The story of alcoholic liver failure

My dad’s death changed my life.

I had learned to live with his depression and alcoholism, but I am still struggling to learn to live without him. The memory I am clinging onto right now is Christmas 2005, the last time I really spent time with him, and the last Christmas my family shared with him. He didn’t drink the whole time, and it was wonderful. The last memory I have of him alive and well is sharing a taxi as I went to the airport to return to London. He could only go so long without drinking, and got out to go to the off-licence, paid for my taxi, and kissed me goodbye. I didn’t see him again until the last hours of his life.

He could be aggressive, angry, amazingly self pitying, violent, abusive, embarrassing, hilarious, political, sensitive, proud, loving, mad, silly. He was a deeply flawed, wonderful person.

I’m reading over old journal entries, starting from when my dad was admitted to hospital and ending the week after he died. That whole period lasted just over a month.
Masochistic, yes. But oddly comforting because he was still there, and for a while, I had dreadful hope. Sometimes I wonder how we actually got through that time as it was the most heartbreaking situation I’ve ever experienced, and I’m certain it was the same for my family. It is also reminding me how great my friends were when he was in hospital and of how brilliantly my family dealt with it. It was the one time my mum cut out her bullshit, and my big sister Paula, who was in hospital with him the most, was amazingly strong. Even my dad dealt with it with his customary cantankerous humour.

I found some photos I took on my camera phone on the day of his funeral.  In the PD (a pub) afterwards.  Actually having an alright time.  They put on a spread for us, for free, like they did when my granda died a few months before.

This is me- I had been plastered in make up that morning, and cried it all off.

Paula and her friend Adeline who came after the funeral:

Another of my sisters, Michelle:

I’m going to put the entries here, unedited, for the benefit of people who have been in that similar, not knowing what to believe or think situation. I’m also going to put normal entries here, that don’t mention him much, because that Life Goes On. I also want to put this here for my own bizarre reasons in that I like stamping my dad all over the world, no matter which way. It will be a very long entry.

If any of you manage to read this whole entry I will give you a prize.

What surprises me, but also doesn’t, is that a lot of the entries I wrote in that time were happy and hopeful because it was generally a nice time in my life, before it all kicked off. I liked my job, had a beautiful boyfriend and things, usual brain weirdness aside, were good. It wasn’t until the very end that I began to really believe I was going to lose my dad. The further down I read, the more I remember what that time felt like.

People ask me why I am so explicit and forthcoming with things like this. I don’t want my dad to be forgotten. And I blog like this because I want the stuff we went through to mean something, even if it’s just one person in the world who felt the same.

Anyway, click below.

The day before life got complicated


14th April 2006

We came second in the Old Dairy pop quiz last night and won eight pints of your finest lager. It was nice, but Francesca left before tasting sweet victory, but not before telling us about the increasingly bizarre Jaime Harding saga.

Today I’m going to the aquarium, so have a nice day off, schoolkids.

Dead stations

15th April 2006

Tonight will be spent sitting in my pyjamas alone, as I don’t have enough money to go out and see my friends and Rob is recording until Monday. Boo. But I have Doctor Who to look forward to! I am still tempted to go out and buy an Easter egg for myself, but am too broke, so will resist.

Yesterday, we didn’t get to see the fishes, not even a scraggly little sprat. The aquarium is about a million pounds at the moment, really it is, so we chewed some bacon and decided to just go for a walk instead.

From the bottom of my street, we went on the Parklands Walk (according to TFL) or Northern Heights (according to train-lover websites). This walk follows the route of old railways in my native area- from Stroud Green, where I live, to Alexandra Palace.

It is a muddy jape down the backstreets, over chipped bridges and into dilapidated parks that once housed Crouch End station. The route was quite like this one:

It was a wintering walk but the blossoms were in bloom. A few times there were butterflies and ladybirds hiding in the overgrowth. If I hadn’t lost my camera charger I would have taken photos like this:

This is the bridge over Upper Tollington Park, where Angel and Ed live.

Stroud Green Station.

Where the Stroud Green platforms were, and the station house. On the side of the station house is a lot of graffiti.

Platform level of Crouch End station. When we were walking through it there were lots of people graffitiying the walls. They are allowed to do so, apparently.

Hiding in the tunnels! This scared me.

The platforms at Crouch End Station, with the little steps up.

Tunnel mouths coming up to Highgate station- these are usually closed but were open and walking through them was scary.

Best of all, though, once we had got through the tunnels we found old Highgate station. Silent, abandoned but definitely the old station. The platforms, station house and stairs were intact to the underground tunnel. Again, no camera but here are some photos:

On the high level station tunnels- Rob went for a wee in there and came back worrying about bats.

Station platforms.

Steps down to the booking office.

I was really excited by this time- I love abandoned stations and the like. After calming down, we went to The Woodman and had something to drink because we’d been walking for about three hours. The barman’s first words to me were- “I shall call you Pixie and Pixie shall be your name!” He was cool.

Then we decided we were going to carry on with the walk up to Alexandra Palace, so I called Greg and razorcheekbones to meet up with them. The walk to Alexandra Palace was less remarkable, save for the beautiful views from the hills.

It was lovely seeing Greg and Carmen again. Carmen showed me Greg’s book, which looks excellent. We were with them briefly before heading back to Finsbury Park on the bus, where we had dinner before going home and watching three films in a row- Independance Day, Strictly Ballroom and Vampire Circus.

I woke up this morning at 10am to Rob making me tea and saying good bye. Then I fell asleep again and here I am, a little bit bleary and wishing I had some money to go out and play. But oh well! Doctor Who now in an hour!

Later that evening.

Thirty minutes

[protected] April 15th, 2006 (08:58 pm)

I’m waiting for my mum to call me back. That’s in half an hour. So I have thirty minutes to decide whether to go behind their backs and ring an ambulance.

My dad’s an alcoholic, you know this. My brother is describing him as “a Simpson”. He’s been in bed for a few days, now, barely able to eat, move or talk and is bright yellow. He’s been pissing blood and it sounds like he has liver failure, or severe liver damage. This has a high mortality rate and I don’t want him to die.

I’m going to ring NHS direct and if they tell me I should, I’m phoning an ambulance.

On hold, still on fucking hold.

Fuck NHS direct

[protected] April 15th, 2006 (09:28 pm)

The ambulance is on its way. I am scared he is dying, I don’t want him to die. Mum says he’s too weak to put up a fight so I hope they take him, I hope he will be okay.

[protected] April 15th, 2006 (09:44 pm)

He won’t fucking go. My mum rang me and I heard the ambulance men in the background trying to talk him into going. He won’t fucking go. I spoke to the ambulance men- they said, yes, he is going to die if he’s not hospitalised but he can’t be forced into it. So his fucking stubborness is going to kill him. If he doesn’t go, he’s going to fucking die. I’m waiting for my mum to ring me back again.


[protected] April 15th, 2006 (11:34 pm)

Okay, a proper update to all this then.

My dad refused to go in the ambulance when it came. I was on the phone and one of the men explained to me that it was against the law to force him, but also said it looked bleak. They had to leave, but before they did, they phoned the out of hours doctor.

I talked to my dad and he sounded fucking awful. I told him he would die if wasn’t treated, but he wouldn’t believe me.

The doctor came and reiterated what I said, that yes, he will die untreated. He also tried to scare him and told him that if he coughed or sneezed he could choke on his own blood.

My dad had a fit at everyone in the house, but is now with the doctor and is waiting for the ambulance to return. He is being admitted to hospital with suspected liver failure which is alcohol related, but now in the dire situation that it looks quite far gone. Without being fatalistic, it doesn’t look good because he’s had liver problems for many years, which have been untreated. So because of that, my family have had their eye on liver health for some time, always looking out for the signs of him worsening, but he has worsened dramatically, and wouldn’t let himself be treated.

He’ll be having blood tests so we’ll know more then. Either way, with acute liver damage like this, I think his options are transplant. Also a problem is his history of alcoholism, and if they’ll actually give him a transplant or not.

We need to know more so I am probably jumping to conculsions, but I know my dad. If he continues to drink, he will die. In light of all this, there’s a chance he’ll die anyway. So I don’t really know what to think now. I’m glad I phoned the ambulance.

Stupid fucker. I always knew his fucking drinking would kill him. After 25 years, looks like it’s going to happen.

Update two

[protected] April 16th, 2006 (12:21 pm)

So far this morning have spoken to my mum, the doctor and my sister. Well, I say Doctor but I mean Sister. She was cagey with me but told me what my mum told me- apparently my has liver failure and his kidneys are not working, and they’re doing more tests and stuff to see if he has kidney failure. He has also very low potassium which means he has having weird heart stuff and could have heart failure, but they’re working on that.

The Sister says he’s very unwell- I asked her, in that bald kind of way I do- if he’d die, and she just reiterated that he is very unwell. As my mum understands he might die, he’s sort of shutting down and not fighting anything at all.

He had really low blood pressure too but apparently that is improving a bit so that’s something.

So still don’t have much information, they are keeping him stable and doing a shitload of tests on him.

My mum has asked us to come home but I don’t think I can. Paula is going home on Tuesday but I think it’s a bit premature- I don’t have enough annual leave to go and I think it’s premature to use compassionate leave. What if it gets more critical and I can’t go home?

