motherhood

Where there is deep grief, there was great love …

According to the Independent, by the end of the century there will be more dead people on social media than living. Facebook itself will become a strange digital graveyard.

Every-time I check my messages online there’s Dads name, and more strangely – because Iv seen his name lots of times since he died – when I closed his bank accounts, when I saw his meagre pension, when I folded his death certificate neatly into my paperwork – more strangely is seeing his face.

Most people, now dead, on Facebook, or Instagram or twitter have photos beaming out at you. Forever smiling. A wonderful way to be remembered.

Tough luck to all those who remain immortalised as a car, or their cat. In the future I will be choosing my profile photos wisely – they might be my permanent digital ghost.

Dad’s photos are all the same, practically passport straight, only his hair changing throughout. From deep brown; the same as my natural colour, before getting lighter. Salt and pepper hair. Greyer. Longer. Older.

Dad got older without me even seeing it.

Still Dad though. My dad. My dead dad.

The fact all his online photos are straight faced ‘selfies’ now just serve as a reminder as to how alone he was, although the logical side of my brain reminds me further – there’s a reason for that.
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I’ll be looking for someone on Instagram, can’t remember their full username so I type in ‘@m…’ and there he is again, staring out at me a strange presence that only seems to remind me that there is no presence at all. He’s gone.

I’m at that stage of grief now, he’s gone. Every tiny reminder brings a wave of sadness. He’s gone.

It’s even stranger still that so much in my house was untouched by him, he never walked through the door in the 6 years Iv lived in Cornwall and yet every object seems to remind me of him somehow. It didn’t at first, the unfamiliarity of it a comfort, but at some point it all changed. Nothing became everything somehow. If not a reminder of something he had, it’s something I wanted to tell him about.

It’s painful some days, and I’d rather lie on the sofa and scroll aimlessly through one of three apps on my phone that always take my mind off the world.

Except he’s there, staring at me again.

I close the app.
Look around the house. There’s photos up of him now, making up for his physical presence I guess.

The last few weeks being a parent has been a blessing and curse. There’s always something to be done, someone else to look after, and I can’t look after her if I don’t look after me. She forces me into the shower, to eat a bowl of cereal. There’s no time to mope because Paw Patrol is on, and have you tried to cry at 8am on a weekday to that theme tune?

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When he died, despite everyone’s best efforts ‘not to burden me with the trouble of it all’. By taking every decision and choice away left me with an empty disbelief. No purpose. No use. Is my dad dead ? You’ll have to ask someone else, because I don’t know. I didn’t hold his hand as he left, I didn’t say I love you when I had the chance. I didn’t choose his coffin or his music or his wake. I didn’t carry the coffin or lead the service. I didn’t share any words in his service, at all. This was his last gathering. His final journey.

And I had no say in it at all.

We went to a wedding the next day, I said I wouldn’t miss it and cremating Dad the day before wasn’t going to stop me. I had to keep going, as I told someone. ‘Life goes on.’

It does and everyone around you with both parents still intact get given a sudden harsh reminder – get busy living, because it could be you next, or your dad.

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Someone at the wedding tells me how sorry they are, how awful it must be so close to Christmas!

I disagree. Politely of course, despite the alcohol propping me up for the day.

I find myself treating everyone more politely than I would usually. It leaves family members open to take the piss, lets friends trip over their words and admit they don’t know what to do. It lets strangers at weddings tell me how sad I must be feeling, and I nod and say yeah, but it’s ok.

But what I’m thinking is ‘There’s been no time to be sad.’

There’s no time still, not with Christmas and New Years and life going on. It doesn’t stop, not for a minute. Not even if I want it to.

Even when I sit on the sofa and cry for five minute intervals, and decide dipomatically not to hide my tears from Lily, because sometimes people feel sad and I don’t want her to feel like she ever has to hide her sadness.

I tell her that tears are just letting some sad out, and that is what I’m doing. Just letting some sad out.

The sad always rebuilds though, no matter what I let out, it collects when I stand in the shower and re-do conversations in my head, or see a memory on Facebook of something I’d forgotten and I prod at my hurt with reminders of the fallings out, and arguments and times that I’d wish Dad would just drop fuckin dead.

There’s memories that have been so buried deep suddenly thrown to the surface. Wierd chapters of life before, like The Time Dad Nearly Died But I Found Him First, and I ponder *that* parallel life or The Day We Crashed The Car. (There was actually three or four of those chapters, each one wildly different from the last.)

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I let myself cry when I read a letter he’d written to his best friend, handed to me during the wake, and the only tangible thing I have of Dads that he actually touched, that I saw him writing 18 years earlier and it contains a small piece of his mind.

To me it is priceless and I read and re-read it over and over. I’ll continue to read it, til the ink wears off. And then I’ll commit it to memory, to re-read again.

He writes just like I do, his humour is biting and sharp like mine. Silly and off the wall just like I am, only I suppose it is I who is like him. He’s my dad, after all.

Cruel irony is that now he’s gone I am full of questions, I’ve learnt so much more about the man and now the space he occupied on the planet is left empty.

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I go to text him three times after the funeral before realising, although I’m tempted to send it anyway. But I don’t know who has his phone, everyone else in the family (bar my brother who is an angel and remains one) seemed to fight over every last detail, my sister fighting for her place to be recognised as Lead Mourner.

As we walked out the of the funeral, I was in such an easy conversation with my uncle, dads brother. I realise I am surrounded by family, but it is a subconscious realisation. As we stroll towards the cars, I forget where I am and ask ‘Oh hang on, where’s Dad?’ I want to talk to him, to say hello. I haven’t seen him in-

Everyone looks at me like they have to break the news all over again. Oh yeah, I think. We’ve left him in there.

