Unusually, I have chosen to explain this post before I begin, and not add one of my cryptic, and often ambiguous, notes, after the piece.
Spoiler alert. In this post, I actually get to the point. With little, if no, ambiguity. You have been warned.
This is my response to day sixteen of the WordPress 101 Blogging U. course run by WordPress. The course will end on Friday. This post is also the third in a sequence of linked posts. The first, in response to the prompt on day four, serially lost (1:3) was my scene setter and probably (and perhaps of no surprise to some?) raised more questions than it answered. The second of the three posts, in response to day thirteen, serially found (2:3) developed my theme but, with complete consistency, I failed to offer any answers. Spoke in riddles.
The brief for part three, came in two parts.
As usual, a prompt, with a twist.
“Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.
For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” What do you think about or visualize when you read this phrase? For an elementary schooler, it might be a box in their classroom, full of forgotten jackets and random toys. For a frequent traveler, it might be a facility in an airport, packed with lost phones, abandoned bags, and misplaced items.”
And, the twist?
“On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of lost and found more generally in this post.”
In the piece that follows, I may, or more likely not, follow the prompt or the twist. I may try, now I am not so sure. What I do know, is that I will finish telling my story.
In serially lost (1:3) I said that I would unfold “A story which involves a tennis court, a phone call, a student sitting on the kerb, an elephant slide, a drive through the country.” In serially found (2:3), after rambling a lot, I concluded that “I found, what I had lost.”
So, here, the third part.
I discovered the true extent of my loss over an unwanted cup of tea at a roadside cafe.
There really was an elephant slide.
I remember that, because I focused on the elephant’s trunk, down which, in that other world, the one where students play tennis before deciding where to get drunk, happy kids should slide.
As my own ears wanted to close and shrivel up.
I hoped, that if I kept looking at the elephant slide long enough, the story I was hearing would prove to be some insane dream. Or maybe I had misheard?
But no, I hadn’t.
Over a rapidly cooling cup of tea (unwanted), I was told crisply, what had happened.
Or, what my father had “happened”, to happen.
It had not been an accident. He had driven out in his car. Made all the preparations.
He scribbled a brief, emotional, note to my mother, left buried in the pages of a book, one that meant much to him.
And, under a motorway bridge, he turned the key, the act that ended whatever his sorrows were, and other things “happened”.
Just like that.
Just like that. He took his own life. Or, without mincing words, he committed suicide.
The (unwanted) cup of tea was followed by a drive through the country, I remember every tree and hedge on the way. Even now, decades later, I can see every leaf.
The drive through the country was followed by the “arrival” at home. Or hell, on earth.
I am writing here, selfishly about my experience, I had siblings, each of whom has their own story, they suffered, probably more than I did. I had a mother, well barely, as she was tranquillised into a state that was as close to death as I could imagine.
Then there were all the relatives and friends, who wanted to help and say and do the right thing.
But, there is no right thing. There just isn’t.
What followed in the next, almost catatonic days, was a blur of anger, resentment, hatred, grief and most other emotions you care to imagine. Or perhaps you don’t. Actually, yes (or no), you don’t.
You really don’t.
And, oh, yes, there were the boxes of papers, piles of clothes, remnants of a life. And, as the eldest sibling, and not on tranquilisers, it fell, in large part, to me, to sift through all that remains of a life.
I won’t detail that, why bother, imagine or don’t imagine, makes no real difference.
What followed over the years?
An interminable period of grief, self blame, guilt, wondering what had happened? Could I have rescued him? If I had said something to him that last time, as I waved good bye as my train pulled out of the station, and his sad face diminished?
All these things and more.
The feeling that there must be more to it. Maybe he had been murdered? Or it had been a terrible mistake? All of these things kept me awake for night after night for years. And counselling, psychotherapy? No, what I got were the boxes of financial records, and official papers to read.
What I also got was a gaping sense of loss and, yes. Anger.
Seething anger. A poisonous mess of conflicting feelings.
Anger over my lost innocence. Anger over the pain in the eyes of my siblings, their lost innocence. Anger at the dead, drugged, eyes of my mother. Anger at all those people trying to help.
How could they?
And anger at all those people whose lives hadn’t been thrown into chaos by the simple act of turning a key.
Which brings me to my point.
The point is, it happened, I didn’t get over it for a long time, maybe I never will.
And yet, I must. Now.
For so long, I just wanted to be able to speak to him one more time. We had only really just started talking to each other, some months before the elephant slide entered my life.
And now, at last, I want to put it behind me. Move on, and stop hurting. And, stop hurting others.
So, here, my point is.
Dad, wherever you are, I forgive you.