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

A Requisition of Madness

My Father was born in 1934 in Malaya. He was the youngest of three children and I believe they lived a fairly wealthy life. Somewhere, in the boxes that are still piled high in my garage is a photo of the house that they lived in and I will add it here when I find it. It is an amazing property and a huge contrast to where I lived during my childhood.

There is a child missing in the family photo above. My father had another older sister who passed away from contracting TB. I was told that the house keepers, who lived in a small cottage on my grandparent’s land, had a daughter who was taken ill. My young aunt had gone to visit her and take some fresh fruit to the little girl. Sadly, she too caught the infectious disease and died soon after.

My father had already experienced an horrendous trauma at such a very young age.

As I write this now I have had the realisation that my father must have been older than 4 years old when he was detained in the POW camp because Singapore was taken in February 1942. Having a January birthday, would make him 8 years old.

He remained in the camp for 3 years.

My Grandfather was born in Scotland and was an engineer in the either the Navy or Merchant Navy and I believe his parents were tea planters. I have no idea where my Grandmother actually originated from but do know that she was a school teacher and had two brothers and two sisters whom were all very well educated. I was told that my family owned a small town in Malaya but I really don’t know how accurate this is!

They were living in Ipoh when Singapore fell.

My handsome Grandfather.
I wish I could have known him.

I wonder now, if there are any descendants of my family still living in that area of the world?

I was blessed with having the chance to meet my Aunt Joan in 1996. I travelled with my husband and my 23 month old son for a four week holiday. It was an incredible journey being able to meet and spend time with my family on my father’s side. Joan was able to share some stories with me about their childhood and in particular, fragmented parts of their POW experience. I am sure that there was so much more information that my Aunt could have given me and I feel that she only scratched the surface with what she did share.

It was just too painful to revisit.

That was the only one time I met Joan and she passed away about 9 years ago.

I never met my Grandmother.

This is is Joan’s story;

My grandparents, Joan and my father were living in Malaya when the war broke and along with many other people, were evacuated by ship from Singapore. The ship came under attack and was bombed. forcing my family into life boats fighting for their survival. Joan shares in part, the scene of horror and devastation that her and my young father had witnessed. Surrounding them in the water were dead bodies, burning people, screaming cry’s for help-just utter chaos etc…

Joan recalls one memory of seeing a burning baby and how terribly that had affected my father after the event.

Some of the evacuee’s survived and made it to a near by island where they were taken care of by the local people for a few weeks. The Islanders took a huge risk in hiding my family, knowing that if they were caught harbouring them, they would be killed instantly. Eventually, they had to hand the evacuees’s over to the Japanese soldiers in order to save themselves and my grandparents, Joan and my father were taken to the prison camps.

I just can’t imagine how frightened they all must have been…

On arrival at the camps and during the separation period of men and women, my grandfather lied about my father’s age in order for him to be allowed to stay with his mother and sister.

The family were separated.

My father never saw his father again.

We don’t know what happened to my Grandfather.

My Aunt didn’t really say much about the camps but what she did share, was enough for me to understand the mental and emotional damage that was inflicted on my father at such a young age.

My grandmother Alice used to grind banana skins down into powder and give it to my Father for the nutritional benefit as food was not of the plenty and he was the youngest. Joan tells of women being raped openly and that the children would watch. Men were beaten daily and left for dead, some actually not surviving the beatings. If the children disobeyed, a swift punch to the stomach was a familiar punishment, especially the boys.

These were the experiences that were shaping my father as a young boy and his view of the world and also later as he became a man.

Whilst in the camp, my father learn’t to trade items to get different things that they needed. Joan told me how at times he would take risks trading with particular guards and through doing so, he learnt to speak some Japanese.

As a child, he taught me how to say the rhyme ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ in Japanese.

I guess you can come to your own conclusion about how a traumatic past can effect a person’s mind. I know that for my father, he went on to repeat the patterns of behaviour that he had learned from such a young age, inflicting it on his own children.

He used aggression and violence to control when he felt so out of control.

He used punching my eldest brother in the stomach as a form of punishment, seemingly for no reason but to apply force when he couldn’t contain his own demons.

He stole my Mothers jewellery and traded it for other people’s medication to feed his own habit.