During the whole funeral I couldn’t look at the white box that had him in. It was too strange. Iv been to three funerals in two years, and this was the first one that I realised – he’s IN there.

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It’s such a macabre thought that I can’t stop thinking about it, and as we are invited to sign his coffin, his COFFIN, a item so certain he’d use that I’d never imagined before now – and we draw pictures and write messages and I wonder if his hands are tucked in, folded or straight ? What’s his hair like, or his face?

I don’t even know what’s he’s wearing, no one thought to ask me I suppose. My mind runs away with the idea, who dressed him, what did they choose? Did they take his jewellery? Were they gentle? Was he just another stiff to puppet around?

Each time it makes my throat constrict, and even though I’m standing there in my posh coat and my heels, in my adult body, I feel like I’m seven years old, because that’s my daddy.

My daddy is in there, but he’s gone.

Daddies aren’t meant to die, not yet. Not ever. But they do, every day. And it hurts.

My brother cries at the funeral, he picked the music and he picked the same song I’d have chosen. I’ll never be able to listen to this again I think. Tom is probably feeling the same.

Weeks later, the first time we speak, he tells me he has inherited dads records. Dad’s pride and joy, I can’t think of anyone who deserves them more. No one else would love them the same. Dad’s best friend, and our god-father tells me Dad has offered them to him, before he died. I don’t want to think about the foreshadowing there.

‘But…’ he tells me. His own record collection is a mirrored image. Of course it is, I think. My own best friend and our matching iPod song lists. A generation of difference but running exactly parallel.

Both he and Tom get drunk to get through the day. I have may lost my daddy, but they have lost someone who meant so much more.

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Tom and I went to the same school as Dad, here he is as a kid wearing almost the same uniform we did 20 years later…

My brother spoke at the funeral, and while everyone else who spoke made it about them, and what they have lost – Tom does Ryan and I proud, and I force myself to keep watching him talk as he thanks everyone for coming, and apologises for their loss.

My brother, who’s Dad is in that box just feet away, who’s loss is by far the loudest – apologising for everyone in that room, even to those who only knew Dad in passing. They are all equal to him in their grief, just because they are here today.

And my brother stands in front of them and says he is sorry.

It’s too much for Ryan, and I pass him my tissue stash, damp and crumpled. It’s not to tell him to hide his tears, but to tell him I’m here, and I felt that too.

I didn’t want to cry. I felt like if I started I wouldn’t stop, and besides I have one of the ugliest cries going, real whiny and hiccupy, snot bubbles and eye slits. I’ll save my crying, for when I can do it as loud and as long as I want. Maybe when I write this. (Note: especially as I wrote this)

I wear make up to force myself not to ruin it.
It’s a tactic I employ at the wedding too, and on the school run, even on the phone if I think the subject might come up.

Only my inner most inner circle can see me ugly cry, and even then I’d rather keep that to a minimum.

When the wake is over I wanted to run away, I’d had enough. When a room is so full of loss, and you are so connected to each person in there, it’s painful. Every face drags up another batch of memories that I’m not ready to flick through yet. And I feel everyone else’s pain so much more than my own, like a strange imposter syndrome to my own dead dad.

It becomes a dark joke, having a ‘dead dad’ although only for Ryan and I. Once we escape back to Cornwall, to our safe haven, our cosy nest – ironically the place I ran from the man I now miss so much- I can finally be myself, I laze around and Ryan scolds me, continuing to prop me up in every way.

I tell him I can’t make the tea, because my dad’s dead.
No I didn’t take the bins out, my dad’s dead.
Yes I ate the last mini roll, my fucking Dad’s dead!

It’s silly and not serious, and I know Dad would have sniggered himself, although I try it on some friends and they all sit shocked, not sure whether they can laugh or not.

I pick at the scab that I know isn’t healed. It still hasn’t sunk in. Dad’s dead. Maybe saying it enough times it’ll gain some weight.

Dad is dead.

Dad is dead.

It just doesn’t mean anything to me.

Life went on, there was no empty seat at the table. There isn’t a pair of boots by the door with no feet to fill them. All his belongings have been claimed by my sister, even his ashes were quickly collected by her. Props to continue her Chief Mourner role.

For the first few weeks there is nothing to remind me of him. Except the letter, but no one knows I have that.

My friends don’t bring it up, Lily has no idea what has happened. She didn’t know him, not like I did. My dad was my whole world at her age. I’d stop eating dinner just to touch his arm. I’d show him drawings, even ones I wasn’t sure about. He kept them all. Until he left them all behind. It’s sad, and unfair – but it’s just how it was. And now my daddy, her grandad – isn’t here to know anymore.

Except online, there he is. Staring out at me, reminding me at any given time. He’s there but he’s not. His thumbnail image looking at me like an obituary.

Some days I look back at him. Forcing myself to remember. Remember it all, before you forget. Remember how his voice sounded. Even his disapproving tone. Remember his eyes – not that I’d forget them so easily, they stare at me from more than his photo, they look back at me every-time I look in a mirror.

Other days I avoid it, pretending I didn’t see him, trying to fool myself before that familiar wave of grief swirls around me once more. It’s a pang, or a stab. It pierces and grasps. Chokes and smothers. Slams and washes.

You can’t write it, you can’t explain it.
Even though I’ve grieved before I’d never grieved for him, so I couldn’t even imagine it.

Only when it’s you, and you are in the middle of life going on and it also halting. And you are stumbling and striding through each day. Crying and laughing at the memories you are left with.

Because dad’s dead, and he’s gone.

But he’s there in a picture, and he’s looking right at me.

 

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Dad through the ages  
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2 thoughts on “Where there is deep grief, there was great love …”

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