Stupidly I’m internally giggling- I was bringing Rob home next month to meet my parents and friends, and now that is not going to happen and if I go home soon it won’t be for a happy reason.

Rob was great last nigiht, he came over after recording and gave me a massive cuddle and stayed up to talk to me. He’s at recording again today but I’m off to my friend’s for dinner, then my sister is coming over (I was supposed to just be going to hers, but she didn’t sleep last night and needs to sleep) so that’s nice.

I think it’s mad premature to use compassionate leave right now so I’m going to wait and just keep in touch and hope for the best, really.

Just saying it might even make it happen

[protected] April 16th, 2006 (09:30 pm)

Things seem more hopeful at the hospital- I rang them and spoke to a nurse there, said he was stable, which is ace. My doctor friend Andrew filled me in on some things which was helpful.

I’d very much like some money for Nandos or dirty chicken, I’m hungry as hell as there’s not a bean in the flat to eat. I am going to watch Meet the Parents and vegetate with tea and relax. Yes. Relaxing is excellent.

The sun’s coming out

[protected] April 18th, 2006 (10:33 am)
current location: Holborn
Ultra news! I’m:: okay, really

It’s a Tuesday. That means that tonight is Most Haunted night, which consists of Rob reading me that “historical information” which appears below Yvette Fielding’s noble chin (I am completely blind- if “completely” means “a bit” and “blind” means “short-sighted”) and me calling Derek Acorah a fraud. Fun times!

I’ve started off well this week. I’m rather annoyed to be back at work- I keep scrowling at office chairs and tutting at phones as though it’s their fault and that I’ve been summoned by some paperclip filled Tardis back to this time and place. About thirty seconds after I sat down an unexpected sneeze hurled itself at my monitor, which led to a rushed mopping-up operation and a vague sense of emptiness.

Have I told you how poor I am having had one week’s wages to live on for a month? No? Well, I am and it’s about 383838101-1.191 Stress I don’t sodding need. Hooray!

Also annoying me: The fact that this time last week I was a Bursting-with-Good-Intentions QUIT SMOKER whereas now I am an On-Ten-A-Day-Smoker, however, those ten are rolled cigarettes and really, could you blame me. By this time NEXT week I intend to be a QUIT SMOKER again, instead of a Very Much Cut Down smoker.

I’m more cheerful than I was yesterday. Yesterday was a horrible, bleak little day, drifting from misinformation to no information and clinginess to buggerorfness. However, nothing seems as abjectly hopeless as it has done. My sister is going home today so I will be talking to her a lot as I trust her far more than my hysterical mother. Then I will decide what to do.

The general consensus now seems to be, “He might die but probably won’t. However, if he doesn’t, he has dialysis, a long stay in hospital and sobreity to look forward to. Oh, and if he doesn’t stop drinking then he will die”.

So, er, it’s going to be fun. I’m most worried about him drinking again, as we’ve tried just about everything for him to stop, but hey ho. I hope a near-death experience might be the kick in the nuts he needs.

We’re all a bit of a mess at the moment, my immediate family, for its troubles, are oddly close-knit. We’ve been in tears, then been joking, then been really pissed off, then been bleakly humourous, saying, “Well, at least we don’t have to worry about him topping himself now”. The past few days have been horrible and there are going to be a few horrible months ahead. But there’s been plenty of horrible times before, so it will be okay. At the moment, I feel utterly helpless, but I don’t feel guilty for going against his wishes and getting in medical help. I keep feeling as though I’m going to cry and then remember what I said to someone the other day who said they were sorry that this was happening to me- “No, it’s happening to him”, which is true, but then I want to cry because I don’t want my dad to suffer like this.

I love my dad very much, but I am really angry at him and quite angry at my mother for not having gotten help sooner. I know he is stubborn and abusive but fact is, given another month, he would have died. My little brother, sister and mum has suffered enough with finding his body when he’s hurt himself but finding him dead is not something I want them to go through.

He has been an utterly selfish and irresponsible prick but I hope now that if he doesn’t die he will really wake up.

And I am alright at the moment, which is largely due to Rob and the good wishes and thoughts and phonecalls of you lot, so thank you, very much.

Anyway, this maudlin nonsense, eh? I’m tired, in a million ways, so let’s leave the cut and go back to the jollity of the main journal entry, ho!

My cat, Tallulah, has had kittens! KITTENS! So when I go home I have KITTENS to play with, which is fantastic. Apparently there is a little white one who has a black spot on its face, and that sounds adorable. I am now sneakily scouting items of clothing that are capable of concealing small felines.

In work today I am mostly copying and pasting. This is boring and frustrating. The words look fine to begin with but with repetition, they completely degrade and lose all meaning, for example-


Copy and paste that a hundred odd times and you forget:

a) what an “earth” is
b) what a “centre” is and
c) what a sentence is.

Then you go back and read over all one hundred as it looks so wrong that you can’t believe those words even exist.


[protected] April 18th, 2006 (01:32 pm)

current location: Embarassment
Ultra news! I’m:: thiefy

I went into the kitchen and nicked a biscuit from a deaf woman. And got caught!

Quote of the day from my sister

[protected] April 19th, 2006 (11:10 am)

Ultra news! I’m:: amused

My sister Paula has lovingly travelled back to Belfast to be with my mum at the moment. She rang me yesterday to give me an update on my dad after visiting him in hospital. Tactful and sensitive as she is, her update was approximately thus:

“You know those kids who turned orange after drinking too much Sunny D? He looks like that, with a big Buddha belly (medical fans- he has a very swollen abdomen) and massive legs and a skinny face. He hasn’t got a clue what’s going on and when he saw me his first words were, “When are you going home? Anyway, I don’t think he’s going to die or anything stupid but he might, but he won’t, you see? He looks crap, like he’s sixty (fans of my family history- my dad is 47), I’m glad you’re not here. I’ll ring you tomorrow! Bye!”

Now I’m imagining my dad looking like a Proddy Shrek. Oh god, what will my granny say?!

Fuck it I know I’m moaning and there are worse things in life but this is not my life it is his

[protected] April 21st, 2006 (07:36 pm)

I just spoke to my dad for the first time since he was admitted. My sister called and passed the phone over. He’s not angry at me, he said he needed to be in hospital, but that it was a surprise.

He sounds so fucking awful. He sounds broken and weak and fucked, he’s not eating, told me his legs are all swollen, tried to joke about the tests he was going through, then his voice just broke, he started wheezing, couldn’t even complete a sentence. Said he’s yellow and is using a wheelchair because he can’t walk.

He’s getting a blood transfusion too, I don’t know why. Said they’re doing stuff with his kidneys.

He couldn’t talk for long, couldn’t sustain the breath to. He sounds about eighty, he sounds like an old broken man.

My dad is forty seven! How did this happen to him? Why couldn’t we stop this happening to him? I don’t know, he’s like a memory, we’ve been grieving for years because we lost who he is a long time ago. I can’t believe this is because of drinking. All this time and we were all worried he was going to kill himself and instead he’s just a fucking streak of sickness and we can’t stop it or do anything about it. Can’t pick him up from bathroom floors, can’t hide the pills. It’s happened, it’s happening and we can’t do anything about it.

I need to go over there. May 18th is when I am going over and Rob is going with me because I need him. Fucking flight costs are rising by the day and I terrified I won’t be able to afford it. I need to pay for Rob too. But I need to get over there.

He’s fucking forty seven. And I can’t blame him, no matter how much I try to, I am too sad for him to blame him. I have been so sad for him for so long and now he is as vulnerable physically as he was mentally. That is my fucking dad. I don’t even recognise his voice now. But I love him, or who he was or who he still might be and I don’t want to lose him like this. I don’t want the rest of his life to be more suffering. It’s not fucking fair.

About an hour ago I was staring into a mirror and thinking about cutting my face off, as I often do. Not really thinking, as I never do, about it putting me in hospital or people staring at me in horror. Just wanting it to be gone, to rip the ugliness out of me. Is my family all about self-destruction? Are we all just going to shrink away, be wrapped up in tinfoil and thrown into a hole? Why are we like this, why do we love so much but still end up slaves to our addictions, our depressions? And it is killing him, and for fifteen years I’ve been watching it kill him.

Fuck, I don’t know. I just want to hold his hand. I want to make the past twenty years of his life better. It is so fucking sad. I have a polaroid of my mum and dad when they were in their early twenties, happy, beautiful, in love. And now look at them. It is not fair. I just want to hold his hand and make it better, make it better for all of us.

Instead of tearing off my face I am going to completely cover it in make-up, I’ve been crying for about twenty minutes. Somewhere cowering in the corner of my mind is the dad who taught me how to read, used to steal books from school for me, pens, paper, taught me to write, taught me to love writing, bought us big 25p bars of chocolate, cooked us real chips and put a bit plate of butter and bread on the table. Who looked after us when my mum was in hospital, stopped drinking during that time just to get us up for school in the morning. I am so jealous of people whose parents are not like this, who have pure, clear happy memories from weekends ago, not years and years and years. Even if they die like parents do and are not meant to the sadness is from missing them, remembering the happy times. And all I have is a small box of treasures and a whole lot of trash. All he has is the same and it fucking breaks me. We are so similar, we wanted to twirl and burn but instead just broke. I want to tell him that and tell him it will be okay.

