When I read the text message a week last Saturday, I think, if I am honest, I had an incling as to what had happened. It simply said ‘I have tried to ring you several times. I guess you have heard the news!”
It was from my cousin and as it would transpire, my mum had tried to call me several times, too. I hadn’t heard the news I told my cousin, my heart was racing though as I waited for the confirmation. With a strained voice he told me.
My father had died the night before and he was sorry.
I paused, trying to think of the words to say and even now I am not sure what we talked about. But at the end of the call, I just put my phone down, went back upstairs and told my fiancee Amy the news.
A week on and I am still not sure how I should be feeling. My father, for want of a better description, was a harmless, but weak man. By the time I was, I think, about ten years old, I already knew that he was a drinker, a man who was forever trying to find ways to make money on the side, not to support his family, but to find more money to fund his addiction. I won’t go in to details, as I am sure there are many people out there who have suffered through their parents divorce, sufice to say, after one broken straw too many, my mum kicked him out and the unhappy marriage was ended.
Fast-forward a decade and my mum had done an admirable job bringing up two sons on a low income, working fifferent jobs and not getting any support from their absent father.
For me, school life had been difficult in the early years after their divorce. Back then it was a rare thing, not having a dad, and it was something kids could get you on, cutting in deep with their innocently cruel jibes that left scars nobody could see.
The trouble is, and even now it is probably why I am blanketed by confusion on my feelings, is that my father, more than not in time leading to his death, continued to live in my hometown. So I still bumped into him, still saw him traversing the pubs and stumbling home. I still spoke to him when I saw him and I guess I tried to help him where I could over the years, but he was beyond help. He was always proud of me, he told me once, knew I would be the one to do something with my life, and I hope, despite it is too late now, that one day I will make him proud.
But right now, I am lost, wandering through my thoughts, my feelings and my confusion. I expected the day would come when my father died from the drinking, but, now that it has happened, I am unsure how to grieve.
I have an amazing life now, one that has taken me away from my hometown and away from all of the bad memories that marred my early life and cast shadows on my happier days. My father is still there in my memory, a man who taught me how not to lead my life, so, in a strange way, I should thank him for that, at least.
Perhaps my grief will come out in another way, help me to develop the emotional side of my writing, who can tell. The very last time I saw my father, I was crossing a zebra crossing in my hometown, having returned there to do my first ever book signing in The Hungerford Bookshop. I was holding hands with Amy and I heard knocking on glass. I glanced to the Three Swans Hotel and there, sat in the window, oblivious to the fact his son was now an author, was my father, smiling happily and waving, a drink in his other hand. It was the first and only time he saw Amy and he looked genuinely happy.
I shall keep that thought in my head and perhaps, it is a fitting one.