Friday, 25 January 2013

Death is Another Country

My conscious mind is only too aware that my Dad is dead. Yet my unconscious hasn't caught up. In my dreams, my father is still there: still ridiculing lads in low-slung jeans whilst his own trousers are falling down cos 'I don't like anything tight around my stomach', still going to look at really obscure things in shops to see how much of a crowd he could attract, still tatting around the house stopping it from falling apart. In my dreams, I never have those moments where I think, 'oh, here's Dad, so it must be a dream'. It always feels perfectly normal, just like the dreams I had before he died.

Yet every day I am reminded he isn't here. I come downstairs and there he is on my mantelpiece, and there is his cushion on my chair. Every day there isn't even one phone call from him. He used to call most days, and once he was home after breaking his hip he would phone AT LEAST once a day, and usually more. He somehow ended up with three zimmer frames, and they have now been donated to where I work. One still has a hospital wristband attached to it with his name on, and I can't bring myself to take it off. Yesterday I referred to it as the 'Harry Field Memorial Frame', and it's what it always will be in my mind. Then when I go over to Mum's, it is like a little shrine to him - but at the same time the house screams the lack of his physical presence - because it is almost just as he left it.

In some ways, he will never be truly gone. I still have to consciously think to remember to say, "going to Mum's" cos I always used to say "going to Dad's". When I phone her, the phone number is listed as 'Dad'. The drawer where all the bills and other important stuff is kept is still 'Dad's drawer', there's still 'Dad's chair', and his bedroom is still his.

Dad's drawer is a weekly ordeal - every week there's something I either need out of there or have to put in there. It breaks my heart to see his spidery writing on envelopes when I go looking for tax returns and stuff, all filed and labelled. Then there are the little booby traps in there - his FC Barcelona keyring that he got when we were there in the 70s, the signet ring he used to wear, medals for golf, soccer, bowling.

If I wanted, I could go into his wardrobe, where all his clothes still are. The shelves hold his aftershaves, so opening the door it even smells like him.

I can cope with all of this - from the empty seat where he should be sitting, to the Dad-Smelling Wardrobe. But there is one place I will not enter. The garage. I had to go in there before he died, and even then I couldn't stop crying, just knowing he was never going to go in there, never going to touch all his perfectly ordered stuff ever again. Everything has its own place, from his little tins of nails, nuts, bolts etc on his workbench to the tools hanging on pegs or stored on shelves. Worst of all is the smell. Some combination of slight damp, oil, paraffin, metal, all the different things he stores in there. It's the smell of my childhood - of waiting for him to oil the chain on my bike, or to clean my hands with his thinners rag, or of helping to pack away the 'bloody nuisance dahlias every damn year'. It's the smell of where we would find Dad when he was at home - messing about under the car, or working on something at the vice. It's not something I can face, and I don't know if it ever will be.

So whilst I know very well that he is dead, some part of me hasn't fully taken it on board. The only explanation I can come up with is the same reason I have for sometimes forgetting even now that my brother is dead. In my family, we are quite used to not seeing eachother - my brother lived in Minehead, my sisters live in Buckinghamshire and Germany. I was used to not seeing my brother from one Christmas to the next, so it's no wonder I sometimes forget he is dead for a second. I think there's a part of me that thinks Dad's just another family member who's moved away for a while. That one day he'll visit, or I'll go and visit him.

Maybe that part of me is right. I hope so.

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