I am fucking crying again and I am going to put make-up on. This is not fair on him or anyone. I wish so much this did not have to happen. I hope if he comes through it he changes, stops drinking and doesn’t meditate upon the years of waste.

There’s too much death- Vicky’s anniversary in four days, my grandad, Andy, my dog, over and over there is too much death and people dying when they shouldn’t, and there’s too much death.

I want Rob to come over and for us to stop being so cold with each other. I know there are important things going on but it’s not a reason to be so distant and achingly considerate. I just want skin and scent and something alive to hope for.

Should been a son

[protected] April 26th, 2006 (03:52 pm)


Ultra news! I’m:: anxious

Talking to my mother on the phone there, I realise I’m one of the most no-nonsense people I know, considering- well, considering.

I rang her up to ask about my dad and she was a-quivering with martyrdom, “Oooh, he’s going to die!” etc, and my mouth snaps open and shut like a trap. “No, he isn’t. Stop being so ridiculous”. I talk to her sometimes like a mother would speak to her infant, but there it is. She also said daddy is trying to check himself out all the time, to which I responded, “He had better bloody not! Stop him!” and because everyone sort of lets him do what he wants, my mum’s quite glad I’ll be home soon to boss people around.

My mum’s melodramatic- far more than me. We have opposite extremes. When things are very wrong in my life, I pretend there’s nothing wrong. She does exactly the opposite. She also acts quite victimised. I’m rather self-pitying but I don’t feel victimised, and I can’t abide it when she goes on one of her white hanky holding sprees. I feel I blame others rather too little, she too much. That’s genetics, though. I guess I subconsciously rebelled against her. You wouldn’t know it to see me in the mornings- cup of tea and a fag first thing, just like her.

Anyway, my dad is no better or worse. He’s just going down for a scan on his stomach. They’re trying to sort his liver out but bad news there is that nothing’s working on it so far. He is looking forward to meeting Rob, though. Bit silly, really, the circumstances being as they are. But he insists. Won’t really be the ideal meeting, but at least he won’t be drunk and abusive. He probably won’t bond with Rob over David Bowie and Monty Python either- my dad’s long since forgotten about the things he loves.

Still, eh. The hospital’s opposite my old school so two birds and that. I could show Rob the spot in the hospital where I used to have lunch. I’d sneak out when I was in fourth year and sit on some old plastic chair that was liable to collapse beneath you with my nice goth friend, Jonny. He used to work in the hospital. He later changed his name by deed poll to General Megatron Bison.

I’m looking forward to going home, but apprehensive. It will be nice because we’re staying for two nights in a B&B and only one at my parents’ house. There’s nowhere for us to stay there, and I never had my own bedroom or bed so it wouldn’t be pleasant anyway. For the time being, I’ll be in Paula’s. We’re meeting up with Stephen and the like, and also Tracie and Andrew.

I told Tracie I’d take Rob down the Falls Road to point out Interesting Stuff, and she insists we also go down the Shankill Road for “balance”. Bloody Prods. Balance? I’m a Republican!

Apprehensive for the obvious reasons, natch. Still, eh? Happy times!

More dad news

[protected] April 28th, 2006 (01:36 pm)

Ultra news! I’m:: anxious

I know you don’t care but hoi! I’m writing it anyway for my sake!

Heh heh, my dad is being used as a case study for medical students. Apparently he’s quite proud of this!

I just spoke to my sister and he’s having a bit of a radge at the moment as he thinks he’s resembling my grandad more everyday. Not in a twinkly-eyed, growing-old-chuckling-in-jumpers way, but in the wasting-away-being-fed-through-a-tube-hair-falling-out-can’t-walk kinda way.

My sister’s getting a little bit upset because they’re doing a million tests on him and he’s not at all improving. My dad is getting right narky about the tube. He tried to tell them to go feck themselves but they insisted.

He’s apparently still bright yellow and infection has set in pretty badly, even through they’re giving him anti-biotics. They’re lancing crap off his feet, then draining them so he can try to walk again, man!

(Sigh. My dad is only forty-seven and he did this to himfuckingself.)

So, I see him on the 18th, which will be- can I say nice? It will be nice, but also, y’know, horrible. I’m not sure what to expect- conflicting reports from sisters, nurses and mothers. Paula’s just a bit aghast at how weak and different he is, the nurses are evasive and my mother liberally sprinkles the word “dying” into every conversation we have. He’ll still definitely be in hospital, but if he gets out, he cannot drink. He drinks and then he’s actual-in-a-box dead. He was going to be actual-in-a-box dead anyway if he hadn’t been taken to hospital. Another fortnight and bang, no dad anymore. Scary.

Best thing I have ever done in my entire life, I think, was phone an ambulance for him. It started the ball rolling, and I hope at some stage that alcoholic self-deception he has might be obliterated by the FLASHING NEON KNOWLEDGE of, “YOU WILL DIE”. I hope some celestial Madame leans forward from heaven, flicks her hair from her face and smacks him one. That would be brilliant.

Up the Dunmurry Punks

[protected] May 6th, 2006 (12:57 am)

Ultra news! I’m:: stressed

Between slabs of various worrying news, my mother told me about a fight she had with a neighbour.

Our estate is proper out on the street, “I’ll bate your ballex in” fare. So the neighbour Cathy was giving out shite to my mum about something or other, and proceeded in a smear campaign against her and everyone else. Her basic argument?

“They think they’re better than me because they have bay windows. Well, I’m from Ballymurphy!”

(Ballymurphy is a Republican area in Norn Ireland. It is a shithole, almost worse than Poleglass).

True dat, my mum and others have decorated their council housing with attractive glass.

I’ve been talking to my mum most of the night for a few reasons-

She panicked and wanted us all back home. The doctors took her into the wee room and said he wasn’t getting better. Paula and I both thought it was mainly because she was lonely, and she was overreacting, so I called the hospital who told me my dad is still seriously ill but there you go. I physically can’t afford to get over there right now, but I’m there in 2 weeks. Paula is going over on Sunday.

Second bit of news was casually broken to me like this:

Mum (across the room, shouting at Liam, who was on the phone to me): “Oh Liam, tell Seaneen her aunt Ginny died”.

Liam relays this news, with a perfunctory, “Sorry”. He didn’t really know her, Michelle, Paula and I did. Quite sad, there, mostly for my granny and daddy. Granny’s now lost her husband, her sister and is losing her son in the space of six months. I’ll ring her tomorrow to make sure she’s alright. I’ll resist temptation to bitch about the rest of the family who didn’t give a fuck about us or my daddy’s drinking and called us a bunch of cunts, and now they’re shedding their crocodile tears and looking down their nose at us. They’re a family of heavy drinkers, couldn’t spot a seriously fucked up alcho, even if he threatened to kill you at your granda’s wake.

Other news is that the Dirty Blood in the family is having a baby. The Dirty Blood is the dirty blonde, Fiona, who married my uncle Michael. She’s a Protestant. My uncle Donal says that the baby will be jaffa on the inside. I say it’ll be marching down the Andersonstown Road in a sash with a drum by the time it’s fifteen.

Nice news there. I’ve mixed feelings about my trip home. It was originally an, “Introducing everyone to Rob” trip and now it’s, “My dad is really ill” trip. Still, the two are mixing, sort of. My mum and dad are really looking forward to meeting him. My sisters have apparently been praising him a lot, which is excellent, because they hate everyone. And Rob has been absolutely wonderful through all of this.

I’m half-terrified of seeing my dad- he looks like my granda did apparently, and we know how that story ended. But I want to see him, and my mum and the kids. Liam won’t go down to see my da unless I’m there with him. Understandable, as my daddy called him a cunt and told him it was all his fault before he was carted off. It’s going to take a good decade or two before Liam understands the old cliché, “It’s the drink talking”, there.

Yay for Friday nights!

Bonnie and Clyde

[protected] May 6th, 2006 (02:57 pm)

Ultra news! I’m:: hedgehog!
Down my ear is:: Soir de Fete- Yann Tiersen

I’ve been mentioned in a roundabout sort of way in The Guardian today. They reviewed Kettering, and cite my “revealing interview with Neil Innes”. Hurrah!

Last night, my security light keep clicking on and off. Nothing unusual there, particularly, but it was followed by an unnerving scratching. Rob went to have a look and exclaims that it’s a big rat.

I am terrified of rats so start to panic somewhat. But on closer inspection through the frosted glass, Rob concedes, no, it’s not a rat, it’s something else.

After much fussing from me, he went out to investigate. What was my animal intruder?


I have never seen a hedgehog before so I excitedly threw on my leopardprint dressing gown and stepped into the 3am night.

A quite large hedgehog was snuffling around the garden (I say garden, it’s actually a small carpark, but it’s my outside space) to try and get away from Mr. Whiskers (the cat, god knows its real name). It had thwappy little claws and a long nose. It was a bold little thing, it didn’t get defensive once and just seemed curious. Eventually it fell asleep behind a bit of wood and this morning it’s gone.

My first hedgehog!

I thought you’d died alone a long long time ago

[protected] May 6th, 2006 (08:53 pm)

Happy thoughts tonight, as I should be getting ready for Stay Beautiful. Bloody shuffle went onto “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. It’s the song my dad wants played at his funeral. About five seconds in to the organ I find my head in my hands and tears pouring down my face.

