Today marks 19 years since my father hanged himself. For more than half of those years, I hated him. Intensely. Fiercely. But now, having been right to the same metaphorical ledge he stood on (but stepped back and resolved never to get there again), I feel desperately sad for him. I miss him. And I love him.
My father was 35, lived in regional Victoria and had four sons, the eldest three of whom (I’m the eldest) didn’t live with him. His marriage failed when he walked away from it, and we saw him only on school holidays.
He didn’t talk much about his feelings, not with me anyway, and certainly not about the depth to which they had overwhelmed him and allowed the black dog of depression to bite right into him.
A part-time taxi driver in his latter years, my father was smarter than his education ever recognised. He didn’t finish high school and he worked in auto retail for most of his adult years. He was a big man, strong and skilled at football.
My dad was the person whom I most wanted to be like, in spite of the flaws I knew he had. But then he left me. Permanently. And I have been broken, on and off, all the time since.
As a father of three myself now, also with a failed marriage and an uncertain place in the world, I have long feared that I was doomed to follow my father’s script. The one he wrote and which I felt I was playing out. But in the past six months especially, I’ve realised my fate is something I CAN influence. I don’t have to follow anything – no one’s example, no one’s expectations, and no-one’s directives. I am my own person entirely.
And having been on the losing side of the parental suicide equation, there is no way I could ever inflict that on my children. No way at all.
In the past 12 months, my life has changed almost completely. Some of it within my control, some of it not. But all of it, when viewed holistically, points to a clearing of the slate. A fresh canvas. A new opportunity to build a house of contentment for me and my children.
It’s hard, challenging, and yet exciting, this building a new life thing. It feels like a long and complicated dance routine with barely-celebrity judges commenting on my every move. But I can see and feel a much happier time and life, and I know it’s unfolding a little bit at a time.
I miss my father. But I’m also thankful. That his black dog fatally mauled him, means I have learned to wear some protective gear and try not to feed the vicious beast. My father gave me the greatest example of what NOT to do. I am thankful for that.
Today I simply remember the happy memories I have of my dad. And there are many of those, for he loved me as much as I loved him. We will always be father and son. And I am comfortable now that I will be the one to have lived a happier and much, much longer life.
Shine on, beautiful diamonds xx