach yet again, what would I find when I got there? Taking the familiar short cut through the garages, from a distance I could see an ambulance parked outside my gate and I started running…

I ran so fast with absolute urgency as if I was being chased and the desperation to get to my father, my dad-before it was too late, was heartbreaking.

I thought that I had lost him, that he had gone, that he was dead.

Not this time.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019