It is inevitable that he is going to die. My mum keeps saying it, and I keep writing her off as melodramatic, but it’s true, isn’t it? He isn’t geting better at all, just lying there, insides completely screwed and his mind drifting further. If he doesn’t die in a hospital bed, he’s going to die at home. If he gets out of hospital and lives, he’ll have no life to live, it’s all broken, all gone, and he’ll end up drinking again, behind our backs, behind everyone’s, and die then. My dad, it’s so unfair.

I’m still going to say if, though, if he dies. And if he dies, I’ll make sure he gets his wish and that “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is played.

But I’ll also make sure his favourite David Bowie song is played too, “When I Live my Dream”.

When I live my dream, I’ll take you with me
Riding on a golden horse
We’ll live within my castle, with people there to serve you
Happy at the sound of your voice

Baby, I’ll slay a dragon for you
Or banish wicked giants from the land
But you will find, that nothing in my dream can hurt you
We will only love each other as forever
When I live my dream

When I live my dream, I’ll forgive the things you’ve told me
And the empty man you left behind
It’s a broken heart that dreams, it’s a broken heart you left me
Only love can live in my dream

I’ll wish, and the thunder clouds will vanish
Wish, and the storm will fade away
Wish again, and you will stand before me while the sky will paint an overture
And trees will play the rhythm of my dream

When I live my dream, please be there to meet me
Let me be the one to understand
When I live my dream, I’ll forget the hurt you gave me
Then we can live in our new land

Till the day my dream cascades around me
I’m content to let you pass me by
Till that day, you’ll run to many other men
But let them know it’s just for now
Tell them that I’ve got a dream
And tell them you’re the starring role
Tell them I’m a dreaming kind of guy
And I’m going to make my dream
Tell them I will live my dream
Tell them they can laugh at me
But don’t forget your date with me
When I live my dream

It’s so unfair. Why did he have to do this to himself? I have to be strong for everyone, my mum, my kids, be the no-nonsense-stop-your-melodrama one, but this is completely breaking my heart.

Filters and that

[protected] May 10th, 2006 (10:51 am)

First off, I’m going to make a filter for when I talk about my dad here- filtering for the reason that I know some people have lost parents and might not want to hear about it, and also some people are not going to really want to read about it because it’s depressing.

So let me know in the comments if you want to be on the filter or not. Thanks.

Secondly, in dad news, he’s getting blood transfusions now- god knows why, really. My sister and I agreed last night, somewhat jokingly, that it’s best that we not talk to our medical friends about it. Her friend is a nurse and my friend is a doctor, and discussing it with them proves disheartening. As Paula says, not everyone is the same, and what can they say without actually seeing him themselves? I got so freaked out the other day because I told Andrew in as much detail as I could about my dad, from what doctors have told us, and he told me about a similar case he’d had. Sounded dead hopeful- he said he was being drained and given antibiotics for six months in hospital, which doesn’t sound serious, but then he died. But that was someone else and I’m sure he wasn’t exactly the same as my dad.

But still, as Paula says, he’s only forty-seven and it would be stupid of him to die. The doctors have told us that he needs a transplant because his damage is irreversible, but he won’t be getting one due to being an alcoholic and also the massive waiting list. He’s also too ill to receive one, his body can’t really cope with it. But they can do stuff, they’re draining him and giving him transfusions and stuff, and he has a breathing mask and walked to the toilet by himself yesterday and is apparently swearing at the telly and telling Paula off for not leaving him money for taxis. Surely if he was going to die, things would be a bit more dramatic? He’s in hospital, he can’t get worse, can he? Even my mum’s stopped her melodrama now, she’s being all sensible.

So I’m with my sisters now and refuse to accept that he will actually die, even if the odds are against him quite a bit. The odds are always against us and we’re always okay, and he’s my dad and he’ll be okay too. At least if I believe this I can start sleeping properly again.

I’ve been looking up all the liver stuff and I found this– stem cell stuff for liver disease, so maybe transplantation isn’t the only option?

Paula says I must brace myself before I see him, but I saw my granda so I can take my dad. He’s apparently got a ton of tubes down him, so I imagine he looks like Doctor Octavius. I’m more worried about having to keep a lot from him, but I know telling him wouldn’t do any good, he doesn’t need more to worry about.

Anyway, just musing while I try to telepathically communicate with my tummy to tell it to calm down.

I do

[protected] May 12th, 2006 (12:18 am)

Tags: ,

The stuff with my dad is really getting me down, I have to admit. It’s not just because he’s ill, it’s because I feel we’ve lost so much, and because I feel he has, too. It kills me, the fact that all he had to do was stop drinking, and this wouldn’t have happened. I have a photo in my bag of my mum and dad when they were first going out, young and happy and alive, and I wonder what happened. I’ve seen a home video he and his mates shot when they were in their early twenties- all picture, no sound but A Whiter Shade of Pale played over the top, and it makes me hurt that he wants that played at his funeral, as if that’s how he wants to be remembered.

It kills me to remember times when he was my dad, my proper dad- if not taking you out fishing and ruffling your hair but at least trying to scare you with whelks and asking to read all the stories you wrote, telling the people in work how his daughter is going to be famous writer one day, and once crying when he saw me in a dress with my hair down and little DMs, standing back to look at me all awkward and thirteen and a goth, saying I was such a beautiful girl. He was always a drunk but there were times when he was sober, for a few hours, and they were good times, watching Monty Python in the sitting room, him pointing out trivia about them, running into my room when I was listening to some crap and shouting that there was a David Bowie documentary on, turn the telly over, that’s real music.

Those times are so far gone now, he has just been dying in front of my eyes for such a long time, it has broken my heart. I love him, so much, because I remember him. I have been grieving for years for my dad, and I never thought it would be so hard to really face the time when I had to properly grieve, and realise that the hope was gone, that there is no time when he will stop drinking and come back to us, no more times of him ever making us proper chips and buttered bread, sweet tea and insisting we eat it at the table. We have all changed, now, it has changed us. The kids never really knew him properly, someone they saw every day, because all he did was shout and scream at them, and my family has slowly disintegrated, but are still united by a fierce love and knowing that we have all suffered, yet here we are.

But it is excuriatingly sad to see this happen when he is so young, and to realise why he is here now, because he suffered so badly from depression, which he passed on to us all, and because he drank. I realise I am not ready to really lose him altogether, because I never gave up the hope that he would stop drinking because we loved him so much, even when he went for early retirement to drink all day, I didn’t give up the hope, I got ferociously angry at him because I was desperate to snap him out of it, to make him understand. And now it came to nothing, and we are really going to lose him. Slowly, but we are. My dad is going to go, and I will never be able to accept that.

I rang Saneline and they tried to give me numbers to get help, but most needed GP referals and some required payment. I was put off MIND because (stupidity coming up) when I rang them before and they said they’d call me back, they never did. But I’ve e-mailed them in Finsbury Park asking if they offer the service. If they do, I’ll try to get counselling there, although I suspect there’ll be a waiting list. But I really need some help. If not even with the mentalism, or the depression, but just with coping, day to day, with things I’m not really coping with, if I’m honest with myself. When I get rational and think, depression and mentalism has scuppered so many parts of my life, from school to relationships to jobs, and it can’t continue to, and I can’t let it.

It’s a start.

Thank you so much to the people who responded to my last post. Sometimes I really need a talking to or a few words of sense, and I really appreciate it.

Edit: And I’ve been crying a lot. That’s actually a good thing, for me.

Mad dad

[protected] May 14th, 2006 (03:28 pm)



Ultra news! I’m:: okay

Ah, a worrying development in the daddy saga. Confusion has come, he thinks we’re in Australia, and was asking Paula why we weren’t. She tried to tell him where we were, then he told her oh, okay, but he wants to go to Australia now when he gets out of hospital.

He still thinks he’s getting out of hospital. Apparently he’s been getting more and more confused and keeps pulling out his feeding tube, silly man.

We’re in a bit of trouble now the confusion’s coming when he needs a transplant- my reading and talking to doctors tells me this is one of the last stages before eventual coma then death. But that’s just reading and doctors and things are different for different people. Paula and I have been joking about it loads, but we both know how each other really feels.

But let me be honest- I don’t really have much hope left, and in my quieter moment of admitting, I know he is going to die. I’m aware of how hard it’s going to be and I’m going to get ready. But in the short term, I’m just looking forward to seeing him, even if all I’ll do is poke his belly and take the piss. He is still alive, and for as long as he is, I’ll be trying to be there as much as I can, begging, borrowing and stealing money to do so.

The agony for me is all the things he can’t do now, and the wasted life he thinks he’s led, and how different things should have been and how he feels he can now fix it. He doesn’t know what is happening to him, and maybe that is merciful, if heartbreaking.

Rob is being absolutely bloody brilliant, every time I’m on the phone and he’s here, he’s by my side, waiting to put his arms around me when I set the handset down, listening to me when I’m overly hopeful, delusional, and when I’m being honest and rational and sad. He’ll be there to hold my hand next week and I’m grateful for that, as Paula will be back in London by then for a few days.

