Anniversaries

They say anniversaries – birthdays, holidays, etc – are difficult times when you’re grieving. Today’s my father’s birthday – or would have been, if he were still alive. For some reason it’s affected me more than I expected. I can’t even put my finger on why that is, though I’m trying to accept that perhaps it just is.

And yesterday was father’s day here, and I was reminded of all the good father’s out there, though I’m not even sure what a good one looks like. I was particularly stung by a message from our nation’s leader on that social networking site wishing “all” father’s a Happy Father’s Day. All fathers? Really? Even the crappy ones? Even the ones who do unspeakable things? She’s kidding, right? They don’t deserve a happy anything, in my book, let alone a day that recognises them.

Perhaps I’m feeling stung it’s because I didn’t have to ring him and wish him happy birthday, or feign interest in father’s day, which is something I did every year, though I’ve no idea why (except to keep the peace). Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have to buy him a gift only to have him tell me it was cr*p. Perhaps it’s because I realise how dysfunctional his behaviour was, and know now that I deserved better. I don’t know.

My mother also had her major surgery a few days ago. She’s doing ok, although it’s difficult seeing her so frail, doped up, in pain, attached to a bunch of machines. Much more difficult than I imagined. She was a little emotional today about my father’s birthday – go figure? – though I’m sure it was the drugs talking.

Perhaps I’m also stung because my father isn’t here to not give a sh*t about my mother’s health. He wouldn’t have. Couldn’t have cared less. Perhaps his physical absence is a reminder of all the times he was emotionally absent as well. I don’t know.

Last week the Wonder Therapist talked about me needing someone who will scoop me up at the end of a rough day. I needed scooping up today, it was a rough day. And yet, again, I was reminded there isn’t anyone.

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Where are the memories?

Life has been a whirlwind this past few weeks. I find myself with little time to myself, little time to reflect. I’m trying to catch up on blogging – give me time peeps!

The absence of my father in my life has been pretty unremarkable. There’s still a few things to tidy up, paperwork to be done, that sort of thing. Occasionally I’ve wondered what he’s doing and then I remember he’s dead, in a “oh yea, that’s right”, kind of way. Beyond that, nothing, really. The relief has continued, as has my mild frustration at playing the condolence game.

A few days ago I found myself wracking my brain, trying to think of positive memories of him. For some reason there aren’t any. Surely there must be some?

I remember one nice thing he used to do for Mum (it’s not record-breaking “nice”, but about the nicest I could come up with) – he used to take the dog for a walk in the morning, and would bring Mum a flower or a feather he found that she might like. That’s something nice, isn’t it?

Aside from that my memory is blank. The last gift he bought me of his own choosing was a book. I was three years old. That’s 27 years ago.

Of course my mother and I have taken some perverse pleasure in some of his behaviour over the years. English was his second language so he would often say or write something that wasn’t quite right – like the time he said he was “dying of salvation” instead of “dying of starvation”; and the time he wrote “retard” as his occupation, when he meant “retired”. Of course that one left Mum and I in hysterics. Doubled over, eye watering hysterics.

It’s sad I don’t have any positive memories. Have I blocked them out? Possibly there’s one thing – until about five years ago he used to wash my car on the weekends when I’d visit. Is that nice, or normal? I can’t tell. The line between normal, abnormal and nice is so f*cked up and blurred for me. That’s wrong.

A few bags and a suitcase

Mum and I went to her house last week to start sorting through my father’s belongings. I’ve been looking forward to this for years – throwing away all his old, stinky clothes, and the few other possessions he had. I thought it would be cathartic – another nail in his coffin, so to speak, and another way to exile him from my life. It was, although sadly the catharsis was lessened because my mother had already thrown away the worst of his sh*t when he went into the nursing home.

Thanks to the Wonder Therapist I was prepared for this to also be triggering. Mostly it wasn’t, although there were a couple of things that threw me for a minute – things like his old bucket hats (which reminded me of his foul moods), the smell of his wardrobe (and of him) and some skanky old toiletries, like shaving gear. Thankfully the worst of the triggers – his dirty, stinky fishing gear – had already gone, so I didn’t need to deal with that.

Strangely I kept a couple of things. Yea, I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy, right? It wasn’t anything triggering. Nothing that really even reminds me of him, just things I like. A pale blue shirt I bought in France, a couple of old cravats I never saw him wear (they’re in beautiful old vintage fabrics), and an old hair brush I’m not sure he never used (also vintage, with a fleur-de-lis pattern on the handle).

This whole process of sorting through his cr*p affected me more than I thought it would. Throwing away his eye glasses, realising he would never need them again, made me a bit sad – not for my father, but for what’s left of a person’s life in the end: a few garbage bags and a suitcase filled with old clothes to go to charity. I don’t know why I find this sad, but I do. Somehow it seems that 91 years of life – nearly 92 – should amount to more than that. The Wonder Therapist says it’s not uncommon to start thinking about this – about the meaning of life, our legacy, and what it all means. (F***ed if I know, that’s for sure.)