He would pull my trousers down, hold my hands behind my back and slap my legs until it would sting as a reminder, not do do the very thing I was being punished for, again.

He would force us to eat every scrap on our dinner plate, telling us how lucky we were to have food because so many others didn’t.

And… my Mother told me years ago that when he wanted another child he enforced it.

Saying no to him wasn’t really an option.

The prospect of going home again scared them. They couldn’t imagine how they could ever settle to it. How they could just walk around the streets and pretend to be normal, look women in the eye again after what they had done and seen, ride on trams, sit at a table with a white cloth, and control their hands and just slowly eat. It was the little things that scared them. The big things you could hide in. It was little ones that gave a man away.”
― David Malouf

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/prisoner-of-war

A stark reminder

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4879862/WWII-heroes-reduced-skin-bone-Japan-s-POW-camps.html

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

My Wall

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

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

The Safe House

My Father remained in and out of a slumber.

I don’t recall the small moments of time that Sunday morning but I do remember that something finally snapped mentally for my Mother as she couldn’t take it anymore.

It was time to leave...

Years of her life had been spent nursing a mentally ill husband and saving him from the brink of life, time and time again.

Years of aggression, physical abuse and living in fear had ruptured her own heart and mind and she was at the point of no return.

I can’t say exactly what happened during the course of the morning, I just remember my Mother’s friend arriving at some stage, to take us away.

I so want to tell you that I went into my sleeping father and kissed him once more, whispered I love you in his ear, told him I was sorry for leaving him like that but I don’t think I did!

I can’t remember…

I want to remember…

I just recall feeling sick and frightened, with my stomach in knots as we drove away.

She left our dog behind.

The lady that came to rescue us seemed to be quite harsh in her approach towards us fleeing without looking back. I never warmed to her coldness throughout my younger years and I remember her disliking my father. She too had broken away from an abusive marriage and her response to my mothers anxious and somewhat guilt ridden demeanour for leaving him, was both matter of fact and resolute.

She was a survivor and layer upon layer of personal pain was striving her forward to get us out whilst the sick man was drugged.

She called the police.

The safe house was about a ten minute car drive away from where we lived and I felt completely out of sorts being there. It was uncomfortable and felt awkward.

After all it was her house not mine.

I wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed.

I wanted it all to stop and not to feel afraid anymore.

I wanted my Dad to be okay and not be sick.

I wanted my brothers to come and be with me.

I felt so afraid and so alone.

The police came and my mother gave her statement, her friend, driving home the fact that my father was dangerous.

I am beginning to realise now, how angry I still feel about ‘the friend’ and the role she played. I know she came to my mother’s rescue and yes, it was the right thing to do.

Of course it was…

I am grateful even if you think I’m not, they just never protected me from hearing their cruel yet honest words.

I was taking it all in deeply and damagingly.

My father was served notice of an injunction, restraining him from coming anywhere near us.

How sad

and necessary.

You did belong…

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

Barbiturates and Salt Sandwiches

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?

My Father in his early 40’s

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 people he 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.

I wonder what pain he was carrying was too?

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

The black cat

In 1981 we didn’t have a home telephone. My mother used to walk to the nearest telephone box if ever she needed to make a call and quite often on a Sunday evening, she would call her younger brother who lived in Bedford.

Uncle Kevin (christened Kavin) will always hold a very special place in my heart. I only got to see him twice a year; once when we would travel up to Bedford for a week and then the other was in the Summer when he would bring my two cousins down to the Island for a holiday.

Those times were some of my happiest of childhood memories.

Kevin was virtually blind in one eye, walked with a limp and always smelled of the most delicious, expensive aftershave. Bedtime, was just the most fun with him telling us silly stories and ryhmes. He seemed to have an abundance of material to use and improvised effortlessly.

I can still hear him now, singing one in particular that always made my cousins and I giggle collectively and knowing full well that ‘wetted’ should have been a rude word, made it all the more fun.

Oh the black cat wetted 
on the white cats eye
the white cat said
Cor blimey

Oh I'm sorry my dear
the black cat said
You shouldn't have sat
behind me


I remember so clearly that often times I had wished Uncle Kevin was my father and feeling so, so sad when it was time for them all to leave to go home.

I wanted time to stop.

I wanted to leave with them.

I felt safe when he was there.

All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip 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