I feel okay, actually, because I’m beginning to accept things, hard as they are, they are better than the conflicting tumult that has been driving me insane and memories and sadness that have been torturing us.

But he’s still here, and that’s the best thing. I’m going to go out and have a nice time, and not worry about him, my family, my friends or money.

The remote part

[protected] May 15th, 2006 (02:08 pm)

See, I just don’t know what to do, or who to talk to. I can’t confide my real feelings to anyone in my family, for their own sake. I want them to be hopeful, even though it’s clear that the hope is waning. I know I write too much in this but its part distraction. I have dreaded this time in our lives for so long, and now it is happening, I really don’t know what to do.

I know nobody knows what to say, and that some people are even bored of hearing about it, but I want someone, anyone to say something. I feel so horribly alone and I don’t know what to do. More than at any stupid and horrible point in my life I want to be held and told it will be okay, to be distracted and not to worry anymore, for everything to be okay. I worry that talking about it too much here, simply because I don’t know where else to go and don’t ever ring anyone, sounds like milking it or something.

There are so many things I am scared of and so much I can’t begin to imagine. How do you say goodbye to someone who doesn’t know they’re dying? I try not to think about it and keep busy and take pleasure in things because I am still alive and so is he, but it is on my mind so much, coupled with every other human stress and the devastating desire for a holiday or some sort of relief.

There’s whole worlds of grief out there I thought I’d already experienced- when Vicky died she was sixteen and did it herself and that was a special kind of anger. When my grandad died, he was old and there was some sort of understanding. But my dad is not old, nor young, and he did this to himself but still it manifests as a physical illness, when we always expected him to kill himself outright, were more prepared for the sudden jump. And not this, slow death, gradual death, confusion and sadness and collassal, heartbreaking regret. For him and for us.

I never thought it would be so hard to face up to- especially when your dad is like mine. You’re always half in grief in my family, but my family is something that people don’t understand, and they never will. How we can all be so screwed yet so close, each of us wrecking each other a little but helping each other more. We have suffered so much, they were not ordinary sorrows. All of us, and here we are, or were, but now one of us is going in the worst way we didn’t even imagine.

My mum is ill too and I wouldn’t know what to do if I lost her as well. Years and years of anger and bitterness at my parents for their behaviour has just dissolved, I just don’t care about it anymore. All my teenage pouting at how we didn’t have a proper childhood, never had those happy memories are regretful but all I can feel or focus on is the screaming of, “Please don’t go”. I am not ready, I don’t know how to be ready. I find myself crying all the time and I don’t know why, it won’t do any good at all. When you cry a lot you imagine that when you’re doing you’ll look up and the world will have corrected itself. But it doesn’t.

There will be so much more to cope with than the death- my mother can’t work and who will support her? How will the children cope with it? His family, will they blame us for his alcoholism? Will they say we never tried? And us, scattered to the winds, may not get to say goodbye, may not be there, but without leaving our separate lives behind we can’t avoid it, not across the sea, and it is painful. There is so much unresolved and unsaid that can never be resolved nor said, his mind is drifting away too now, I want to say I love you so much, please, please don’t leave me, please get better. In the beginning of this there were happy images in my mind of him giving up the drink and coming home, to new dogs, and maybe starting some sort of life. And now it will never happen, there is no life to go back to, and no going back at all.

Worst of all, he doesn’t know this but we can’t tell him. He is so afraid of dying. I can’t get inside his mind and the thought of being there terrifies me. But I can see things from his eyes, and I’ve always been able to, as if I have been living two lives and now one of those is ending, not the way it should ever have done. It is so sad.

When I had him admitted, I imagined an, “I told you so” scenario- that it would be a scare and that was that. I never imagined this. I almost wish we had stayed ignorant and he had slipped quietly away in bed, but he is being given a chance now, one that has come too late.

I keep trying to say that he won’t die, but there is nothing to be done but drain him and try to feed him through a tube. Sooner or later, it will end. Slowly, but surely. I can’t deal with it. It is hurting so badly that I don’t know where to find the strength for me and for my family, when we have been through so much else but this is so hard.

The day before my dad died.


[protected] May 16th, 2006 (03:08 pm)


Ultra news! I’m:: worried

My dad keeps pulling his feeding tube out and apparently they are withdrawing it. Isn’t that illegal or something?!

My mum has been crying a lot lately; it’s very odd to hear your mum cry like that and have to try and make her feel better.

There’s been a notable silence on all this from some people.

[protected] May 16th, 2006 (03:13 pm)

Thank you

[protected] May 16th, 2006 (04:11 pm)

Angel offensive mango helped me out but thank you for your offers. I’m off now will see you when I get back. x

[protected] May 17th, 2006 (12:56 pm)

My dad died this morning.

I got there at about 11pm last night, Tracie collected me at the airport and drove me there. He was far worse than I imagined, and couldn’t talk by the time I saw him, and I don’t think he could see either. I don’t know if he could hear, but I talked anyway. My two elder sisters and I stayed there all night until about 9am, when we went home for half an hour while our mum took our place. We needed food.

In that time, my dad died. We were called in and he was already gone.

Uncles and granny came round. We have cried a lot. My brother and I took all his bags- patient belongings- found his comb, his wallet with his electoral register card, his membership to the PD.

Now there is the three night wake to face up to and I can’t really cope with the prospect. Rob is coming over tomorrow and will be at the funeral with me.

So yeah, there you go. I’m going to get my head down for a hour now. And I know no-one ever knows what to say with these things, so don’t say anything.


Dead dad

[protected]May 22nd, 2006 (04:58 pm)


Phew, well, I guess it’s Monday, which means it’s one of those, “What I did at the weekend posts”, isn’t it.

I’m back in London anyway, far too soon, but I couldn’t afford to stay any longer. Now I’m back in normality and life, I don’t quite know what to do. This trip to Belfast was only supposed to be introducing Rob to my mum and dad and my friends.

I’ll be leaving a lot out of this. I just want to try and get my head straight a bit and as usual, it’s writing it down.

So, I was in work last Tuesday. Coincidentally, I’d spoken to my boss earlier about compassionate leave, with the proviso, “I won’t actually need it, but my mum wanted me to ask”. Then a few hours later I had a text from Michelle, when I rang her, she was sobbing, and said get home now. She said he only had a few hours. I thought she was exaggerating so I rang the hospital. After some procrastinating, the nurse told me I should come home.

The next hour was spent trying to call Paula and Rob and sort out a flight. I had walked into my boss’s office and told her my dad was dying now, right now, and I had to go. My colleague Jo overheard and her and Nicky got busy printing out lists of flights from different operators and then some trains to the airport. They were lovely.

Rob left work and took me home to pack some things. He was due to join me on Thursday so I left him my keys. He took me to get the train and I was terrified I wouldn’t be there in time. But I also thought, “Of course I will”, I expected there to be days left, maybe months, because I couldn’t quite believe it was happening.

This whole time, I’ve acknowledged he’s dying, but never once believed he would die.

Tracie picked me up at the airport and drove me to the hospital. She had come with some ham sandwiches and a bar of chocolate in case I was hungry. I got to the hospital and my mum and the kids were leaving as I arrived. I gave them a quick hug and went to find my dad and sisters. Paula had said prepare yourself, but I wasn’t prepared.

He was yellow and ancient and couldn’t breathe- he couldn’t see or talk and he was so clearly dying. I started crying as soon as I saw him, held his hand and tried to tell him I was here but I don’t know if he knows I was. I thought at least he would be able to talk, there was so much to say. He looked so different and my sister assured me he had only become this bad within the past 24 hours. Before that, he was able to talk and I hate myself for not going home 24 hours earlier.

We stayed the whole night in the room, holding his hand, talking to each other, going to the smoking room and watching his monitors. I’d bought him the issue of Kettering- I had thought he would be conscious enough for me to read him to him, he had wanted to read my Neil Innes interview, because he was a fan and he was proud. He’d gone round telling everyone I was interviewing him. Michelle left to sleep and Paula left to smoke and I tried to tell him that I love him, he made no sign he’d heard, just groaned and fiddled with his breathing mask.

He kept trying to take his mask off, and we kept putting it back on. A few times he’d clutch his head, like he had a headache, like something so normal, a headache. He tried to sit himself up a few times. He tried to sleep.

He must have known we were there. He kept holding Paula’s hand while I stood on the other side and stroked his hair. It made him sleep. In his sleep, he said our names. All our names, his five children.

He said something else which hurts me to think about so I won’t repeat it. It could have been my ears playing tricks with tiredness and context so I hope I am wrong.

He was obviously in a lot of discomfort but the doctor said he wasn’t in pain. He kept pulling out his wires and tubes- he was so scared of ending up like my granda that Paula told me he’d been pulling them out since the beginning. He always believed he’d be going home and on some level, so did I. I thought this would be a lesson, he would stop drinking and get better. I thought he was brilliant because recently he’d been sober more, and he was going into rehab this month.

This month he was going into rehab and next month, on the 25th of June, he would have been 48. The week before is Father’s Day. I always sent him something or called or bought a card.

Hours passed of him taking off his mask, falling asleep, waking up. The morning came, we hardly knew. About eight thirty or so we called our mum and asked her to come take our place for an hour while we ate something. We didn’t want to leave, we agonised over it but we needed something to eat. We expected to be there days, we were getting ready for it.

