this song always makes me want to cry.
my relationship with my father is awkward at best. my parents divorced when i was nine or ten, and for most of my formative years he was absent from my life. not through any choice of my own. and not through my mum’s direction either. when i moved out of the old family home to my mum’s new house i carried on seeing my dad, sometimes after school, and most weekends. it was a pretty relaxed thing, no set schedule. sometimes i wasn’t able to see him on weekend daytimes because he’d be taking my older sister to see football games, but that was okay; they were always a lot closer. i was my mother’s daughter, and she was a daddy’s girl. and then he got a new girlfriend, and everything changed.
his new girlfriend (and later, wife, and ex-wife) was an alcoholic. when we stayed over at his house. we’d get woken up in the early hours by them coming home. without fail, she’d come into our rooms at night, wake us up, drunkenly try to explain that she wasn’t taking our father away from us and she wasn’t the reason he and my mum had split up (we already knew that my mum had left him for someone else after years of abuse), and she’d try and kiss us on the cheek, which would nine times out of ten result in her pecking the friend we’d had come over to stay with us instead of myself or my sister because she was so far gone she could barely see what she was doing. she became the brunt of jokes on the street where we lived, and that’s where the real problem started.
the first time she turned on us, a group of us were in our house. before my parents divorced, we weren’t allowed to have friends in the house. my dad’s orders. he needed his sleep, and he’d camp out on the sofa. anyone making noise of any sort, was in trouble. which ruled out bringing friends over. but afterwards, he opened the house as a free-for-all. and one summer’s day while we were hanging out, my dad’s girlfriend, drunk again at two in the afternoon, came in and picked a fight with my sister. my sister was thirteen. she ignored the rant directed at her, to the amusement of her friends. and my dad’s girlfriend made it her mission to get in the middle of her relationship with my dad. it took her another six months, but she did it. on boxing day, 1988, my sister saw my dad for the last time.
we spent christmas with my mum at our grandparent’s house, as we had always done; so on boxing day we’d gone to spend time with our dad. he’d moved in with his girlfriend and sold the old family home by this point, so our only option was to go there, and to see her, and spend christmas with her two children; a girl of seven, who was quite sweet but also a little annoying, and a boy, a year younger than i was. my sister had no interest in getting to know them, and as a consequence, my dad’s girlfriend turned on her again. it started with my sister not wanting to play with her daughter, half her age. she moaned to my dad, who then shouted at my sister, instantly taking the side of his girlfriend who was telling all sorts of lies at this point. and when my sister refused to apologise for things she hadn’t actually done he did something he’s probably regretted since; he threw both me and my sister out of his house. in the rain. on boxing day. we walked home, the two of us crying all the way back to my mum’s house.
when we got there, he’d driven round ahead of us. he gave us our presents, said ‘happy christmas’, and we walked into our house. things were never the same again. he never made the effort to talk about it. i carried on with my usual visits for a while, my mum urging me to keep the relationship going because the quarrel was with him and my sister. he allowed my sister to cut herself off from him. then after a year or so of being made to feel second best to his girlfriend’s kids i gave up too. i stopped going round to see him. and he cut us off completely. this lasted until 2007.
in 2007, while i was on my honeymoon, my stepsister posted a note through my mum’s door. she thought we needed to know: my dad was in intensive care, in a coma after having surgery to remove a clot from his brain. it was possible he wasn’t going to come out of it. i went to his bedside, saw all the tubes, the breathing machine, the monitors, and i was scared i’d never get to talk to him again. he looked old. and frail. and he didn’t look like my dad anymore.
he was unconscious for three weeks; when he came round, he pretended as though there had never been any conflict, as though he’d seen us regularly, every week or whatever. as though he’d been invited to my wedding, as though he’d met my husband before and they were friends. and i was told to play along with it, to ease him into real life again. but he never really got back to real life again. i told my sister about the hospital and him being ill, and she planned to come over to see him but never did. once he woke up, she shrugged and said, ‘well, he’s not dying – why do i want to talk to him now?’ and i thought she was crazy at the time. i was angry at her for wasting the time she could spend talking to him. and for leaving all of the reconcilliation down to me. but then i realised, i wasn’t telling him what i really thought of him either. i was playing the dutiful daughter, visiting him every other day, but my heart wasn’t in it at all. eventually i needed my own life back, and he was released from hospital, and things went back to normal with him not being an everyday part of my life. there was the odd phonecall to check in but it hardly went much further. it carried on like that for a year, me just choosing to let the past lie, him pretending he didn’t remember it. and when my son was born he tried to get more involved but i couldn’t let him. i managed to keep him at a distance still.
in october last year, his wife/ex-wife/whatever they were to each other died of alcohol poisoning or liver failure or something like that. i don’t know the details, i never asked. and since then he’s deteriorated even more. and still, i can’t bring myself to take him on. i don’t feel enough about him to care for him like i would if my mum was getting frail or ill. i still can’t stand to spend any time with him because whenever i do, he calls me by my stepsister’s name. he tells me i’m looking ‘well’ in a sarcastic tone of voice. he picks at anything i do in some way or another.. and i remember why i made the break when i was eleven years old. because i didn’t have to put up with it anymore.
he’s been in hospital twice in the last few months. the first time, for a couple of days with a water infection. he didn’t believe he’d been in a proper hospital afterwards, thought it was all a joke. he refused social care and when he left i had to clean up the house he lived in, because it was a state. after two weeks out and me not being able to get hold of him on the phone i went to see him and had to call an ambulance for him. he hadn’t been taking the antibiotics the hospital gave him and now had a kidney infection and a collapsed lung. he was in hospital for a month this time. he agreed to the social care to shut me up, but then slipped out of the hospital under their nose, discharged himself, and went back home. he’s okay (physically, not necessarily mentally) now, but i know that it’s only a matter of time until he ends up back in the hospital. and even though i know this i still can’t find it in me to make him a full part of my life again, and care for him like i would if it was my mum. so for the forseeable future i’m still there for him, on the end of a phone line, if he gets sick, needs the doctor or the hospital. but there’s a definite sadness for me in knowing it’s only out of some sense of duty rather than love.
i’m in a position where i have the chance to tell him all the things i have to say to him. i have the chance now to tell him he was a rubbish father. that the way he treated me when i was eleven, the way he let his own daughter drop out of his life as though he didn’t care is inexcusable and has had an effect on me that i don’t even know the extent of yet. and that i’ll never be able to forgive him for the parts of my life he purposely missed. but i can’t. because i know he won’t admit there was any wrong doing in the first place. he’ll deny the memories. he’ll deny it all, and i’ll be left feeling even worse than i do now.
and so, there it goes. and i’ll probably always cry along to this song.