This post is a change to the usual for this blog. As a writer I must write a million things that nobody ever reads. But this one felt like it needed to go somewhere more public and this is, after all, my little piece of internet.
My birth Father passed away on the 18th February after a long illness. The past nine days have been a million times harder than I ever expected them to be. I have felt pain like I didn’t know existed, cried harder and longer than I thought possible and I have felt a sort of numb that is explainable unless you have felt it yourself. I’m full prepared to keep feeling those things, but writing has always been therapy to me. Anybody who has seen the number of notebooks and journals that I go through can vouch for this. So, I have written this in the form of a letter to my father. I cannot explain why I have put it on here. But here it is.
I don’t brag about many things. I never have. But one thing that I have always been happy to tell people is that I’m lucky. I am lucky because I got two dads when everybody I know only got one.
My Mum never kept it a secret that the man I grew up with was my stepfather, and who my birth father was. She never shied away from telling me stories of you and never once told me anything that would make me see you as any less than a really good person.
She wanted me to know where I came from. I wanted to know where I came from. At around 9 years old I wandered onto the street that she told me you lived on because I wanted to know you for myself. That day I met my sisters and my Grandparents, and eventually, you. I loved you from that very first day. You were just as amazing and interesting as she had made you out to be. To anyone else looking at your tattoos, beard and leather jacket you might have been scary. To me, you were the legendary man who created me, and the one who stayed away because you knew my Mum could care for me. You promised to only ever step in if it was needed, and that is a promise you kept until the very end.
I grew up calling both you and my stepfather “Dad”. It wasn’t confusing to me. It might have been to other people but it was my normal. I had two men who would always have my back.
As I got older, as a teenager, I tried to visit. Often I found myself visiting my Grandfather instead. He lived near to you and you worked a lot. I wanted to spend time with you but you never seemed to be the type to enjoy visits, cups of tea and small talk. You never turned me away but things always felt strained. I never knew why, and I never judged it. I grew to realise it was just your way.
At Grandad’s I would ask him endless questions and listen to his stories of Nanna, your siblings and You. I wanted so much to have grown up as a part of these memories. I don’t blame anyone for that not happening though, and until he left us I lived through those stories.
You see, Dad, I wanted a relationship with you and your side of my family. That is why, after using my stepfather’s surname for most of my childhood, I changed back at 16. That name was a label that identified me as one of yours. As a part of you. I took it back and I have worn the label proudly.
As a teenager I began to learn about my family history. My mum told me to get in touch with you because it was an interest of yours too. I still have the few emails where we shared information. It was the only time I felt like we truly had a connection and I loved to call you with questions when I got stuck. You would get so animated when you started telling me about the places you had got stuck, or when you told me about your Grandfather. You didn’t like him much, from what you told me he didn’t really like anybody. You shared his files with me and his history in the army. I adored these times. I loved sharing this with you. I am continuing the tree because every time I look at those files I feel close to you.
My love of bikes (although I have never ridden one), biker history and tattoos were all born from wanting to be closer to you too.
I remember my sister calling me to say you had had your heart attack. She reassured me that you were OK and they were going to operate. I remember coming to visit not long afterwards and you had quit smoking. You were going through lozenges like candy, but you refused to smoke and begged me to quit too. I did Dad. It took years, but I finally did it the same week last year that we found out you were sick. I made a promise to myself that I would never smoke again if you got better. I never told anyone that. I guess they all know now. You didn’t get better, but I still won’t ever smoke again. For you.
You see I always wanted to be a part of your life. I listen to memories and stories now but I only really have those that were told to me. I know this is my own cross to bear, but I truly never knew how. I was three years old when I left with my mother. I never worked out how to erase those years and bond with my family. I never worked out how to form a real bond with you. Instead I idolised you silently and enjoyed the small moments I got.
I always felt that I was outside of your side of my family. That I was never truly a part of it, just distant from it. I wanted to be involved. I didn’t know how.
When I came to visit you in the hospital it scared me. I try to put forward the image that I’m independent and strong and that I can cope with anything. But every time I sat beside you. Twice in the hospital, once the day the surgeon came to talk about your surgery, and on those few days I came to see you at home… I felt like a scared little girl. I was terrified of your illness, and of losing the chance to finally be a part of your life. Every time I left I planned to come and see you again as many times as I could. Then I would talk myself out of it somehow and found it harder and harder to face you again. I was too scared to keep facing the changes, facing the fact that time was going by too fast. I was too scared.
By the time I saw you in the other hospital you were already deteriorating. I sat in that room with my Uncle and Cousin and I just wanted to climb on that bed and hug you.
Dad, if there was any way you could read this I would want you to know this. I loved you always. I loved every short second I got with you. I wanted to make you proud and I will still try to. Every single day. Did I ever make you proud?
You weren’t around half as much as I wanted you to be. I don’t blame you for that. But if I could go back I would go back to when I was nine years old and I would stand in front of you and say every word of this directly to you. Then hopefully I would have had the relationship with you I was too scared to ask for.
For not trying. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being the daughter I should have been. I’m sorry for letting everyone thing that I would rather not try than for saying how I really felt. I’m sorry for blaming everything but fear out of my own pride.
I’ll love you forever Dad.