Dec 07, 2022
9 mins read
Hello everyone! I hope you are all fantastic out there! You guys who follow the blog each time one publishes now know I don’t treat this like a journal. I try to tie experiences, thoughts and metaphors together albeit in an amateurish way and produce something that is well thought out and presented well. I don’t think this is going to be the case today.
I had quite a panic last weekend and then one of the most challenging weeks ahead that I’ve had in a long time, I have had worse in the past but this was something that I had been expecting, to tell the truth I been expecting it for most of my life and I can remember as a kid worrying about this exact thing. My father was taken ill and admitted to hospital in Crewe, now I need to provide a bit of background before it’ll make sense. My father is a bit unconventional in all things. He is older than most peoples fathers my age. I’m 37 and he is 83. My father was 46 when he had me and my earliest memories of him are as an ‘old man’ now obviously he wasn’t old then but compared to all of my friends who had fathers in their early 20s and 30s it definitely seemed that way to me. My father is a master craftsman, he is a potter, pottery teacher and pottery expert. Very bohemian in a way. His chosen lifestyle has always been quite alternative in his living habits. He has preferred to live on a narrowboat on the canal since I was 4. When he decided to take me and leave London he sold his workshop, shop and left his teaching position to move back onto the canal. Now this all sounds fine in theory but the practical was very different as he was and is very eccentric. He removed the boats central heating within the first month of being on the boat and replaced it with a small wood fire, also the plumbing went as well bar a sink and bath that you couldn’t fill. Imagine trying to fill a bath by boiling water on a fire in pans? But that was my father and I love him for that. He is one of the most knowledgeable people I know in things that boys like. Forestry skills, wildlife knowledge and of course his craft. He ran the Black Dog Pottery on his boat, the rear cabins were his workshop and kiln areas. He was and still is incredibly frugal, obsessively so.
Anyway, without all the horror stories, trauma and bundles of work for a psychotherapist in between him taking me (without my mother’s knowledge) to a boat in the north of England, completely off grid and him having another family with his next partner and then that family then separating.
I grew up in a shared custody situation, seeing him every fortnight and on school holidays before I was 16. I adored my dad he is Peter Pan to me. The boy who doesn’t grow up. He was all animal bones, bows and arrows and bike rides. I did my first fishing with him and so many other things too that I wouldn’t have time to tell you all now. He was very hard work, his ways, choices and lifestyle started putting up barriers between us when I was in my mid to late teens and I stopped having the contact with him that I had before. No harsh words, no fall out but him choosing to not have a phone and other barriers meant we would go quite long periods without speaking. I had my children and life has just moved on by, quite quickly. I saw him and my younger brothers at my grandmother’s funeral about 8 years ago and we made an effort to be more regularly in contact since then, but I still only would speak with him 3or4 times per year. He has never met my Son and has met my Daughter just once. He in the time since I was 18 and the last time I visited the boat has bought a piece of land and has been breeding rare birds and made a nice little business out of it all. He sells hatching eggs, eggs for cooking and breeds rare birds to sell at auctions.
Right so that is the picture painted and background put in place, whatever your opinions on that is not the point of me sharing this. Its just for context of our relationship. I received a phone call that my father had been in hospital for 9 days previous to the phone call with renal failure. His Kidneys had stopped working after a serious bout of sickness and diarrhoea. I was actually appalled that I hadn’t known of this before and quite embarrassed. Regardless of time, relationship and all that bullshit, he is my father and the fact that I didn’t even know made me sick myself. When I spoke with him “Oh I didn’t want to worry you” “I’m fine” and all the rest of it. I was worried that he wasn’t telling me the complete truth of the situation and when I spoke with the ward nurse who took me through the notes, she implied that he wasn’t in the best of health and that he was downplaying it. We were also concerned about the condition of his chickens as he has over 200 birds on the property. He has neighbours who feed the birds for him, but they need cleaning and medicine giving to them too. It’s a much bigger job than simply feeding etc.
I obviously freaked out with my mental health issues, the anxiety I suffer from on top of all the issues I have with my father, I’ve always felt like I have let him down in my life, because I didn’t want to adopt his lifestyle and wanted to remain in London and enjoy society essentially. He didn’t quite understand that so he can be very hard work when discussing anything in relation to life and real-life problems.
I was terrified of all of the possible things that he could say, do and all that baggage that comes from childhood was ready to smash me in the face. A huge part of anxiety conditions is in the “fight or Flight” response. Someone who is very prone to anxiety and panic attacks (to the point of paralysis) will 9 times out of 10 choose the flight instead of fight. This is what essentially keeps you safe. What makes me worse is that I have a Personality Disorder which means when my fight or flight response is triggered, and I can’t run away my fight response being broken gets me into trouble. I lose the ability to communicate effectively, function correctly and can even become anti-social. I thought I was going to lose my dad and I felt that I had to go and be with him while he was in hospital. Hospital is not a great place to be especially by yourself. As I write this it makes me laugh out loud to think about it. Me with all my Me-ness (Me-ness = what makes me, well me) trying to navigate this was going to be tricky. I felt I owed it to him and to myself to go so I forced myself. I said to myself all I can do is the next five minutes, if I can get through the next five minutes, I’ll be ok, and I kept on at those five minutes for 5 days away from home. I’m very proud of myself for it. I spent the first 3 days with him in hospital and he was discharged late on the 3rd day. I spent the 4th day with him on his piece of land and boat. This is where the next part of my life starts. I saw the conditions the man had been living in and you would only describe him as homeless when looking in from the outside. In his head he is perfectly fine, but no working heater (the fire long since rotted) and with a boat that’s full of things that have been there for 20 years, unloved and uncared for. He resembles one of those hoarders you see on those extreme cleaning shows now. I could tell you all the stories he told me about why it’s the way it is and why the smell was so bad etc but I’m not going to. It’s not necessary right now. He has full mental capacity and makes an active choice to live like that, to remove him from it would be cruel so instead of judging him or fighting with him I made a deal with him that I would come back up and camp on the land, great thing about living on a boat is its next to water and I can do some fishing.
I’m going to help him restore his bits and pieces and get it all back up to a liveable condition for him and his livestock. He seemed pleased at the prospect of that. All I can do is what I can do but I will not let him sit by himself to die in that. Even if all I can do is come up, clean out the chickens, restore any woodwork that needs doing and be with him, let him tell his stories and make his awful tea and talk to me. He knows I care, and he knows he is loved, I told him many times and being able to tell him about his grandchildren and leave pictures was huge for me and him too. I learned something too about my father as I said at the beginning of this piece, he’s always been an old man to me but now he really is an old man and for the first time I’d seen him truly vulnerable and small in himself. It made me realise that the big, scary demons and issues that I had regarding certain things from my childhood weren’t that scary anymore. I’ve inspired myself with this, If I can force myself through that and come out the other side intact and without behaving poorly then I must be progressing in myself, I must be getting better and doing better. So the next part of my life has begun, the part where I push myself, throw myself at those big and scary things where possible because I might just come out the other side and be proud of those achievements. I will be going up at the end of January and I’m actually looking forward to it and that in itself is awesome as I always dreaded going to my dad’s as an adult, now I feel like I get to have him back and I’m going to try and make sure that Peter Pan never grows up and he gets to live in Neverland for as long as possible.
Love you all hugs/xxxx