You don’t have to read this, I’m mostly talking to myself here. It’s about my dad, and missing people, and feeling very sad because of it.
I’m having some disturbing recurring dreams about my dad. In my dreams, he’s not dead, but he’s not alive either. He is a kind of ghost, but the ghost looks as he did when he was dying, and is trapped in the yellow skin he died in. Other times, he is a tiny, papier maché doll person, shrinking to nothing in a bed. A hospital bed, sometimes, and sometimes, he’s in a bed in a caravan site. There are loads of caravans, and, far back, out in the emptier place, he’s lying there. And I put my arms around him, and he’s so small that they envelope him. The site looks like the one near my house, crossed with the park in Cairnlough that we used to stay on when we were kids.
I wake up small voiced and not knowing what’s real, with the feeling that my dad is dying somewhere and I can’t help him. I hate that I have the entirety of my imagination to play with in my dreams, and yet he’s the image of himself on the day he died. He could be anything, could be my dad back when he had brown hair and a moustache, could even be him hugging me on the day of my confirmation, but he’s not. Although I am glad I was with him on his last night (I was so very nearly too late. And, in the end, I wasn’t even there when he died), I would do anything to erase the memory of him lying there. And I wish I could know if he heard us talking to him that night.
The sadness from waking up has been with me all day. I went out earlier in the rain to get some things for the cats, listening to music. In the street I felt totally overcome with grief, and took myself into a café to try and compose myself. Then, with cruel timing, “When I Live My Dream” by David Bowie came on. It’s the song we played at our dad’s funeral. So I ended up sitting there crying with my hand over my face, trying to make it look as though I was intently studying their menu.
It’s my sister’s birthday today, and Father’s Day in three days, and then my dad’s would-be fiftieth birthday on the 25th. And fifty is like an old age. Well, it’s not old, but it’s an age where I imagine you have grown up children, maybe a grandchild or two. I can’t stop thinking of who my dad might be now, if he’d have kicked the drink if the hospitalisation was just a scare. What he’d look like, how he would have said happy birthday to Michelle and Paula, what I would have got him for his birthday, if we’d all have gone home for it and done something special.
People sometimes have a kind of image of alcoholics- either amusing Oliver Reed types or George Best (who had the same liver problems as my dad, but, because he’s famous, he got a transplant, despite his drinking, and my dad didn’t, and my dad died) or wastrels, abusive wife batterers. My dad wasn’t like that, but I still have horrible memories of his drinking, his shouting and his wild, aggressive depressions. And some good memories, but they’re clouded over and tainted by his alcoholism.
He wasn’t the best dad all the time, but he was a wonderful person who had too much sadness, who destroyed himself and who could be unbearable because of his drinking, but he could not help it, and neither could we. There are different feelings with this because I have the awful guilt that sometimes I wished he was dead because I couldn’t stand to watch him and my family suffer anymore. We had all been through so much and it felt like too much sometimes. I hate myself for that.
I just miss him. I could really have used him to talk to in these past two years. I have dreamed of dedicating a funny, sad book to my funny, sad dad for years.
It’s a sad day for other reasons and other people today, too. Three years ago today, a friend of mine, Andy, was knocked down in East London. He hung on for a few days, but he died. I haven’t really said anything- I only met him a few times and we mostly spoke online, and I was not as close to him as some of my other friends were- but I’ve been reading others’ feelings on it, and I know his daughter, who’s just a little younger than I am, and she lost her dad. And I remember his funeral, the poetry, the songs and comics, which I experienced through a haze of mania, and the rain that day, and the fearsome lightning. I have one of his comics on my bedroom wall, with my photos. And he is in my thoughts, and so is everybody who loved him, and was loved by him.