After my less than chirpy post of yesterday, I went and soaked in the bath. It had the desired effect of removing the world and leaving my thoughts to wander where they would. And again they ended with my father, as is usual these days.
You see, his final days haunt me. When I think of him, I can't easily remember anything but him dying, which is not fair - on him or me. He was my father for over 40 years, surely all those years should blot out the end week?
My problem is, I'm an overthinker.Yes, huge shock I know ;) But I feel I let him down at the last. Maybe there was nothing I could have done differently, but his last words to me were 'Help me', and I couldn't do anything.
So as I lay in the bath yesterday, I forced myself to think of younger days. Hmm. I thought about my poor school reports and how he would react, or rather not react. They didn't matter in the least. You might now be under the misconception that it was because he adored me so much, he saw past them, but you would be wrong. They didn't matter because I was a girl.
My only future was finishing school. And typing, but only so that I could get a job until I married. Very quaint really, that the path they set out for me was the one my mother followed. I saw her fight against it, heard the rows they had when she would beg to be allowed to work. I even knew about her secret job, one afternoon a week at the Art gallery, that I was sworn to secrecy about.
I did go to finishing school, but not the one he wanted in Switzerland. Unlike my poor grades, that caused a row.
My train of thought moved to the occasions I defied my father, there weren't many. The finishing school was the first time. The next time came when I was working in one of his offices, and went to request a long leave, so I could go traveling.
The problem wasn't the travel, or the time off; the problem was I wanted to go with my boyfriend. I remember his bellowing about how it would ruin me. How no decent man would want me after the boyfriend and I broke up - as we were sure to do. Maybe he thought I was a virgin? but hell I wasn't about to ask him that question.
I wimped out and left, but did go back, and did defy him.
The next time was marrying that boyfriend, except he didn't really fight me on that. Just said 'he wasn't what I had hoped for'. My father was a snob ;)
We managed to avoid confrontations for a while largely because I avoided him. Got engaged at 21, married at 23, and yes, I do think I was in a rush to become an 'adult', free of his control. My parents also spent 5 months of the year on the other side of the world, helped a lot!
The last time I can recall him flipping out at me was when he found out I was pregnant with my youngest. I can't deny she wasn't exactly planned - who would plan a 4th child when no. 3 was only 8 months old?? Only the brave or foolish ;)
Nevertheless, it was a done deal once realised. My mother worked it out from what I didn't
say in a phone chat, and my father then called me back and told me my mother had a 'stupid idea, that I might be pregnant again' - when I was silent he then screamed 'Oh you stupid girl!'
Suppose it's almost a compliment to be called a girl at 32. Didn't feel like it at the time.
With reflection I think my father was a control freak. He spent years in numerous offices with people jumping to his commands, and I think he forgot the family were not employees.
I was scared of him. Although not for any nasty reasons. He was always a good father. Made sure I never wanted for anything, in fact I mostly had the best of everything. I certainly can't give my children all that I had. He told me he loved me several times a year, and would hug me when the situation felt right.
But, he was never proud of me. Not once in my childhood can I remember him being really pleased with something I had done. Now, if that had just been his way, that would be fine - but it wasn't. He was proud of my brother. Always raved about him.
I don't have a great relationship with my brother. We get along okay, when we have to - but considering we live on an small island, the fact that I didn't see him for four years probably tells you more than you need to know. We are just very different people. And he's an arrogant ass. Speaks to me like I'm an idiot. Probably doesn't help that I believe I am smarter than him, at least on a common sense level. Not that I would ever say that. I don't like confrontation, and he's forever going on about how important he is. Seriously, since when do important people have to tell others that they're important?
Anyway, I guess the point is that if my father had passed away suddenly, some 3 years ago I don't know that I would have been that upset. Which probably makes me a complete bitch. But I am glad he didn't.
It feels awful to admit that the last 18 months of his life, after he became ill and needed me, were the best 18 months of my life with him.
I was with him between 5 and 18 hours a day, every day, and I am so very glad we had that time together.
I remember the day it changed. He had come home from South Africa because the Doctors there wanted to cut off his leg, and he was determined to find an alternative.
There wasn't any alternative. He lost his left leg below the knee. At first, visiting him in hospital was just like normal. The usual guarded conversations and reactions we had each perfected over the years.
But things were unraveling. My mother was panicking about how she would cope, dad fell into a funk of self pity.
Not quite sure why I was so brave, but I gave up work and told them I would be helping them from hereon. My mothers relief was obvious. And dad was also pleased as he had a lot of physiotherapy he needed to do, and he felt my mother wasn't up to it, whereas I am a quick learner.
After a few weeks the hospital sent him up to the rehabilitation ward, which should of been great, but... well a couple of posts down, you can see the mess.
But there was something I didn't mention, about when my father was high on tramadol. Before they took him back to the 1st hospital my father became a dibbling mess. He had no idea what was going on, and they had stuck him in his wheelchair. But he couldn't even sit up straight and kept falling asleep.
His small room was full of people - family, and nurses, all talking around him, and he had slumped forward dozing again. I hated it all. Couldn't really cope and wanted to run away.
Instead I knelt down next to my father and stroked his hand to wake him. He came to slowly and gradually turned to look at me. He smiled, still dribbling, and quietly said ' You're such a nice girl.'
I started crying. I am crying now. It was the kindest, sweetest thing I can ever remember my father saying to me.
Pathetic really. To be moved to tears by such a small thing. Especially when the poor man was high as a kite. But he meant it, and that means the world to me.
As some of you know, things went from bad to worse.
But before his stroke, and the confusion that caused, we had a good summer. We got him home, and went to lunch on beautiful sunny beaches at least 4 days a week. We did his exercises every day, with my mother laughing in the background, and my father snapping at her to shut up.
In fact, from then on I became the only person my father was never mean to. Everyone else bore the brunt of his frustration and anger at his situation. The nursing team who came 4 times a day would get yelled at quite regularly, and my mother certainly took more than her fair share. And my brother... hmm my father never shouted at him, because until the final month, he hardly saw him. Not my words, but my father's when I would ask if he'd popped up when I wasn't there. It was the way he said it, gave me a hollow victory because at last maybe my father realised that I was worth as much as my brother.
We talked all day, every day. He chatted about his childhood, his schooling, his old girlfriends. He listened to stories of the kids. We watched Stargate, and Homes under the Hammer together each day, and discussed and or criticized as demanded.
And then his kidneys failed. Sitting in A&E at 3:30 in the morning whilst they tried to make things better, and for a couple of weeks they did. Except by then, his thoughts were a complete jumble.
About 5 days into that hospital stay, I arrived one morning and started with my usual 'Morning Dad!' but he wouldn't look at me, wouldn't speak to me.
I asked what the matter was, and he was so angry that he spat out about how he had been there 9 days and why hadn't I visited before now? I told him he had been there 5 days and that I had been there, every day, all day. 'Then why didn't you come in and see me?' he pleaded. I broke, and burst into tears and shouted back 'I did! I am always here!' then he was crying too, and begging for my forgiveness, explaining that he was so confused. I know he was, and it tore my heart in two. We cried together, dried our eyes together. And then ate breakfast together.
That was 10 days before he passed. They sent him home when there was nothing more they could do. I can't yet write about those last days.
I miss him. I miss our lunches. I miss our long chats. I miss him needing me. I miss him liking me. I miss caring for him. I never thought losing him would hurt like this.
I am glad I have tried to write some of this down. Maybe it will help. Me, not you - my posts are a glum fest mostly!! In fact if you are still reading, you're probably miserable as can be by now - sorry ;)