I haven’t written to you since about 1999. I suspect this is largely to do with the fact you have been dead since 2003 and I don’t know if dead people can read. I have written lots of things about you, plays, columns, a book, countless dreary thoughts while drunk on trains. All covertly or overtly about you. You’re in everything. Parents always are in the things we are and do I guess. Especially when they go and bloody die. Quite a defining thing. Their absence becomes a colossus in your life. But I have never written to you, Dad.
You have been dead for thirteen years this week. That’s the amount of time that passed between me being born and me starting my period. I don’t know why that sprung to mind. Sorry. I’m sure there have been other thirteen years expanses, like between the time I moved to Southend as a tot and the time I went to university. Other times. A lot can happen in thirteen years. Lots has. But it has all been tied to you. You are like a May-pole, Dad. Not matter how bright the ribbons, how merry the dance might become – the central point, the sturdy construct, the undeniable dwarfing fact over every other fact, is you. The man you were, your death, and your absence.
I went to stand by your bedroom window the other day. The window the police had to smash in to find you, there. As you were. In the doorway with blue rope around your neck like a cheap tie. Not alive anymore. I go to stand there from time to time. I don’t know what I think I will see or will feel that’s different. Time doesn’t colour itself in the wind to let us know it’s moving. I think for all our bluster about moving on and being happy, humans are singularly drawn to reconnecting with their pain. It is how we know we’ve loved. If I could leave yellow flowers there like posies at a roadside smash without confusing or saddening the current occupant I would. I would go there all the time if I thought parts of you were there, and if I wasn’t beset by this obligation to move on. We all have to move on, don’t we? We’re not shrapnel at the roadside. We’re human beings, with lives, and the confines of time, and so many constant possibilities coursing through our tiny frames.
I want to ask you so many things, Dad. Not about your death, though those questions are unquantifiable and endless and senseless and crippling, but about life. There’s so much we didn’t talk about. I would ask you what your real griefs were. What were your heart’s real regrets, the moments when you knew in a cataclysmic inner explosion what love really was. I’d ask you so many questions, down the pub. Not because I believe you have the answers. But because musing this stuff out with people you love is the most intimate way of figuring out the universe. The complicity in knowing nothing, but being there beside someone while you question everything.
You were so good at talking, Dad. I find that so strange and sad, given what you did.
I feel sad I’ll never feel that strange tipping point where children go over the line and start patronising their parents for being a bit slow or a bit dim or a bit forgetful of the way the world worked, or how it works now, different as it is. As it always becomes, with time. You would be seventy next year, I last knew you at 57. I am 35 now. Time is funny, isn’t it, Dad. Can you see me, what I’ve become? Are you proud? I think you’d wish I would sturdy up and leave you behind a bit. I think. I’m sorry I’m not better at that. I don’t know what I believe, Dad. Science and faith and romance and hope and time and space and the human ability to dream and imagine is a mind-boggling juggle of things, isn’t it, at the best of times not to mention the worst.
And so I write this to myself, mostly,
But with that unsnuffable hope in all I cannot know,