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Archive for December 7th, 2016

It’s a year ago today since my Father passed away. He died on his own, in his flat. I’m still not sure what happened; was it a heart-attack, a blackout that caused him to fall and bang his head, another stroke? I haven’t been told.

And therein lies the rub of it. I haven’t been told. I have asked….but does anyone know? I’m not sure. We are the products of my father’s history….a secretive family. I hate secrets.

It’s kinda weird really knowing he is dead. It’s kinda weird knowing that I haven’t been affected by his death at all. I know my siblings have. And I feel more for them, for their loss. What is it that I feel for them? Sadness that they’ve lost someone who to them was a dearly beloved father? Pain at their loss? Empathy at the loss of a parent? I’m not really sure. I haven’t yet stopped to examine my feelings. What I do know is, the older I get the more I wish – I wish he had been a loving father, a role model, someone for me to look  up to, someone I had good memories of….someone who was there for me!!

He was 85 years old when he died. And he was old. Apparently slipping into Alzheimers, according to my sister he often got lost, confused and belligerent. 15 years past the expected 3 score and 10! More than my Mother was blessed with. She’s been gone 32 years now. My daughter asked me this morning how I was feeling. Honestly, I feel annoyed. Annoyed that he died so close to my Mother’s birth date of 6th December. It’s a bit of an annoyance to me that he died so close to her special date. Forces me to remember his date. You know as in ‘my father died the day after my Mother’s birth date’.

Actually……I lost my father when I was 5 years old and my sister 3 years old; his two children from his first marriage. The two children left behind as he set off on adventures new. Oh yes we were included….maybe twice a year…during school holidays or at Christmas. Sometimes he even appeared for our birthdays…often he promised to and didn’t.  I remember one year in particular…..I had received a much wished for train-set for my 6th birthday and he had promised to come…..he didn’t. I ran and hid in the water-tower. The place where his brother-in-law found me. The one who was a paedophile. The one my father should have protected me from. He didn’t. He didn’t believe me then and he didn’t believe me when I was in my 20’s and told him again what had happened.  He told me not to spread lies and talk about people like that. As if a 6 year-old knows the details of sexual assault without having been subjected to it. As if a 20-year old would or could forget

I am the eldest of my father’s children. There are 5 of us…..4 girls and one boy, one of whom was adopted by my father and his 3rd wife. There used to be 6 of us. My brother Arnold, who was also adopted by my Father when he married his 2nd wife, died in his 20’s from a ruptured ulcer. He too died alone. He too was found wanting. I was surprised on the day my Father told me that my brother had died…..he was crying? Even then I wasn’t sure why? My brother was not his favourite child.

Yes, my father remarried after he divorced my Mother. It wasn’t that long after. He adopted his new wife’s child; a boy – Arnold. Some years later he had another child with his 2nd wife; also a boy. He divorced his 2nd wife too many years later, and remarried again. He and his 3rd wife adopted a child; a girl. They then had another child; also a girl.

These are my siblings. I have 1 real sister. 1 half brother. 1 dead brother. 1 adopted sister. 1 half sister – all from my father’s side. I have 2 other siblings; both half-sisters, girls from my Mother’s 2nd and 3rd marriages. I was the eldest. I often wish we were closer, my siblings and I. All of them I mean. We’re relatively close, each in different ways, in our different relationships, but not in the ways that really count, like growing up together, like shared fun family times, like having the same set of parents, like all being ‘real’ brothers and sisters. Although the family ties are there, it’s been a tricky road to walk. A lot of angst. Many secrets. Don’t tell……

Over the years I had a troubled relationship with my Father. The only time I recall being close to him was when I was very young. He used to tell me I was his favourite?  I’m not sure why since he always expressed a level of disappointment in my ‘non-achievements’ as he saw them. I didn’t have an interest in going to University. Strike 1. I wasn’t interested in the son of a family friend that he was keen for me to get engaged to. Strike 2. I married at 17 years of age to someone he didn’t approve of. Strike 3. In fact he refused to walk me down the aisle. That was left to my Mother’s 3rd husband. The person who paid for the wedding. The person who had assaulted and beaten my mother for the 6 years prior. The person who had openly and brazenly sexually abused me as a teenager. He had a particular affection for my budding breasts. I was unable to tell my father. He had already told me not to spread lies about people. After 3 years I divorced my 1st husband. I then had another disastrous relationship with a very abusive man. Thankfully I ended that.  I eventually married a second time. I didn’t ask my father to walk me down the aisle.

