Sunday, 29 April 2012

Dulce et decorum est?

1st May was my Dad's birthday. That means on Tuesday he would have been 60. He always said he could never imagine himself being old.

I have such mixed feelings about his birthday. I feel a strange mixture of anger and relief. Anger at him for choosing to die rather than live. Were we not important enough? And relief, that he is not here. Was he a coward?or did he genuinely believe he was protecting his family by taking his own life?

You hear of people being asked at an interview about if they could invite one guest to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be? In my case, I think I'd invite my Dad. I'd want to ask him so many questions. Tie up all the loose ends that seem to circulate forever in my head.

When he died, my mum originally told me he died of a heart attack. This wasn't strictly true. He committed suicide and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. I didn't find out he had killed himself until I became 16.

The story leading up to that is too long for one blog entry. That day though has had a profound effect on his widow and each of his children and even on other people who didn't even know him. It's crazy to imagine that his death 24 years ago is still impacting on the people we are today.

That Saturday, I was watching tv in our living room. I remember it so well. Wet Wet Wet was my favourite band. They had just released a new track - Angel Eyes. My Dad was mad about his music. He had a record collection that was the envy of all my schoolfriends. He used to make up 'tapes' for people he knew. This was when we still played vinyl and just a few years after the invention of the 'auto-reverse' Sony Walkman (for the uninitiated, this meant you didn't need to take the tape out and turn it over)! So, lead singer, Marti Pellow was talking about his musical influences and referred to his love of Tamla Motown. My Dad and I had been teasing each other for some time about the influence for this song and that morning he had finally been proven correct. Anyway, we were kids, it was Saturday morning tv and we barely looked up as he said goodbye and left the house. Something I have regretted ever since.

In our house, chores were split amongst the kids in return for pocket money. The chores were also rotated to avoid arguments. It wasn't until my brother went to vacuum the carpet that mum realised something was very wrong. The hose that was used for the staircase was missing.

It wasn't until later that afternoon, that the reason for its disappearance became apparent, although my mum had her suspicions. Sometime around 3 or 4pm the police showed up at the door to break the news that my dad was dead. He had committed suicide by attaching the vacuum cleaner hose to the exhaust pipe of the car. When he turned on the engine he administered himself a lethal dose of carbon monoxide into his airways. His car had been found by a passer-by, on a country lane, not too far from his place of work. It's strange the things that you think of at a time like his. I remember wondering whether he had been listening to one of his tapes as he died. If so, which song was playing?

For two years we (his children) lived in ignorance of all this. My mum kept the burden between herself and a few close family members - to spare everyone else the heartache she knew it would cause.

So, back to the present day. Why do I feel a mixture of anger and relief that he left us? Well I feel anger that he left my mum with the sole responsibility to raise us. Left her a widow at such a young age and that he put us through the pain of having to grieve for him. I'm also angry at him because I feel like I have so many unanswered questions. As for the relief, that comes down to his motivation for choosing to commit suicide in the first place. If he had lived, I'm certain life would have been quite different to how it had been until that point. The point is this though; our lives changed the day he died anyway so he didn't spare us that by killing himself. We still went through hard times adjusting to what happened. At least if he had been alive, things may have changed but at least there would be an opportunity for us to have answer to the many questions that still remain. That being said, if he had lived, we would have had to deal with the many repercussions. I still think that the option that I'd have chosen would have been for him to live and face the consequence of his actions.

Instead, he took what I consider to be the easy way out. The coward's way. (More on that later.) He ran away from it all and chose death over his family. His actions were selfish.


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