My photo
United Kingdom
These are the things I know.

My Father

If I were to make a list of the people who have influenced my life, an inventory of my own invention, then I don't think my father would be included.

I only recollect him as the victim of a stroke. A gentle word, stroke, that packs a powerful punch; a wolf in sheep's clothing.

My earliest memory is being taken to a relative's house, in the middle of the night, whilst my mother fetched him from a long way away. A bank manager had noticed his strange behaviour and called her. He would probably have died that day if this stranger had not bothered to look at his records and make that call. I wish he hadn't.

I remember him in hospital, visits after school. And I remember him at home. I don't remember the day he actually came home, but one day he must have come home.

Physically, the stroke had left him more or less as he was before. To look at him you would not have been able to guess at his cruel affliction. My father, by all accounts an intelligent man and an accomplished pianist, had lost his ability to communicate; he couldn't write, but he could read. He couldn't talk but he could listen. When he played the piano, whatever tune was in his head wasn't the tune he played. He was a frustrated man, an unwilling mute.

He lived with us like that for nearly ten more years.

I remember him walking in the garden with baked bean cans on his feet, or at least I remember being told that story. I was very young and the difference between stories and memories is blurred.

He started to smoke, and for ten years of my childhood I became the man of the house by day and a frightened little boy by night. I wondered if strokes ran in the family. Every headache became a tumor. As I grew up, I began to blame him.

I resented how he clung on for so long and led my mother to a breakdown. I despised the way he chewed his food. He was the reason we never went on holiday like other kids.

When he died I was sad. Sad and guilty. I lay awake and apologised to his ghost for shouting at him, and for hitting him. When, on the count of three, the door creaked in the dark, I knew he could hear me.

Some months later my mother told me that he wasn't my real dad after all. He was just a man she had been married to for thirty years. A man who had never wanted children.

I began to lie awake and worry about all sorts of hereditary conditions after that, not just strokes.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell me what you think