Before we left, Paula stroked his arm and said she’d see him soon. I kissed his forehead and told him we’d be gone an hour but we’d be back. In the time we were gone, my mother had got there and my dad had taken off his mask, stopped breathing and died.

My mother lied to us about it, said he said he loved us all, but his speech was truly gone and with his mask off he wouldn’t be able to say anything. My mother has lied a lot in the past few days. I’ve discovered she’s lied a lot in the past 24 years.

The doctor said it wouldn’t hurt. I don’t think it would have. When they rang us to get back to the ward, we got there quickly, and by the time we did the curtain had been pulled and “No Visitors” tacked onto it. It took me a minute to realise what was happening. My sisters and I howled and screamed at ourselves for leaving. But now we adknowledge that it is likely he deliberately waited until we left.

Everything else is too personal to go into here. I don’t remember much except crying a lot. I remember standing by my brother and sisters and crying, I remember hugging my uncles, his brothers, and his mother, who had lost her sister two weeks ago and her husband seven months ago. It is not fair, I remember thinking that over and over.

A nurse came in and said, “Did he have a wedding ring on?” Nothing else- “NO” and then, “Did he have any gold teeth?” “NO” get out of my sight and she did and I hated her so much.

They took him away and kept hassling us saying they needed to do it now. We said wait because his brother isn’t here yet, my uncle Michael was on his way. Before they took him away we said our separate goodbyes and had our time with him. No-one will ever know what we all said, and I am glad.

They took him and we organised the wake at my grandmother’s. It was best to be there, it was his real home.

I slept after that and the next day Rob got here. We spent the next days at my grandmother’s. He met everyone in my family, except my dad. I wrote the obituary with my little sister and it appeared in the paper with many others, and flowers arrived and two big wreaths, “DAD” and “BROTHER”. I got away with much as a lot of my extended family and friends didn’t realise I was his daughter, so there weren’t many, “I’m sorry”s or tearful hugs. That hurt me slightly because I wanted some hugs but I had Rob, my sisters and uncles and brother and that’s all I needed, all we needed.

My mum never cried but went through all the motions. Did I ever tell you my mum was admitted for being a pathological and psychotic liar? It really showed. She milked the sympathy, went off with her friends and abandoned the five children she claimed to love to grieve alone, only interjecting with lies and clichés when we were working through our own separate thoughts we couldn’t share with her as she’d derail it with something insipid. I have sympathy with her because she lost her husband but she was maddeningly selfish. She kept telling us off for swearing or laughing, as if she had no idea who my dad even was or what he was like. She was wrapped up in what respects should be like and how she should appear while not caring about us. We are angry at her right now but this is not the time for our anger, and will be resolved in the future.

The coffin was in the room and they did a good job, he looked like my dad. I couldn’t understand why he was there, none of us could. The priests came and went and on Friday night, Paula, Brendan my uncle and I stayed with him on his final night. We talked about a lot of things, not really my dad, and didn’t sleep. Everything else about these days I don’t want to go into here.

The funeral was on Saturday and at first I didn’t think I could do it. My sister held my hand as we listened to the priest before they took him away. I cried mostly because I didn’t believe in it and I know my dad didn’t either. I said goodbye again, I said I’m sorry.

My fifteen year old little brother had to carry his dad’s coffin.

On the way up to the church we noticed one of the men carrying the coffin had something written on his bald head and neck in green marker. He didn’t know he had it.

The service wasn’t as bad as I’d feared- the priest doing it was the useless one who did my grandad’s. He did a nice eulogy which was sort of comical- talked about my dad being a literate intellectual (true) and his love for comedy (true) and music (also true) then somehow tied it all into Jesus. He mentioned time and time again how my dad was an atheist but still a child of God, which I guess was good because I know the religious parts of my family and his friends were bricking it since purgatory’s been abolished.

Michelle was the star. She organised everything and was brilliant. She even got her choir to sing. And after much fighting with the priest, I got one of his songs played for him, “When I Live my Dream” by David Bowie.

My sister had the CD and played it in the car with my uncles. Brendan cried. Brendan is sardonic and hilarious and a life-saver in these situations and the one who has understood us always. He told us my dad had said the song was about us five, but my mum said it was about her. So I don’t know but I know it meant a lot to him, the song.

The priest who did the transubstatiation had the most Father Ted voice I’d ever heard. Paula, Liam and I couldn’t stop laughing. We were trying to look holy all bowed and praying but were concealing hysterics. Then I looked up and saw my daddy’s coffin and starting crying again.

After the service, I was mostly angry because my mother had invited my uncle Eugene. He used to beat my dad up, tried to kill him, beat my brother up a few weeks ago and used to beat me when I lived in Belfast. It seemed utterly disrespectful. A lot of my relations didn’t talk to me but I had Stephen and Rob with me.

In the car on the way to the cemetry my mother told more lies. My granny was in her own thoughts and my mother kept patronisingly interjecting. We kept our mouths shut and tried to look out the windows, or occasionally nod. My mum fabricated photographs and memories, and it drove me mad. She lies, but this was not the time to lie. I wish at least once she had adknowledged how badly she treated him. And apologised, and left it there and moved on instead of pretending she was brilliant.

My dad did love her, but she didn’t love him, and made a point of saying it over and over again to him. It didn’t help.

We buried him near my grandad, who we visited while we were there. We had five red roses- one for each daughter and my mother, we threw them on his coffin. Paula stayed stoic and disbelieving, some of us cried, the dirt was thrown on by the brothers.

We went to the PD, a Republican bar my dad and our family went to often, and had a buffet and a drink. Since then, I’ve felt very little. I’d been sleeping in his bed and going through photographs, taking some and not taking others in the knowledge he’d kill me. But he isn’t here now and I can’t really understand how. I don’t feel anything except fury at my mother and regret and confusion.

I don’t know what to do now. There’s years ahead without my dad but I still feel as though he’ll be back. I never want to remember him as that man I saw in the coffin. I hate Catholic services. I’m worried about the future for my mum and the kids. I’m worried about my granny. I don’t know what to do without my dad. He’s the one who understood us and helped us. He paid my rent once and bought our Christmas presents. He taught us how to read and ride our backs and taught us how to write and taught us our history. He got me into comedy and music. I have all his David Bowie vinyls now, as promised.

The last time I saw him was Christmas and he had stayed sober, it was lovely. There is a photo of him in the bedroom, arms outstretched and smiling and you’d think he didn’t have a trouble in his heart until you notice his wrist, a huge gaping wound. He was not a happy man and that kills us. We tried. We love him so much.

My sisters joked we should put lots of IOUs in his coffin with him because he helped us with money when he got ourselves into scrapes. I wanted to put his comb in there with him. Paula could barely look at him but when she did it was to fix his hair. He would be mad at us if he’d known we didn’t shave his head for him.

I have his wallet, too. Some photographs, his vinyls and not much else. It’s all in his room. Laminated newspaper articles we’d been in. His keys, with all the keyrings Michelle bought him over the years.

What am I supposed to do without my dad? My family thanked me for getting him into hospital because otherwise wouldn’t have been able to say goodbye. But it was too late from the minute he went in. I never believed that and don’t believe this now.

I’m off work for the next week. My going home has completely emptied my bank account- I’m at £0 so I guess I’ll be staying in and I don’t want to, I am so scared of being alone. Rob is on tour this weekend so I will find something to do. I’m not near my siblings so I shall ring them a lot and my granny. None of us are properly ready to talk about any of this and won’t be. I can’t be around my mum because every sentence she says is about the funeral or something mawkish and I can’t bear it. I guess at least writing it down is a start- it happened, didn’t it. I can hardly believe it did and I keep thinking he will be back. At least here in London I can’t think it’s my daddy with chippy chips every time the door goes. At least here I don’t have to listen to the silence that’s there now without him. But I can’t help anyone, and can’t do anything but get on with it. I am not ready and wasn’t and never will be. Any sort of pain I ever felt just got blown away when he died. Now I don’t feel anything.

I don’t know how my sisters feel or anything, or my brother. I just want them to be okay.

Thank you to those who texted or e-mailed, you kept me going a bit. I guess I’ll see some of you when I have some money. Don’t be afraid to ring or anything if you want a drink. I’ll be on water but I’d really like the company.


Life’s a laugh and death’s the joke, it’s true

[protected] May 24th, 2006 (12:58 pm)

Ultra news! I’m:: no idea

My dad wants Monty Python on his gravestone. Now, my sisters and I, who are sorting out such matters, are currently in the very surreal negotiations of which Monty Python quote is appropriate.

Michelle, who doesn’t know her Python so well, says something from the Spanish Inquisition is apt. “Cos it’s like death, isn’t it? He didn’t expect to die, see?” Paula mutely agrees but I am my father’s daughter and I know my Python.

The quandry is, should I trawl my archives for something wholesomely appropriate or should I just slap a bit of “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life” on there?

“You’ll see it’s all a show, keep on laughing as you go, just remember that the last laugh is on you”…

My dad delights in pointing out Comedy Deaths to me. “See him there,” he’d say, pointing at the Young Fella when we’re watching Porridge, “He died really young”. He delighted in telling me how young Graham Chapman was when he died. Now my dad is dead and he’s one year younger than Chapman was.

