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
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 ownheart 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.
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.
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 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.
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
It was Friday the 15th of October 1981. My Father had attended his hospital appointment for a Myelogram; a diagnostic imaging test to look for any problems in the spinal cord, nerve roots and other tissues. A coloured dye is injected into the spinal column before the procedure and then an xray is taken which enables the radiologist to see more clearly, if there is any damage. When the dye is injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) which also surrounds the brain, there can be side effects – risk of a seizure, severe headaches, risk of infection, short term numbness in the legs and a risk of bleeding in the spinal colum.
In the 37 years since his death, I have never researched what a Myelogram is, only now in order to write this.
I just remember the coloured dye bit of the story and the violent aggression.
The local Community Centre held a kids disco every Friday evening and it was a great place to hang out. My Father used to drop me off and pick me up every week, much to the amusement of my friends who were allowed to walk home. He was very strict and often told me that I may be taken away by a stranger, if he didn’t keep me safe.
This Friday felt different…
My father was subdued to begin with after his treatment and I remember him complaining of a headache that was getting worse. I can picture him now, standing in the hallway by the front door. He gave me £1.50 for the disco, put his arms around me and squeezed me tight, told me he loved me and let me walk with my friends.
I can still feel the intense feeling of worry just by thinking about that evening.
The disco came and went and the entire time I was there, the anxiety was growing within me; what I would find on my return home?
He was in bed having taken as many drugs as he could take without killing himself, just to relieve the pain and was in and out of a drugged up state. I sat next to him, feeling so heavy, strained and tired. Why couldn’t he be normal like my friend’s Dad’s. I HATED him being like this, it scared me… The smell of Old Holborn soaked the atmosphere and I swear he could have burnt the house down on many occasion, leaving his rolled up cigarettes smoldering in the ashtray. His wedding ring was on his bedside table and I picked it up and held it in front of him. In a slow and slurred manner he said;
“Your Mother doesn’t love me anymore, you have it – take it!”
Closing his eyes, my father passed out and was snoring in seconds.
That was the beginning of the end.
All Rights Reserved – The boy in the chip shop 2019
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
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.