13 years ago, I woke up and chucked my little red jumper on, attempted to tie my newly bought school tie and scurried my way down the stairs. I picked up my school bag from the hallway, scrunched my hair back into the tightest ponytail and took a breath. Then, my life changed forever.
I guess we all go through certain things that shape us into the people that we are. People mould us, build our personalities but they also allow us to crash, in my case, like the waves on a cold September morning.
13 years ago my life changed forever. Most people will remember their first day of secondary school. Chucking that new uniform on, wondering whether you’d picked the right bag, begging your Mam not to put you in those damn kickers shoes and wondering whether you’ll have anyone to sit by on the big school bus. Feeling scared about who’s form room you’ll be in, whether you’re going to make new friends, whether your primary friends are going to still bother with you and wondering whether the big kids will make fun of you because you’re that little year 7 prancing around like a deer in headlights. My day will forever be remembered as the worst day of my life; and the best.
The most vivid memory I have is that one silent conversation my mum and grandmother had that morning. There were no words, just silence; in my house that was enough to know there was something wrong.
As an 11 year old, you think your parents are invincible. They are your protectors and although they make mistakes, they’re always right in their reasoning. My dad had no reason, no protective trait in his body that morning and he was definitely not invincible. That’s what I thought back then.
My Dad had the social standings of a saint. Born into a middle class family, schooled at a boarding school and born with a more than average IQ, on paper he was the ideal success story.
In reality, raised by an alcoholic mother, stripped from a relationship with his father after an untimely death, he was a violent drunk that spent the majority of his days off his rocker, face down in the gutter, driving into brick walls (sometimes train tracks) or down in his shed at the bottom of the garden with a bottle of whisky. He’d spend his afternoon waiting outside the school gate for us, drunk, maybe drugged, telling us he wanted us all to die together. He was the nightmare that kept me up at night, he was the man that beat my mum black and blue and he was everything I’d wished my father not to be.
Therefore, when he died on my first day of school, I felt relieved. I felt relieved that he’d no longer be that shadow over us, I’d no longer have to look over my shoulder when walking down the street; I felt relieved that he was dead. That he was gone. My wish had come true, my dreams were made and I could live my life happily ever after…That was until it all sunk in.
Losing a parents is hard enough. Losing a parent the way I did was just a completely different kettle of fish. Although my dads been dead 13 years this week, he died a long time before that. For me, my father never really lived. He didn’t see the world, he never experienced fatherhood, family life – he died the very same day he touched his first drop of alcohol. That saddens me.
I’ve gone on and told you about the bad things he did, but deep down he was a gentle monster. Sitting here, 13 years down the line, I’ve opened my eyes to the very man my father was.
My father was an addict. He was a drunk. He was a mental health sufferer. He wasn’t a monster, his actions were cries out for help, him screaming at me to help him get better. The one thing that will live with me, until I meet him again, is that just chatting to him could have made the world of difference.
Cutting him off wasn’t the right thing to do. Showing him how little I cared was not the way to go about it. I could have saved him, before he gave up on himself.
There’ll always be the question as to whether I’m good enough for this world because of the way he left me, yet what I must remember is that he left not because I wasn’t good enough for him. He left because he thought I’d be better off without him. For a while, I thought I was. In some sense, maybe I am.
My dad has been dead for over half of my life now, yet his story, his hurt, his actions, his demons – they continue to influence me every single day of every single month. I’m a better person now he’s not here with me.
When he left, I opened my eyes to whole new perception of this world, and for that, I’ll forever be in debt to him.
You were the nightmares of my childhood, but you are the hero in my adulthood.
Love always Pa,