He also used to hold shocked sermons about how ugly Chapman’s fella is. He’d say, “Graham Chapman is a good looking man but his boyfriend looks like a gnome”. It seemed to constantly perplex him, almost anger him as if he was Chapman’s former lover, pushed out for the gnome.

We have a year to sort out the gravestone. My grandad still has a cross and my granny wants it kept longer- she really wants to die, now. She misses her husband, her sister and her son. All within seven months.

She was asking me about heaven and hell. A mark of my granny’s staunch Republicanism-

“I don’t really believe in heaven and hell but there should be a hell. Some people should be punished, like Ian Paisley…”

Bless her. I hope she doesn’t die soon, I don’t think I could really cope with that too. To be honest, sotto voce, I don’t think I can cope with this anyway.

It all feels mad unreal. I woke up this morning thinking none of it happened. It was only a week ago, but here I am, back in London. I haven’t touched his vinyls or his photos since I’ve come back, I don’t really intend to. I hate how frightening ordinary objects become when the person who owns them is gone. His vinyls are things I slowly tried to steal over the years. He’d be asleep and I’d be on my tiptoes trying to get Aladdin Sane down and slip it across the floor into my bedroom and sit and look at it. The photo box is looking so depleted.

My sister Michelle says, “I’ve got my faith”.

My sister Paula says, “I’ve got my friends”.

I say, “I’ve got Scrubs”.

I think I must have watched more Scrubs in the past few days than I ever have. But it’s not the best thing, admittedly. Last night I watched, “My Five Stages”- the five stages of grief.

Denial- Anger- Bargaining- Depression- Acceptance.

I think, I might be wrong, but I think I’m not even at first base yet. I’m not in actual denial, it just doesn’t feel real. Maybe I’m angry though, I feel so angry at everything and everyone.

The rest of my family have been in Belfast with their friends and they’re talking about it. Me, I’m here with Scrubs and Rob and not talking about it. This weekend I guess I have to be properly alone with my thoughts- Rob’s on tour, I’ll have watched all my Scrubs and I haven’t got a penny to leave the house.

It slightly panicks me, I very much don’t want to be alone. I want to be talked to or said hello to or anything. How come when this stuff happens, people can’t even adknowledge you or say hello like always? Even talk to you, about anything?

I don’t really want to write here anymore but I don’t feel the same writing it only for myself. At least this way I can pretend. I went on a rant about LJ earlier in someone’s journal. It’s all true.

I might try and arrange counselling with Mind, but there’s always a huge waiting list. I cannot be bothered at all. I’ve got the big flashing knowledge in my head that really, no-one cares. No-one. Cares. And I don’t know what the hell I’d say about anything, anyway. Twenty years, not a break. Forty seven years and where? It’s wrong, but no-one cares about people like us who don’t kick up the fuss. It’s not at all self-pitying, we just whittle away quietly, write about it, think about it, don’t collapse and sob all Victorian. We apologise constantly, we die slowly, and one day we’re gone. It’s my family, it’s what we do, we’re all the same, except my mother.

Michelle is going to become a volunteer to help people who have alcoholics in their families. A good idea, but I don’t think I could do it. Michelle says, “We could have stopped this”. I think, “How”. I don’t see what else we could have done but she says. She says lots of things.

exit music

[protected] May 26th, 2006 (07:49 am)

Still not asleep, but at least that means I’ll be awake to make tea for Rob before he goes to work. He does it for me everyday, I never do it for him. The alarm hardly wakes me up, it’s usually up to him. He starts work half an hour later than I do and doesn’t even need to be awake, but always is to make me tea.

Last night I went to The Old Dairy to see Angel. We ended up doing the pub quiz and came a very respectable third.

I’m thinking of things to do until Tuesday when Rob’s away. Mel has given me a travelcard so at least I won’t be stuck at home. I’ve hardly talked to my sisters since I got back- they’re busy, which is cool. Last time I spoke to my mum she sounded more cheerful than I’ve ever heard her. I guess she’s happy she gets my dad’s pension. Callous, but true.

I’m back at work on Tuesday. Bless them for giving me some time but I think they expect me to come back bright eyed and healing, whereas I am finding it difficult to even have feelings right now. I block out most thoughts that come into my head. I know the truth, but I don’t really believe it. It’s not like when I’ve lost people before and have felt so numb, I could trigger some much needing grieving with certain songs or memories but not this time, the memories, the songs, are too painful to be contemplated. I have the feeling that when this hits me it’s going to destroy me, but at least I know it will happen. Right now is horrible, but I can’t do anything because it’s all automatic. Childhood, the times I’ve been home since I moved, songs we shared and trivia, sadness and hope is all being pushed away. I can’t think about it. I can’t face it.

I know I’m a bit crap for writing it down here but it helps. I admire people who go through things and don’t say anything about it. I do- this time, mostly because I feel nothing and it’s puzzling. At least making it real in some way is good. This is the only way how so far, my surroundings, my mind, they’re determined to make it to have never happened.

Words in black and white shape it, y’know? Sometimes in the past week I’ve been aware of something making me sad but not sure what it is. Then I realise, but it disappears, replaced by sleep or something bright. My head won’t allow me to think of it properly. Even writing the words I’m aware I’m describing little except the nothingness.

I just have- no idea. Everyone talks about being devastated and wrecked but I don’t feel that way. I know I should because this is my worst nightmare. It’s been my biggest fear since I was a young child. I used to check my dad’s breath every night, since I moved I’ve constantly rang home to check up on him. Because of the nature of our relationship with him- a weird parent/child on both ends thing, my feelings are in a mess. He looked after us, but we looked after him too. There’s things, things I can’t think of- whole years ahead. My brain stops it. Like now-

I guess when this stuff happens the circumstances are always very different. When I stand back and try to look at mine, I see that my dad was an alcoholic who we tried to help. My mum treated him awfully but I guess it wasn’t easy for her either. My dad raised my older sisters and I but my mum raised the two younger ones and it shows. My dad had five children who loved him but he still drank himself to death. That phrase is used so much and I still don’t understand what it means. I don’t know.

I can only sleep when I am exhausted, I can’t close my eyes- I keep seeing the hospital, I am glad I got back in time but I won’t ever forget what I saw and the days afterwards and I so want to. That is not what I want to remember but I can’t bear to think of anything else, any of the years before when things were so different and there was still that ever-present hope.

Rob thinks it is a very good idea I’m not in Belfast, having now seen for himself my home life to some degree. It is a good idea, but I think being here, being broke and mostly isolated, is not helping either. It was only a week ago but it feels as if it never happened. There’s no evidence of it and no-one to really speak to about it. They’re all together and I’m here.

I just have no feelings. I’m absolutely numb. I’m slightly jealous of my siblings- Paula is getting mad angry and Michelle is being pro-active. I feel stuck. Not even sad, because when sadness sneaks in, my brain smothers it and replaces it with banal thoughts. Talk about self-defence.

Hopefully I’ll get some sleep later. I’m happy because Rob bought me some beans last night, and I have a loaf, which means beans on toast.

30 Responses

  1. this is probably not going to be the response you expected, but I have to tell you this anyway….I’ve read this entire thing at one sitting. Reading all these entries in such a manner,instead of one on this day, one on another day…… well this is like reading a few chapter from a very touching, emotional book. a very GOOD book. One that I dont put down, one that keeps me reading. I just thought you should know that…

  2. “And I know no-one ever knows what to say with these things, so don’t say anything.”

    I don’t really know what to say. I wish for you this never happened. The fact that you are not only working your way through your dads death in your own head; but also expressing that outwardly via certain entries in your blog, is a testament to you. Your Dad sounds like he was a fighter til the end, I suspect you have inherited some of his inner strength


  3. As I sit here with wet, blinking eyes
    I wonder
    Where’s my bloody prize?

  4. I read it inone sitting too. You see the days you have written about are the days I fear, my dad is also an alcoholic, a self confessed one who wants no help. So I guess I can empathise with you in a way.

    Take care
    Love Helen x x x x

  5. i read it all weres my prize??

  6. You win being my sister!

    Do you mind me posting all this, Paula? It’s a bit explicit and private.

  7. Thank you for sharing this. It’s enteries like these which open the minds of those who haven’t really encountered alcoholism – and gives comfort to those who have been there. Much like your enteries on ending up in hospital – oddly enough I haven’t found many personal accounts of being inside an NHS psych ward. Possible to painful, private or to hazy to share?

  8. … I just lost my brother two days ago, same age as your da, to the same illness. I’m stunned and heartbroken, angry, sad, etc. It’s horrible. Thank you for being strong enough to share what you did with me. I specifically came looking for the things you said. I’m sorry you had to endure your loss to help me. Be well.

  9. In November 2007, my husband was admitted into hospital with chronic liver failure. He’s only 27 but after 10 years of drinking 30-40 units a day, his liver wasn’t holding out. He was having a problem with alcoholic seizures as well. Now I am proud to say that he hasn’t touched a drop of the stuff in 2 months and I have never been so proud of someone. Being manic-depressive myself, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to care round the clock for him because he is so poorly but I am thankful that I didn’t go through your experience. Thank you for sharing it here.

