Happy Father’s Day, to the greatest Dad that we ever could have wished for!
I knew this day would be difficult but it’s somehow worse this year. Last year I did really well holding it together, this year I am falling apart. Such is the nature of grief: some days feature only a brief shower, a spattering of tiny droplets of distant memories or a favourite song or a faint smell or a faraway laugh, not enough to ruin my hairstyle but enough that I have to wipe my glasses; on some days there’s a drizzle, not enough to justify an umbrella but enough that I have to wear a light jacket, where it’s grey but not stormy, not aggressive, not plan-destroying, not enough to get under my skin, just quietly miserable; and some days, grief cascades from the sky in great fucking torrents, soaking me down to the bone, and the BBC issues a flood warning and I kayak down the road to the pub, if I can face getting out of bed at all.
Grief is ubiquitous but varies in its impact. It’s always there, it doesn’t leave, even on good days, even on great days, it simply exists but on various levels. Sometimes I don’t pay it any attention, sometimes it is all I see. Even when it isn’t raining, the air is always damp, and my life is forever shrouded in a sea-mist. In my handbag, I always carry a pair of sunglasses and an umbrella: I do this for 3 reasons, 1) because I’m British and the weather is bonkers, 2) because I have bipolar disorder and emotionally unstable personality disorder so I’m bonkers, and 3) because of grief. Because my grief is always misty and often rainy, but I have hope for sunny days when the grief is busy feeding the flowers and doesn’t make my mascara run.
I’m sitting here wearing one of your t-shirts (the one that’s older than I am) and your chunky grey jumper. I am exhausted and I can’t stop crying. I am waiting for 5 o’clock so that I can pour a Southern Comfort and drink to you, for you, for me. Turn my tears orange. There’s too much blood in my alcohol-stream. I’m trying so hard to be good but it’s terribly boring: I don’t want to die of boredom just because someone somewhere once said that I shouldn’t drink so much.
Father’s Day, 2016. Two years ago. You had been transferred to a recovery ward at FMCH after being in a 10-day coma in ICU in BGH. It was your 31st day in hospital. What was initially a 1 hour routine appointment had turned into a medical cock-up of immeasurable proportions, ending up in 7 weeks spent in 4 north London hospitals and then house-arrest until the day before you died. It was the consequences of this medical cock-up that would kill you in late October. But, there we were, Father’s Day, June 2016, at the hospital.
I bought you a card that had a cartoon on the front of men lying comatose in their beds on an ICU ward and in one bed there was a lizard – the doctor was doing his rounds and ticking off on his clipboard, “Coma, Coma, Coma, Coma, Coma, Chameleon” – I wrote inside, “Too soon for a coma joke?” You laughed and said, “Never.” Knowing you hadn’t had a drink for a month, (so along with recovering from all sorts of physical nastiness that nobody had anticipated, you had also gone through involuntary cold-turkey detox off booze and drugs) I snuck in a bottle of Southern Comfort and a couple of cans of R. Whites Lemonade (it always had to be R. Whites). I stole a few plastic cups from the staff kitchen and poured us your favourite drink. We cheersed, to you, on Father’s Day, to your recovery, to you being allowed home soon, to you getting back on your feet, to you being back in the pub for the start of the new football season.
We sipped our drinks and watched Back To The Future on the telly you had in your room. I sourced you a ham sandwich from the porter and ripped the crusts off, then chopped it into 1cm x 1cm squares with a plastic knife (difficult when the ham had a plasticky texture itself). I begged you to eat. You had to get better before they’d let you go home. You ate 4 squares and pushed it away. I could see you were tired.
I didn’t want to cry in front of you but I realised suddenly that you didn’t really know what was going on. I tried to make it a good Father’s Day, I really did. Your last Father’s Day.
I left and sat on the grass outside, had a cigarette and tried not to have a panic attack. I picked this flower. You can see how shaky my writing was there. I was frightened that I’d never have my old Dad ever again, that these doctors had essentially killed you as a person and just left a mess of a body, and you’d never be the same again. Sadly, I was right.
It’s after 5 o’clock now so I am going to fix us a drink. Your favourite. A double Southern Comfort. A dash of R. Whites. One ice cube. In your SoCo glass. Perfect. Grief is a deluge now. Time to batten down the hatches. Severe flood warnings in north London tonight. I am fucking heartbroken. You said it would get easier. When? When is it going to be easier? My existence is getting more painful and less purposeful with each passing day. I’m so tired, Pops.
Thank you for being the best Dad and best friend to me and T. We love you and miss you so much, more than all the tea in China.
Cheers, old man! Forever and a day xxxxxxx
Cheers to your old man. Here’s to grief fooking off and the sun coming back long enough to warm through to the core of our chilled bones. 💖
Cheers to you and your positivity! xx
I like how you described the persistence of grief. Because I think that’s something that people don’t realise, until they’ve gone through it themselves, that it’s always there. And days like Father’s/Mother’s Day are almost impossible to bear.
This was a vivid and emotional tribute to fathers that have left their daughters to carry on without them. We are never too old to miss our parents or to need them once more. I hope my daughters will sneak me in a barbecue sandwich and a good shot of bourbon when it’s my turn. You are the daughter we dad’s always wanted. I wish for you peace on this and every day after.
Thank you for such a lovely comment, your words are like a much-needed hug. I’m sure your girls would do a smashing job of looking after you, but hopefully that won’t be necessary for a long, long time! xx
And thank you HLR for such a heart gripping glimpse. We make the best of every day however long or short they may be.