I had a daughter outside of that marriage. A daughter that my Father felt I was not caring for properly, not feeding properly, not dressing properly. If there was something he could criticise, he did. His opinion of me as a mother was low. Strike 4. In actual fact, my daughter was the cleanest, most well-looked after baby you could wish to find. I used to change her clothes at least 3 times a day. She was skinny from birth. My milk didn’t nourish her and she had to go onto bottles. She was loved and cherished. But that wasn’t good enough for my father. He and his 3rd wife had wanted to adopt her you see. So I was found wanting.

During the 90’s after his 3rd wife went off the rails and started drinking heavily she started to verbally abuse my sister and I (you know, the one’s from his 1st marriage). We would get long abusive phone calls at all hours of the day or night. As a result, after a time, a restraining order was laid against her. My father refused to have anything to do with us after that. We, he and I didn’t talk for 4 years. That also meant I didn’t get to see or talk to his youngest children, my sisters. That was hard. It’s affected our relationship to this day. Do I wish we had been closer? Definitely. Thankfully we are now adults and can choose.

To say that I had a rocky and turbulent relationship with my father would be an understatement. I resented his authoritarian parental methods. I felt he hadn’t the right to chastise or criticise me when he hadn’t stayed around to raise me. When I was much older I understood the reason why he was authoritarian (his father was a tyrant) but nonetheless I resented him. I resented the broken promises. I resented that he discarded one for another. I resented the huge house that he lived in with his ‘new’ family while my Mother struggled to raise us in a tiny flat. I resented the car he had. At home we had to walk carrying loads of shopping or take a bus if we went anywhere. My Mother couldn’t afford a car. I resented, although I always looked forward to them with great excitement, the flights to Cape Town for the holidays. Holidays that were filled with anger and shouting. He and his 2nd wife didn’t get along too well. I resented that he drove a divide between us and them. I resented the secrets. The ‘don’t tell anyone’. I hate secrets.

I remember sitting in the Mall on the East Rand many years ago when I was already in my 40’s, meeting up with my father for coffee and having what I thought would be a grown-up discussion….it ended up with me screaming at him for not listening, not hearing me. Lashing out at his disparaging comments. At his unwillingness to even give me the benefit of the doubt. I tried to tell him so much. He wouldn’t hear me. When I was made Regional Personnel and Financial Manager for a Group of Companies in 1984….his reply: are you sure you can cope? Well I did and I thrived. I went on to become Regional Manager for the Eastern Cape. Still he was unimpressed.  His reply “Oh yes?” in that tone of voice I had learned so well over the years; it told me all I needed to know. He never said he was proud of me – ever! I hated him for a very long time.

When I came to the UK in 2001 I felt I was leaving that all behind me. I had a lot of distance between me and….then. He came to the UK in 2007…not to see me specifically but because the Tour de France was due to start from London. He was a cycling fanatic. Seeing me was incidental. On the day of the TdF start we spent some time together. I mentioned that I was thinking of walking The Camino. His reply: “you can’t, you have to be religious to do that”. Why? Millions of people walk The Camino. Many of them are not religious. He cycled The Camino. I forget how many times. He wasn’t religious. He believed he was a Christian.  So why when I said I wanted to walk was I found wanting. Still. After 50 odd years? Ironically he cycled The Camino earlier last year with my sister. She’s not religious.

I saw him last about 5 years ago on a trip to South Africa. That was the last photo I have of him and me together. We’re both smiling. Photos are so deceptive. He phoned me for my 60th birthday in 2015. I was shocked beyond belief that he had phoned. It was the last time I spoke to him.

He had a group of friends through the Al Anon group that he attended for many years in Cape Town. When I saw their comments about him on his Facebook profile after he died, it’s like they’re talking about a completely different person. Someone I don’t know. He won an award the day before he died. I didn’t even know.

I feel sadness for my siblings. At the loss of their father. But do I feel a sense of loss for myself? No. I don’t. I lost my father 56 years ago; when I was 6 years-old.

 

 

 

 

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