    Best wishes,

  10. Thank you for sharing this story…
    I lost my dad last May, it was my worst nightmare!
    I too, watched him drink his life away, from the time I can remember until the end.
    I was the only one in the family that he would listen to, but it just didn’t help, it really was too late. I cry for him every day and every night, I don’t think I will ever be able to get over his death…he was my BEST friend.
    How can we be so strong? Losing a parent too early. I wanted him to see my children grow up.
    He was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday and died on Saturday, I will relive that week in my head and heart forever. I watched him die, I watched his body shut down and there was nothing I could do for him. I prayed for a miracle.

  11. I am so sorry to read that, but thankful that you wrote it. My best friend has cirrhosis, and although the drink is gonna get him soon enough, sometimes I feel like killing him myself, Why won’t he stop?

  12. I found your stoy tonight when I was looking up liver failure . My older bother is on death’s Door right now form Hepatis C
    he is 49 years old and 2 years older than me . I wanted to tell you the pain never leaves you deep inside of your heart
    It will be a part of you and at the same time will make you stronger. I lost my mum 10 years ago to liver and cancer realted illness . She passed away so fast it was hard to take . I found out alot about myself when she died . I found out that my family looked up to me as the strong one . I now am there at his side holding him tight feeling the pain of not being abale to help him . I just know that death is a place I will never fear and your Dad is living on the otherside as my mom and bother soon will be. I just know i needed to be there
    with him and give him peace to let him know I would take care of his family and help raise his son . I saw it in his eyes the peace he needed to let go and be ready for death .

    I learned from him his mistakes and all of the love we shared
    will never be lost for me becouse inside my heart he will along with my mom live and make me who i am . So just understand that Death is part of what we all face in live it’s there and just like a bright day in the world wherever you are
    it will end and peace will be there waiting for you and never
    be afraid if that it’s what makes us all human

    I have a long road to travle before i die and I know that love of my family past and present will carry me along . I will have him with me and remeber him and how good of a soul he was .

    I love you my Brother Sean and will miss you as long as i live

    Godbless and that you for your words they helped me to find reason some how .

  13. Jesus, reading these comments makes me want to cry. I am sorry, for everyone.

  14. Hi,

    I feel very moved by your blog, my husband is an alcoholic and is in denial, he has received treatment in a rehab a couple of years ago and the day he came home he bought a bottle on the way. I am currently where your mum was, my kids are angry at me saying we need to get him help, but until they admit they have a problem, there is no helping them. It is the people they leave behind that need the help, all the years abuse, explosive episodes, picking them up when they have fallen, you end up treating them like children in the vain hope that you can teach them. The most a family can do is to help themselves and protect the small ones. I get on closely with my father in law and together we talk to my husband. We are both resigned to the fact that there is nothing that any of us can do now. Sometimes I do ask myself the question, how much longer, which is wrong because I dearly love him.

    I’m sorry you had to see your father destroy his life, and for reasons you will probably never know. That’s probably what hurts the most. I hope you find peace, it will make you a stronger person.

  15. I apprecate your blog. My brother died three days ago of the same thing. He was 31 and had a daughter that was 2.. I am really struggling to deal with this as I am staying here at my mom and dads trying to help them cope. It is such a sad thing. When my brother begged his wife to bring his daughter to see him (she moved out of the house when he came home with hospice because she just ” couldn’t take care of him”-Mom, Dad and I took care of him) she didn’t. I don’t think there is a way of getting over this-just coping with it. Everyone keeps saying time will heal but I just don’t see it. I pray that God will take the images out of my mind of his dying in mom’s arms, Dad gently patting him-telling him he loved him.. He was my little brother but I couldn’t protect him from this. I know I couldn’t have done more but I still feel so guilty. The stages that my brother went were very similar to your father’s except he was fully aware in the end. And the fact that the doctors told him over and over that he was going to die-despite pleas from my Mother and I not to. Some people can be so cruel. Anyway, once again I appreciate your honesty. Perhaps this blog is a small step toward healing. Please let me know if time does help-even a little. Everything is just so “raw” right now. Thanks!

  16. […] Some of the memories are unbearable.  I will never, ever forget the night before my dad’s death and how he looked lying there.  I wish I could.  He was so afraid of dying.  He thought he was going home, he’d been making plans, he wanted to visit Australia.  I can’t think of it too much or I would go mad.  One of the reasons I am always busy, always doing something to the point of making myself physically ill from exhaustion is because I cannot bear to sit still and think of it.  I remember once being struck by the thought that there was a heaven and my dad and Brendan would be there, happy, but there’s no heaven and I wanted to break down.   With my dad, it was the hope that killed me, still kills me.  Reading back this post, my own hope, is own hope.  […]

  17. did u take this picture?

  18. i mean the picture of the hedgehog…

  19. […] Posted on May 16, 2009 by Pole to Polar: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive Three years ago today, this happened.  My dad has been gone all that time and I could have used him to talk to so […]

  20. No one ever talks about those old ’60s Bowie tunes. I’d forgotten all about that song; did you Dad ever play Let Me Sleep Beside You? That’s a wee beauty. Love the acoustic version of that tune with Bowie just playing a 12 string and nothing else. Thank you, so much, for your gutsy writing. I confess I couldn’t do it in one sitting – it had up me late certainly – but tonight I finished it, because I had been thinking about your story all day today. You’re so brave. I know you must still miss your Dad. I feel lucky reading this: alcohol and chemical dependence seems to rage through my Dad’s family, but himself he doesn’t drink much at all. I read your post because I making a film about a musician, named David McComb; who loved Bowie and I am fairly sure the Pythons would have been his thing too. Dave died in 1999 aged (nearly) 37, three years after a heart transplant caused by cardiomopathy, in turn caused by chronic alcoholism. I’ve poked about online looking for testimonies from people affected by alcoholism. Yours is the best I’ve read by a country mile. Thank you.

  21. After I read your blog, I burst into tears. My Mother is the same, has been for 10 years. And honestly – I have now come to turns that the end is near. But I have prepared myself for it; as I know I did everything I could – but it is the alcoholic that needs to change.

    I spent my childhood crying every night, watching herself just ruin her life. I saw the worst things – and I only had my little sister and my Father. Eventually, I got out of the house and moved away – the visions of her drunk were killing me. I couldn’t take it any longer.

    Every day I look back and think of the small happy memories I have with her. It has made me stronger, and I will never forget her.

    I am so sorry for what happened to you. Stay strong forever and always.

  22. I am sorry you had to go through all of this. I was looking to see if I could find stories about another persons life with alcohlic related death. My husband was a sleepy drunk. He was never mean, he’d just sleep. He had no insurance but wanted help. One day he stopped drinking for 2 days and that was the last of his life that he remembered. I was there and called 911. It was Feb. 9th 2009. I went to the hospital and seen him everyday. I wrote a journal from the day it happened to the day he passed away. It was Mother’s Day. I called the journal “While you were sleeping” I had hopes this was a wake up call and he would get the help he needed and wanted. No one would help without insurance. I was there when he passed on and I held him in my arms when he took his last breath. He don’t know anything. They had him so druged up so there was no pain. I now am reading a book called “Hello From Heaven” I have great hope that he will somehow contact me in one way or another and let me know he is alright. They say when a caterpillar dies a butterfly is born. I hope things get better for you. I live day by day.

  23. My mother is an alcoholic. She drank for almost twenty years and has now been sober for five months. This past week her doctor gave her six months to live unless she gets a new liver. Oh, and today she found out that she may have breast cancer. I am struggling with so many emotions right now…well, I am sure you know. But most of all, I am struggling with the fact that I cannot rescue her from this, I cannot save her. There is nothing I can do, or say that will make this go away. It isn’t fair. Why did she ever have to pick up a can of beer?? Why did she have to do this to herself???Why can’t I save her???? Thank you for sharing this…It is nice knowing that there is someone to relate to….

  24. My best friend’s dad is in the hospital right now with the same symptoms as your dad. I don’t know his dad, but I feel for him and his family. The bad thing is that my friend is also an alcoholic and if he doesn’t stop his drinking, this will be him in a few years. I feel helpless, i have told him to stop drinking or at least slow down, but they have to help themselves. Thank you for telling your story.

  25. I have to admit, I read this because of a paper I am writing about an entirely different case, based on the ethics of giving transplants to people who have “drank themselves” into liver failure. My original stance was that they shouldn’t be given the chance. However, although the “prize” you promised us for reading your entire entry may have been a joke, I think the true prize was having the opportunity to live vicariously, even a little bit, through you and your pain in this situation. Given that, my opinion, and the direction of my paper, will be changing on this point. Often times when making a rational, reasonable, decision or opinion people ignore the emotional side, which can be much more important.

    The unfortunate universal condition that life entails is that it will end, but, just because something is inevitable doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. Your turmoil and anguish brought a rational and typically unemotional person to tears. It has been a long time since I have had a good cry, possibly too long, and I thank you for this. I thank you for reminding me of humanity and pain. I wish you and all those who are going through similar, or even vastly different, hardships, the best of luck and happiness.


  26. […] 6am, awake Posted on October 20, 2009 by Pole to Polar: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive And tearful.  I miss my dad. […]

  27. This post gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very good one and provides indepth info. many thanks for this nice post.

  28. X just sending a knowing hug X

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