Monday, 6 June 2011

Daddy's Girl

I was the ultimate Daddy's girl growing up. He could do no wrong in my eyes. And I in his I guess.

He was the only person I wanted to please, the only person I wanted to be proud of me, nobody else mattered, not Mum, not brother, not sister, just him.

And then one day he literally packed and left. I was actually there when he was doing it although I wasn't aware at the time, I was desperately ill in bed with a kidney infection which was to lead to me being hospitalized that night. He was supposed to be at home looking after me while Mum was at work. Instead he was packing and taking things to my Grandma's. He told my Mum he was leaving when she came in from work, he told me as I was waiting for the paramedics to arrive to take me to hospital.

We didn't speak for about 4 or 5 years after that. It was my choice, I didn't know how to communicate with him anymore, couldn't process the way in which he behaved and I couldn't forgive him for what he'd done to Mum.

Eventually we cobbled together some kind of relationship. It's not the same and obviously won't ever be the same, he's not the same person to me anymore. I could stay angry at him for his behaviour when I was a child and a young adult (behaviour which I didn't really understand until I grew up myself and came to unblock memories and understand grown up actions more clearly) but I don't feel that would be productive. I could never speak to him again and if I explained my reasons I think people would feel that was perfectly reasonable. But you only get one father. I have friends who have lost their fathers and I feel it would be reckless of me to cast one aside, even if he isn't perfect.

The relationship we have now is good, if not exactly like a father/daughter relationship. It's hard to explain exactly how it is. I guess the closest is an uncle/niece relationship although not quite that distant. Somewhere in the middle I suppose. Whilst I see him as a figure of authority and offer due respect, his opinion doesn't matter to me as much as it once would have done. I've never been nervous about introducing him to boyfriends, most of the time they haven't been introduced at all, because it didn't matter to me what he thought, I'm far more nervous about introducing boyfriends to my brother. I tell Dad things about my life that I wouldn't tell Mum because I would worry that she would worry about me, whereas I don't feel like he would be as bothered - or not bothered, I just care much more about my Mum than I do for him I think.

But things are good. And getting better with time. The holiday last year in France that I took was the longest period of time I'd spent with him since he left when I was 16. That was a huge step forward for us.

I mentioned in my previous post that I am currently house-sitting for him and his wife whilst they are at the house in France. I was happy to do it and get my own space for a while but was unprepared for the blasts of nostalgia that have hit me when I've turned round corners or opened cupboards or walked through doors. Remnants of a life that could have been mine. That was mine.

Like these dogs. They used to sit on Dad's chest of drawers in Mum and Dad's bedroom. Every so often I would beg and beg for Dad to let me touch them. I had to go and sit quietly and calmly on the bed and he would get them down and bring them over to me and I would pat them on the head. When I got older I would hark back to those times and when Dad was getting ready for work in the morning and putting his tie on (taken from the top left drawer of the chest) I would ask to touch them again, he would lift them down and I would pat their heads, mimicking my childish ways, before running back to my room to get ready for school.

Now they're here. Sat on a different chest of drawers. When I picked them up and moved them to take the photo above I moved them ever so ever so carefully, feeling like I shouldn't really be touching them without adult supervision.

Or this owl mug. This used to be on Dad's desk at the University where he worked. He didn't used to drink out of it, it had pens in it. Pens that I would use when I came to his work on the odd occasion. I would draw on the whiteboard, quite the novelty for someone who went to a traditional school that still had chalkboards in the classrooms. I would sit and mess about, printing out pictures of the Friends cast to stick on my folders for school (I was probably responsible for most of the costs of printing at the university in those days).

Now it sits in a cupboard with the other mugs. The University is no more, Dad was made redundant a few years ago. When I opened up the cupboard and saw him for the first time, the nostalgia nearly bowled me over. I longed for those days when everything was happy.

And what about this chair? The chair that used to sit in the bedroom that Dad would hang his clothes over throughout the week, before hanging things back in the wardrobe or putting things in the wash at the end of the week. The chair that now sits in the hallway of a house I didn't grow up in.

It's hard to describe the feeling. Obviously I see things from my childhood at my Mum's all the time and it doesn't feel odd. I guess that's because I was never separated from them in the first place and also because they're still attached to Mum and therefore make sense. These items I haven't seen for 12 years and although they are at once familiar, they also feel strange because they're all in the wrong place.

There's more obviously. I could take you on a tour but I won't. I feel I've shared enough just this once.

Dad's coming back for 4 weeks in a couple of weeks time before going back to France until the end of August. I haven't decided yet whether I will go back home or stay with him here for a while. Although my instinct is to leave, maybe this is the opportunity to have a new kind of experience with him.

I hate being a grown up.


  1. I feel for you here - families are so complicated. It must have been really unsettling to see all those little things. I am in much the same position with my dad - except that he waited until he was 61 (and I was 35) before walking out on my Mum (and going to live in Paris bizarrely). By then I had a family of my own and was completely unprepared for the shock waves that ricocheted through the family. I can completely understand why he went, relationships are difficult things and he clearly wasn't happy. But he has not really made it possible for any of us to move on as he still comes back (9 years on) every few weeks and spends time with Mum. I have a very uneasy relationship with him now - it is just not the same, he kind of tries a bit too hard but just misses the mark all the time. And I don't think I will ever quite be able to forgive him for what he has done to Mum. But as you say, he is my father and I feel I need to be adult enough to maintain the relationship in some way. Over the last 9 years I have come to the view that I will try to just be honest with myself about how I feel and not allow myself to be backed into a corner by trying to do 'the right thing' by everyone. Its not always and easy line to tread.

