The Bed

Her bed was an object of degradation. It reeked of alcohol and sweat. Too drunk to make it the bathroom, the bed was stained with urine. Sometimes it smelled of sex and the repugnant odor of her boyfriend. He hated my looks of disgust and barbed comments. It was all too easy for him to look past the sad eyes of a 15 year old girl whose life was falling apart. Mental illness and self-medication had turned her home into a hovel. There was no safe haven.

She had transmogrified from a caring, beautiful, working single mother into a burden for the only person she always loved – me. We went from fairy stories about my missing Prince of a father – handsome but troubled – to the drunken ravings of a mad woman. What made it worse is the ravings were true. My father had asked her to abort the unwanted fetus, me, and if she hadn’t had me her life may have been so much better.

My heart broke into crystalline pieces like a shattered fairy castle. The truth was there and I just chose not to see it. Perhaps I never needed to know all the intimate details of how my father betrayed us. One revelation was that an American relative wanted to adopt me but my mother refused to consider such a possibility. I longed for Aunt Jackie to rescue me but by this stage we were no longer in contact.

Sometimes I reacted with kindness to my mother’s sad life but mostly I became remote with sarcastic comments. After a neighbor asked me to take her home, she was drunk and incapable of walking the few hundred yards, I shoved her into the wall of the house in frustration. She just sobbed and asked me to forgive her. I could not.

In anger I looked at the bed and tore the filthy bedding from it. I recoiled when I realized that it was soaked in urine. Lifting up the mattress to see if it was as bad on the other side, I saw that she had torn open the lining of the bottom divan and it was filled with dozens of mostly empty bottles of whisky. My temper flared and I started pouring the remaining whisky down the bathroom sink to the sound of her plaintive sobbing. She knew that I had been checking to see how many bottles she was drinking. At her worst it was a bottle of whisky a day.

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My Charismatic Father

My father as a beautiful boy

My father on the right as a beautiful boy

As I have been browsing other bloggers posts, I have noticed some lovely memorials to fathers who have passed on. It struck me that although my Dad died in 1990, I have no similar memories. He disappeared from my life when I was about 2 years old and, to all intents and purposes, abandoned us in Glasgow at my Grandmother’s home. Not only that, he ‘borrowed’ money from my mum’s family, never to be repaid.

My mum was a very complicated person with a mental illness and alcohol problem. When I was younger she invariably tried to boost the image of my Dad – told me how handsome, talented, clever and creative he was. I was aware that the rest of her family did not share that opinion. Then, one wonderful day, a giant package arrived from the States. Usually the parcels at Christmas were from my two single maternal aunts and one relative of my father. This one was from my father and it was full of a strange mixture of toys including a pink Cadillac, a fire engine and a large baby doll. I was so excited to receive something from this elusive father. I wasn’t quite old enough to figure out why my mum was conflicted about the parcel – we never did receive any alimony.

As the years passed, a clearer picture of my father emerged. He was a deeply flawed but utterly charismatic man who may well have had mental health issues – certainly he was an alcoholic. In one awful drunken revelation, my mum wailed at me that my Dad had wanted her to get an illegal abortion in 1959. I can still remember how devastating that was to me – not only was I an unwanted burden to my mother but my father probably only married my mother because of my existence. To make things worse I also knew that my father’s cousin, my aunt Jackie, wanted to adopt me because of the circumstances of my birth. How I longed that she had.

Time moved on, I had inherited not just a damaged psyche but a genetic mental illness. I married very young and when I was around 30 found out that we could not have children. That must have triggered something in my head and I asked my mum if she would be upset if I tried to trace my Dad but she was surprisingly keen. Long story short, I found him and he was happy to have reconnected. In essence, I had never met him and was struck by how sexy and alluring his voice was. It resonated beautifully.

There is no happy ending. Eventually, I couldn’t stand to even speak to him after many drunken calls in the middle of the night. He died in desperately sad circumstances, alone, and I am just sad that I don’t have a wonderful Dad to pay tribute to. The one person, who knew him intimately and did not dislike him, told me that I inherited his charisma. I have been told that I have a sexy and alluring voice, too.

I have written some more about him in my Kindle Book –
Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan

PS. After I wrote this I looked at my avatar and my Dad as a child and realized our faces are identical.