I’M STILL SOMEONE’S SON
My father died. That is something I have to deal with. From what I can remember it was pretty bad. But the lingering memory I have of it is of being held in my mother’s arms the day we found out he had succumbed to the aggressive cancer that was eating his insides. It had come on slowly, the nights he laid in bed vomiting, refusing to go to the doctor, until my mother got so sick of his stubborn nature that she called for the doctor to come to the house. I have a visual memory, looking over the landing from my bedroom into my parents’ bedroom where the doctor hovered over my father with a stethoscope, knowing full well from the condition he was in that it wasn’t anything trivial. He had been in that bed for what seemed like months to me, but what does time matter to a child? The next memory I have is somehow disjointed in time – I sit at the end of a hospital bed kicking weights that dangle from my father’s feet, he’s in for something to do with his back, something I attribute to my own back issues, but this is a digression, maybe mentally as a safety barrier for my own mind. He doesn’t have cancer yet, but I am in the hospital, somewhere I would spend a large majority of age nine. This jumps to me again, sitting on the floor of another hospital, it could be the same one, it is where they bring biscuits like in a hotel, so I guess there is still no cancer. My father asks me to empty a bottle for him, it swishes with a dark yellow liquid – it stinks of piss. I guess he was still in for his back. Another hospital, this time there are board games stacked on a small shelf and there is a vague sepia tone to the memory, like sunshine through yellow curtains, I ask to press my father’s button but he says I can’t, it is attached to a white machine with a blue plunger. They took that button off him as they said he was getting too dependent, why worry about someone being addicted to morphine in a hospice, a place to die, why make him go out in pain? Next I come home from school, my father is there and he stands on the same green-carpeted landing next to the large mirror, the brown door of the airing cupboard behind him and he asks me what I think, I think he looks like a skeleton wearing yellow man-skin but I answer that I don’t know, at this point I don’t even know the man standing in front of me. His beard is gone he says, leaving only the moustache. It looks no different to me, he still looks dead. He comes home from work in his new Chevrolet Blazer, calls me from his mobile phone on the driveway, his cuddly toy gorilla ‘Wilberforce’ sits on the passenger seat. We watch a video of my holiday in Norway where my mother’s brother and his wife looked after me for a few weeks, it was to hide me from the death, I walk up a forest path carrying a heavy load of fish and a narrating voice asks me if I caught them, the video says I did, my own voice said I didn’t, I still regret it. I’m in my godmother’s house, the phone rings, my brother stays on the line, my father is dead, I’m in my mother’s arms. I’m at a funeral, dozens of people file past me telling me how brave I am, I’m confused, I stand alone looking at wreaths of flowers that say ‘DAD’, ‘BROTHER’, ‘HUSBAND’, I stand alone. Two years pass, no memory, only a holiday in America.
A thousand more years pass and I am different, no longer the same child, a fatherless child in a world filled with fatherless children. He is gone. Snippets of memory white-washed by grief, all that remains are snippets of grief. The confused boy becomes an angry teen and the world is now my enemy – even my mother. The house is a warzone, my brother disappears for days, weeks, months, years, and then he is back. I stand alone forcing people to fall in love with me, but I just don’t want to stand alone. Drink, drugs, drugs, drugs, ten years gone, I stand alone. Through it all, these ten years of anger, self abuse and hatred there is someone there that still believes in me. I steal, I break her already broken heart with every open of her purse, every stolen credit card, every unspoken word. She leaves, I stand alone. The house we grew up in gets sold, a new family changes its façade, the windows are different, the garage is now a room with windows, my old room still sits under a sodium street lamp hoarding all of my memories. I feel like it misses me, I hope it misses me as much as I miss it.
She finds her much deserved happiness, she is home, home to her, my second home and the man she falls in love with is a man she fell in love with a very long time ago. But his love for her is that of pure devotion, a man who spent his whole life wishing he had never let her go, and then one day she returns and he grabs hold so tight he will never do anything to harm her or make her unhappy. I am now happy, my mother’s happiness, it turns out, was the single most important thing. For all the years I complained about how my estranged father was unfairly ripped out of my life I hadn’t thought to contemplate that I was still someone’s son. There was a hole in my story that I thought could not be filled, and there she was, Mamma, my mother. It didn’t matter that he was gone anymore, when you cannot conjure the image of a person’s face in your mind are they still a part of your life? Did they ever exist? I had felt so neglected by life. The ghost of my father lives in the memory of my mother, my brother, my aunts and uncles, but all I have is snippets of grief. I obsess over photographs that I am not in, there are photos of me, maybe two of me and my father, all the baby photos I am alone, or held by grandparents. I am always reaching out for someone behind the camera in the photographs, reaching out for Mamma, who was always there.