January is really and truly a shit month. It’s dark and cold, everyone’s tired and lingering with colds and malaise. It’s my awesome Dad’s birthday tomorrow which is the only silver lining. It also would have been my fabulous Nana’s birthday later in the week, then the next day my Nana and Grampa’s wedding anniversary.
Already past is my biological father’s birthday and the anniversary of his death three years ago. Three years. It doesn’t seem that long.
This has all been playing in my mind and then today I read another blogger talking about the grieving process for a Dad who wasn’t really a Dad. It’s a very similar situation for me. When I was born I was very sick and spent the first weeks of my life in hospital in Glasgow with my Mother by my side while my Father returned to work in the estate by Loch Lomond that they called home. I don’t know – I don’t think I’ll ever know – why my Mother decided not to return when I was released from hospital, why contact between them disintegrated or why my father agreed to surrender his parental rights so that my Dad could adopt me aged 4. I had no idea that my Dad wasn’t my father until I was 10 and didn’t meet him until I was 13.
We kept in touch over the years, mostly by letter. I would go and stay with F, and try to get to know this man who didn’t seem able to express emotion or talk about the past. When he finally retired and moved away from the place he’d called home for most of his adult life, he kept himself to himself in his little house. Did I do enough? Probably not. Was it my responsibility as the (adult) child? Possibly? Probably?
When he died, it was me the police came to. I’d spent the day at my Nana’s house, helping to sort through and organise her belongings as we had laid her to rest just two weeks before. She was the most important woman in my life and my living room was full of her memories. The police came to the door and my first instinct was, “I haven’t done anything wrong” before inviting them into the house. “I’m sorry about the mess, ” I waved my hand around the room, “My Nana just died and I’ve been sorting her house out.” The two police officers exchanged a glance that should have prepared me, should have warned me. Then they told me why they were there.
“We’re here about your father” the young, nervous policeman said. I knew straight away, “He’s dead?” I asked and the policeman nodded his head. I remember my head swirling, not surprised because he was frail and had Alzheimers but yet I asked, “How?”
It was when they said there’d been a fire, that was when the enormity of the situation hit me. There had been a fire, his smoke alarm had been going off for three hours. The only reason it was discovered was because his home help spotted the smoke. Three hours.
It took the better part of a fortnight to organise his funeral. The better part of a year to sort his estate out. It’s a funny thing, because he had waived his parental rights under Scots Law his brother and I had to apply to the court for permission for me to act as his executor. Seems ridiculous that a decision made about a child could have such ramifications once I became an adult.
Here we are three years later and there is – and I suspect always will be – a sadness in me about the whole thing. It’s not like I have a father-shaped hole to fill – my awesome Dad has been in my life since I was 18 months and I’ve never known any different. It’s perhaps a sadness at never getting the chance to ask the questions like, “Why didn’t you want me”. Nevertheless, his ashes remain in their urn on top of my wardrobe. I should probably do something about that soon.