    And on a different note - the ripple blanket photo you sent made me laugh, spooky!! xx

  2. Sucks doesn't it? I have a surprisingly good relationship with my dad considering how deeply, deeply shitty it was when he left. I guess I just accept him for what he is - imperfect.

  3. Raw and revealing, I like this post.


  4. Oh dear...nostalgia is a hard thing to deal with at the best of times. If you don't mind me asking - did he try to talk to you in those 5 years? How come you never did? Was it just that you didn't see each other or something else? I used to have 4 step-sisters and their dad left when they were quite young to be with my mum. We tried to be accommodating and welcoming when they came to visit but clearly there was a lot of resentment and anger and it was always a struggle - it still is today I think. He wasn't invited to one of his daughter's weddings and there is certainly still distance when you would have thought time might have healed.

    I think time can heal somewhat though if you both work towards it. Ten years ago my dad had to park halfway down the road and my mum could not stand the sight of him (and strangely enough he was the victim somewhat too as she'd left him!!). Today we all eat round the same table, my mum and dad get together to clean out my dad's garage without us around. My dad's new girlfriend buys presents for my mum! It is bizarre but quite incredible too...

    Anyway...what I wanted to say was, you can't change the past but you can work toward a better future - where he might know your children one day and you might know each other better too.

    Oh and the french paper - novels and vintage magazines from a carboot in france...I'm awful - I tore the pages out... :( xxx

  5. This was sad to read, I'm so sorry you've had to go through this. It does feel like you're coming to terms with things little by little.

    Being a grown-up really is quite pants. And stuff difficult exes, and heart-wrenching problems with friends and family, the hardest relationships to understand, and to work on once they are damaged, are the parental ones. Hugs xxx

  6. I love the honesty... why do parents have to grow up and become actual human beings???


  7. Oh I'm sure this is hard for you. You are doing the right thing though in trying to forge some sort of a relationship with him. My Dad left when I was young too, and we don't have normal relationship now - as you say somewhere more like Uncle/Neice.

  8. Tricky one. I too am a Daddy's girl, but thankfully my parents are still together. I can't imagine how hard it must've been for you.
    However I think it is amazing that you have found it within yourself to move on and build a relationship with him. But I think he will have to accept that that relationship must be on your terms, as much or as little as you want.

  9. Very emotive post. It is hard sometimes to accept that parents are human too and they make mistakes and they're not perfect, and they have a life outside of just being parents. It can be hard to forgive them for mistakes they make with us when we are children and (I always think) innocent and defenceless (this sounds way more sinister than it is meant!) ... but it's true you only have one Dad and now you're an adult you can work through your feelings and try your best to have a good relationship with him. My relationship with my Mam was only just getting back on track when she died a few years ago and having feelings of guilt, blame and regret to deal with as well as grief is not easy.

    On a lighter note, I love that your Dad still has those bits and bobs you remember from childhood - I go round to my Granny's now and her house is full of 'made in Taiwan' crap, NOTHING that I remember - how dare she?!

  10. My Dad left too but he makes it very easy for me not wanting to spend time with him as he is such and IDIOT!! He winds me up within 1 minute of being in his company. I wish you well and say Well Done to you for making something of a relationship with your Dad, as you seem to have done the leg work. xxx

  11. I think adults are very selfish sometimes. Having said that sometimes it is best to go but how you do it matters. There is not a right age and it sometimes makes it harder the older the 'child' is I think. No matter what age you are, you are always the child of your parents. Perhaps one day you will be a parent too but you still get to be the child and as adults we still need to be parented and nurtured sometimes. When you don't get cared for properly it is sad, very sad. As parents we can try our best but sometimes that is not enough. My ex husband left my daughter when 4 she doesn't see him any more. That is sad for both of them but it was his choice - she doesn't remember him and she doesn't want to see him. When he left he told me 'one day she will understand'. That isn't true because he let her slip out of her life and is now a stranger. We all need nurturing and that comes from our parents - we the children can only go so far; I speak now as someone with very distant parents of my own. I may be a mother with a grown up child but just as she still needs me I need them. And they are not there. You cope but it is a loss. I am sorry for your sadness - it was never your fault. Adults make mistakes, get it wrong and don't know how to get things right - that is sad too. In the circumstances I think you are doing really well. I empathise. xx

  12. I totally understand how you feel. I lost my mom when I was 14/15. Dad remarried twice after she was gone. I have a few items from when they were together and it makes me think back to the time right before she died.

    I just lost my dad last August and the 1st anniversary is fastly approaching. My advice, take it or leave it, would be to grab what you can now so that you have no regrets later when he's gone. xoxo

  13. That's a very touching post.

    Good luck!

  14. A really honest post, thank you for sharing. My parents split up when I was young (4) and it was fine- agreed etc and we always spent time at my Dad's house (he got married again when I was 7 and had another child) and saw him. I was very lucky. I love him very much but sometimes I do really wonder what life would have been like had my parents stayed together. When I think of struggles etc we went through financially and just general things, I do feel wistful and feel we don't have the relationship we could have had. Thanks for making me think!


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