*TW substance misuse, grief*
Hi all, welcome back to my little blog.
June is always an odd month for me; with Father’s Day and my Dad’s birthday.
So, in the spirit of dealing with my emotions in a healthy way, I think it’s time to write him a letter. This one. It’s gonna be long, you don’t have to read it all… if at all, it is mainly to express my feelings, but I do consider this a major part in shaping who I am today.
Unlike most letters, this one does not have a destination. This letter is not written with the intention that you will receive these words because you won’t. In fact, I find it almost ironic that I am the one writing to you, after years and years of prison letters.
I don’t know if you knew this, but growing up I thought the world of you. To me, you were my best friend. You weren’t always around, but that didn’t matter to me. You were my escape from the mundane, routine life I had Monday to Friday. Growing up with you taught me that there is so much more to life than money. You had next to nothing, but you held yourself like you had it all. Saturdays were my favourite day of the week. You were my biggest fan, my story-teller, my lead air guitarist, and my hero.
Something I have kept for nine years is the card you sent me for my thirteenth birthday. Yep, the groovy chick one, I kept it. You signed it off saying “I’m so proud of you babe, love you forever”. Every time I read it, I cry my eyes out. You used to make me feel like the most important person in the world. I always loved the way you wrote my name with the little love heart on the “i”.
But as I got older, the colourful world you painted for me, quickly became very black and white. I began to realise that the stories which I could listen to for hours, were bullshit. Your long “jobs away”, were prison stretches or rehab admissions. You used to always take things too far.
One of the happiest memories I have together is a particular Fathers Day we spent at Playzone. I was sat at the top of the red slide, the biggest one, the one you would always encourage me to go down like I was unbreakable. I looked across at all of the other dads in the café. They were reading their papers or on their phones. Then I looked down at you, throwing yourself around in the ball pit, shouting to me and the other kids to run away from the dinosaurs. You looked up at me smiling, I beamed back at you with pride, thinking you were the coolest person on the planet. You were MY DAD.
But, our fun kept being interrupted by your constant trips to the toilet. I even put sherbet up my nose to look like you did. You tore up the card I made for you so you could make a roach. Your speech was always slurred. I started to realise that your imagination wasn’t like mine, you were never really there with me. On the drive home, you filled my booster seat with beers, asking me to hold the one you were drinking because it’s a waste to spill. I remember crying myself to sleep most evenings I stayed with you because you were shooting up in the living room and I couldn’t wake you. I remember screaming with everything I had as drug dealers dangled you from the balcony looking for their money. I remember being sat in the back of police cars alone because you’d been arrested again. But you probably wouldn’t remember all of that, would you?
I hope you remember my fourteenth birthday, as that was the last time we ever spoke. I had tonsillitis and just wanted to go to bed after school. Answering your phone call, I expected you to wish me a happy birthday, but you didn’t. You called me a C*#T, thinking I would rather spend the day with mum than you. You said that I had an attitude problem, wishing you had beat that out of me more. But let’s face it, you gave it a good go. I couldn’t make out the rest of what you said that day, because you were that drunk. Again. I remember zoning out during that conversation, thinking to myself, why am I bothering to listen to this yet again? So, I told you, I couldn’t do it anymore, if you wanted to stay in my life, you needed to sort yourself out. I told you not to contact me again until you do. That was the last conversation I ever had with you, Dad, what a wonderful memory.
You did try to contact me. A lot. But that wasn’t the important part, was it? You had been in and out of prison and rehab the whole of my life, promising me that every time would be the last. But it never was. If losing your daughter wasn’t enough to shock you into getting better, I would forever be second best to the substances you loved so much.
Eight months later, I was laying on my sofa recovering from swine flu, I received a phone call. It was the hospital. You were in a coma. The doctors I spoke to said that it appeared you had consumed a vast amount of alcohol and drugs, meaning your immune system had lowered and you had caught pneumonia. They told me you were on a life support machine, unable to breathe by yourself. One doctor said to me, it seemed as though you had nothing to live for, as you weren’t responding to treatment. Isn’t that the dream to hear when you’re fifteen? The doctors asked to take a few days to discuss our options. Mum said the decision was down to me.
So I thought… a lot. I kept thinking about all the selfish reasons I had to keep trying for you. I kept thinking about how angry I was with you for not trying to get better. I kept thinking of how my life would be with and without you. It’s hard to put your life into perspective like that at fifteen, I didn’t even really know what I wanted to do with my life, let alone someone else’s. Someone who was supposed to be looking after me, not the other way around.
Which made me start to think about all of the people who are suffering from illnesses right now, who didn’t put themselves into that situation. All of the families hoping for their loved ones to get better, to make it through. I thought about you not being there to walk me down the aisle, or to see me graduate. But then I thought, you’d only embarrass me like all my other achievements. I decided not to be selfish, keeping you alive caused everyone more pain. There are countless numbers of people in need of the bed you were in, some with their whole future ahead of them. So, I chose that. In January 2011, I told them it was okay to turn your life support machine off.
I guess you could say I didn’t handle it very well at first. I thought I had done the right thing long term, but I kept feeling like I had killed you. You were only gone because I let it happen. The next birthday you had, I bought a bottle of alcohol, my first pack of cigarettes and a bag of weed. That’s the way you’d celebrate right? I thought I would never feel like myself again, I spent a lot of time talking about it… But it got easier once I saw how much mum relaxed, realising you would never hurt her again. You made us become so much closer and stronger, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
I don’t think it’ll ever, ever get easier being without you. There are a lot of things I want to say but I don’t even know how to put them into words. I hope you like the place I chose to scatter your ashes, we had so many fun times playing at that park. I genuinely believe some people are supposed to be in your life, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay.
Ours was just shorter than I thought. I think you were the perfect person to grow up with, but now I grow better by myself. It took me to rock bottom losing you, but I built myself back up again. I’ve learned from it, something I don’t think you ever did. Regardless of what has happened, you shaped me into the person I am today, so much more than you ever realised. Thank you for being the only Dad I would have ever wanted, flaws and all, I don’t think I would have been the same.
To anyone else, who has made it to this point, it is okay to cut toxic people out of your life. You are your longest commitment before anyone else. You only need people who encourage and support you fully.