My biological Dad died on Friday following a massive stroke. My Mum left my Dad when I was 7 and my brother was 9. My brother stayed living with my Dad in the Midlands, and I moved 200 miles north with my Mum to Cumbria as that’s where she was from. Telephone calls in those days were horrendously expensive, so I didn’t get to speak to my Dad all that much. My Mum could drive (my Dad had a motorbike but no car), so we used to shlep down the M6 once a month to visit my Dad and Brother, with me puking from motion sickness by the time we got 20 minutes up the road. It was not fun.
As time went on we visited less and less. My Dad punished my Mum for leaving him and was often conveniently out when we arrived, leaving us sitting on the doorstep. In punishing her, however, he forgot that he was also punishing me. I’d receive expensive gifts at Christmas and birthdays but as the years went by I didn’t feel I had much of a relationship with my Dad. He very reluctantly paid child support, which was £7 per week in 1974 and didn’t change until he stopped paying in 1983 by which time it barely kept me in tights.
My Mum remarried when I was 9 and it was my Step-Dad who kept me financially, put a roof over my head, came to my school plays, put up with my teenage tantrums, worried about me, ferried me about, took me on holiday and did all the other things that Dads do.
I got married when I was 21. My Mum and Step-Dad paid for the wedding, came with me to choose venues, my dress and the rest, and put up with my crying fits when the stress got too much. I asked my Step-Dad to give me away and sent invitations to my Dad, brother and rest of my paternal family. My Dad threw a hissy fit, saying I was his daughter and he should be giving me away. So I let rip. I’d been living in Cumbria for 14 years by that stage and he had never once been to visit me, despite the fact there is a straight train from his town to mine which takes about 2½ hours. He could go to Tenerife on holiday but not travel a couple of hours up the M6 to see his only daughter. I basically told him he’d been a shit Dad and I meant it. Neither he, my brother nor any of my paternal family have ever spoken to me since.
Five years later when I was 26, desperately ill after catching meningitis, developing severe M.E., unable to speak or walk and having been told I might die, my family heard about a private Clinic which offered an experimental treatment. We knew a girl very very ill with ME who had been there and she had come home much improved so, absolutely desperate and fearing for my life, my parents decided to take me there. But it cost £1000 a week, and my parents were struggling to find the cash. So I wrote to my biological Dad, explained the situation and asked him to help. His reply was that ME didn’t exist, there were people in the world worse off than me and I needed to pull myself together. There was no cash, not even a ‘get well soon card’ and he still didn’t come to see me. As far as I’m concerned he died that day, not this week.
30 years later I still don’t feel I did anything wrong. My paternal family all blamed me for being the innocent victim in a divorce which wasn’t my fault. My Dad didn’t make much effort and then basically left me to die. How I ended up being blamed for all that and being sent to Coventry for the rest of my life is still a bit of a mystery.
So I have to be honest, I feel absolutely nothing about the death of my biological Dad. I grieved for him 30 years ago and have nothing positive or negative left to feel. I’m sad for my brother who I’m sure is in bits but these people are basically strangers with whom I share DNA and that has been their choice, not mine. It is not up to children as young as 7 to make the effort and keep relationships alive in a divorce. It is up to the parents. My Mum tried her best and my Dad made it difficult. All of which was outside of my control.
During the conversation with my Dad over my wedding, he shouted “your my daughter and I love you”. Love is a verb. It’s a doing word. You can’t just say you love someone, you have to show it. You have to do the work.
On to other news. Each year my Camera Club has a competition with two other local Camera clubs. A total of 45 images are judged and I’m delighted to say that this picture I took of my Step-Dad came 2nd 🙂