Some weeks ago I received a phone call telling me that my dad had died. Committed suicide. I’d often wondered how I would feel when that day came. If anyone would think to let me know. If I would care. As it happened, my body reacted before my mind had time to think about it. A sensation of floating off somewhere, tears burning in my eyes, suspended patiently until the conversation was over. Thirty nine years of loss and longing couldn’t be ignored any longer, waiting to be dealt with some other time. There was no more hiding. It wasn’t fine. I did care.
I had a lot of time to think that day. I couldn’t tell The Norwegian, it was his birthday and it seemed a bit mean to ring and lumber him with that. I was glad of the chance to be in my own thoughts. I had many.
When I was small I saw my dad occasionally. I dreaded these visits. I can still remember the fear when I knew he had started the drive from Liverpool. I’d hide under the chair. Maybe no one would find me there. I didn’t want to spend time with a stranger.
I went to stay with him when I was eight. I don’t really remember the details, just that it had been a disaster, and that there weren’t any more visits after that. Until I was 21. In my final year of university I got in touch to explain that I was doing all right, in case he ever wondered.
As a result of that letter his wife got in touch and we arranged that I would come and see them. I didn’t reconnect with my dad. Too much time had passed. We had nothing in common. But I did gain a sister that day.
Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe he had made an effort in his own way. The last time I visited my mum I found a book with a message from him to me. One of my birthdays had made him think of me.
Then I look at my five year old, just like me apparently, and I see that it shouldn’t be so difficult. It wasn’t my fault. I know it, rationally. But, maybe if I had just been a little more likeable somehow … sometimes the rejection is too hard to bear.
The death of an absent parent brings with it a lonely grief. Instead of pain, there is a deep sense of loss. There are few words of comfort. No empathy. People can’t put themselves in my shoes. How can they, I have a great wall around me.
I went to the funeral. To say goodbye. To mark the end of a relationship which has shaped my very being by its absence. There were no words for me. No sign of any regret for the past. No indication that he had loved me in some way.
I sometimes wonder where I would be now if my early experiences had been different. Would I be travelling the world looking for my home, or would I have been home from the very start. Am I lost? Is that what my wandering is. Only time will give me the answers, and for now it is too soon to know.