It’s amazing how exhausting this whole process was – even though I’m not saddened in the usual way, I’m still exhausted.

In which I break the power of flashbacks

I’ve been having a few flashbacks since my father died. Nothing too bad; nothing that makes me freak out. Just intrusive little things that put me off kilter for a few minutes (or linger annoyingly for a few hours). But none of the usual dissociative wigging out – or only momentarily.

*** TRIGGER WARNING ***

Mostly they’re flashbacks of horrible things he did to Mum and I, and the feelings of fear I felt then (and now), and of being small and vulnerable. Things like the times he was being violent, usually drunk, and Mum would sleep in my room, usually barricading us in with my chest of drawers. He’d try to break in, but never succeeded. Thankfully, god knows what would have happened if he did.

Or the time we were on holidays visiting family in the country – Dad was, as usual, in a foul mood and as Mum started to get in the car he drove off – leaving her half in, half out of the car, dragging a little bit as he took off, and yelling at her about how “stupid” she was. I get this knot in the pit of my stomach whenever I think about these things.

*** END OF TRIGGER WARNING ***

I was talking to the Wonder Therapist about this today. She said this isn’t uncommon following the death of an abuser. She suggested I should just tell her when this happens, and just blurt out the flashback. Really? Yea, really. I wasn’t sure if I could do this – the same old feelings of shame and embarrassment are still there, even after all this time. But I did do it, and you know what? Just telling her about the flashbacks took all the power out of them. Suddenly they were just memories – yucky memories, and still intrusive – but not as scary as they were. Amazing. I felt lighter and more powerful. I no longer felt like a victim, but a survivor. 🙂

I guess that’s why they call her the Wonder Therapist after all. 😉

I’m free!

I visited my father at the funeral home yesterday. My mother and I decided there would be no funeral. She used her illness as an excuse, but really, the truth of it is that neither of us could bear the hypocrisy of a funeral. People offering condolences, eulogising him – it all makes me want to vomit. So no funeral, but I did need proof that it’s real, so I visited him at the funeral home.

The funeral people had set aside a private room for me – just me and the coffin, the flowers and some candles. All very nice, or would have been if I was bereft in any way. The funeral home guy was all very serious and respectful – as they all have been – and I initially played serious in return. It’s almost comical us playing this game given the circumstances.

When I first saw the coffin I couldn’t believe it was him – it looked so small! This might sound weird, but I needed proof. I needed to see his body to know that he really is dead. Funeral home guy lifted the lid of the casket and left me alone.

I admit I was a little scared at first – I’ve never seen a dead body before, and I wasn’t sure how I would react. When I first looked at him, it kind of took my breath away – he looked so pale, so small and so powerless. That feeling lasted barely a nanosecond before I realised it really was him. He really is dead!

I told him he was a son of a b**** and that he’d made my life hell (and my mother’s). I told him I wasn’t sorry that he was dead, and that I hoped he’d rot in hell.

I cried a bit – at least another ten tears since the six I shed on Sunday when he died. They weren’t tears of sadness, though, but tears over the wrongs he committed, and tears of relief.

I stood there for a minute, looking out over the gardens. Something felt wrong. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, and then I realised – it was the first time I’d been in a room with my father and he couldn’t answer back; couldn’t be abusive. The first time I’d been in a room with him and the air wasn’t thick with tension. It felt unusually peaceful.

I realised then that I’m free. I am finally, and forever, free. He can never hurt me again. I can’t tell you how great that feels! 🙂

This is it.

My father died today. Finally, after many posts wondering if it was time, today was the day.

The nursing home rang early this morning (6.20am to be precise. On a Sunday. Grrr.) and said he wasn’t well and I “should” visit. Even with the DNR in place they rang to see what they should do. Idiots.

I’m feeling fine. Mostly I’m relieved, but there’s a part of me who’s sad-ish – mostly because I don’t care, and because I never had a decent father. I’m sure that over time this will bring up a whole lot of stuff, so I’m trying to just go with whatever I’m feeling and whatever’s happening.

The thing I’m finding most difficult right now is the charade. People saying “I’m so sorry for your loss” and me thinking “yea. right.”

I am so MAD

I am so incredibly MAD. I had the misfortune of seeing my father this weekend – for what will be the last time. He hasn’t seen my mother or me for weeks (three weeks for Mum, twice that for me). Would you believe he didn’t even have the decency to ask how Mum is? (Nor me, but I gave up expecting that a long time ago.)

We saw Mum’s specialists this week and the news is mixed. While her original tumours have shrunk, it looks like some new ones have also cropped up. This is clearly not good news. The medicos aren’t quite sure what’s going on, so she’ll probably have surgery in a week or two.

My father knew she was getting test results. He knew she’s been feeling like road kill – you can see that from her face. And still he didn’t even ask how she is, just made snide remarks about how “busy” she must be.

To state the bleeding obvious, he is a selfish, manipulative creep. I know I’ve said that countless times, but this is the proverbial straw. That is the last time I see him. He can rot in hell.