Why had my cousin rung me 5 times in thirty minutes? I returned my phone to airplane mode, and pushed open the classroom door. But during the lesson, my attention kept being pulled back to the call record, even while I taught; why was my stomach knotting?
The one hour dragged like mud, then I pressed redial.
‘It’s your Dad. He had a heart attack in Hawaii and…’
And is in hospital. Is fine. Will be fine. Or confined to a wheelchair at worst.
‘… and he died. I’m so sorry.’
Who took my knees away and punched me in the gut? Can I just curl up here and die on the street too?
A passing cyclist wobbles and stops. ‘Are you OK?’
No. Yes. No. I can’t share this pain with you, leave me alone!
Lying in bed that night, alone at home, with a silent waterfall streaming out of my eyes, drowning all those childhood snaps of kids on bikes, throwing snowballs, cuddling dogs. A black hole of unknowing rears in front of me: I’m 42, own a house, have a job, drive a car, yes, yes… but how do I actually live now without my Dad?
A month later, after the autopsy, the overseas flights, the Will, and the wakes, I cycle round my city, trying to land again. What keeps buildings upright in the face of this loss? How can people laugh, or make plans for fun? And why are you still alive, old man? Why are you still here, walking slowly down my street, when he’s not? How dare you feel the winter sun, wrapped in your red woolen scarf, picking lemons from the tree in your yard.
If I killed you, would it bring him back?
Six months later, the doctor’s test results are official:
‘You’re marking very high for stress, anxiety, and depression, I’m sorry. I think we need to look at medication, unless something changes in the next couple of months.’
I ring friends. ‘Help me. Everything I eat is sawdust, and I have to sleep with the hallway light on. If I sleep at all.’
Acupuncture, herbs, massage, therapy. Lots and lots of therapy.
‘Some people are more resilient than others; it’s not your fault; it was a huge shock; you’re actually traumatised.’
My best male friend T rings every other day for a year. On the days I’m lying on the couch, a numb mannequin, he just listens. On the days I rant, spew, and wail, he just listens.
I claw out of my dank hole, dirt under my nails, grit between my grinding teeth, hauled up by dear sweet friends, and a tiny primal will to survive.
One day I hear myself laughing; it’s been a long time.
Then T rings me.
‘My Dad’s been diagnosed with brain cancer. He’s whistling or singing nursery rhymes, and all he wants to eat is cake. Come visit us for Xmas.’
The extended family gathers, and I am welcomed. I even get gifts. I keep tears rammed safely in the back of my throat, and play board games, or help load the dishwasher.
A few weeks later T rings me again.
‘He’s gone. I can’t believe it. And I must tell you: every single time I rang you, and said I understood, and that it was all going to be OK, I was wrong. So wrong. So full of bullshit. I had no idea what you were really going through. I’m so sorry.’
I hold the phone to my ear as I shake my head slowly side to side.
A soft, sad smile whispers across my face.
‘That’s OK T. Ever since it happened to me, I went to live on a different planet. The one where everything’s exactly the same, except you’ve lost your Dad. I’ve just been waiting here, for someone else to join me… And look, it’s you.
I’m here to say Welcome. Me too.’
© bone&silver 2017
I’ve always loved words, ever since I first spelt c-a-t, and saw magic. I won a Romance story competition 25 years ago, and more recently got 4th, 3rd, and 2nd with a short story in Australia, where I live. I am taking my personal blog ‘bone&silver’ more seriously now, and of course, want to finish a book (or ten). I am a theatre maker/artist, a Feminist, a Queer woman, and Mum to an awesome 17yr old, who also calls himself a Feminist (a great achievement).
I blog at bone&silver. You can also find me on Facebook as bone&silver, Twitter as @boneAndsilver, and Insta is g_bone_and_silver. The rest of the socials, you can keep; that’s enough screentime thanks. I love to dance, walk, meditate, drink peppermint tea, have sex, nap, cook, and laugh. I want world peace, renewable energies everywhere, and Trump sacked.