^ unknown & king of popcorn.
On this day, nine years ago, a police officer drove an hour and a half from Wallsend to our house in the country, knocked on the door, I answered and the inevitable unpleasant news to come was communicated through the gesture of him removing his hat. I think I remember my sister and I were not long home from school and were watching Rugrats on TV, sprawled out on lounge chairs. My mum took the police officer into another room, they came out a minute later, he left and she turned off the TV and told us.
My dad and my mum had an arrangement that required that he call her and tell her that he was "okay" in order for her to drive us down to visit him every second weekend. He wasn't okay for that whole year. I can remember the last time I visited him and he was different, he didn't smile, didn't say much, spoke quietly and his eyes looked paranoid.
Our more regular visits preceding this involved weekends of window shopping at the mall, trying on lipsticks at David Jones, nightly walks along the break wall, listening to the radio, helping him with crosswords, drawing pictures, Bubble 'O Bills, listening to him play guitar badly, swims at the 'little beach', Golden Books before bed, two dollar packs of textas, checkers and snap, softball in the backyard, two minute noodles, fish fingers, Milo, Nutella and all of the glorious junk my mum refused to buy us. He had long 'j-curls' of dull blonde hair, sun darkened skin, big hands with wide flat fingernails, green eyes and a little gap between his square teeth. He had one laugh when he was laughing with you and another when he was laughing at you and a little saying for every occasion, to my frustration. He was vehemently anti-religious, extremely fit, a keen surfer and his hair always smelled like what he'd been smoking.
The more time that distances me from him, the less I remember, and the more I feel like my memories of him could just be something I read in a book or watched in a movie a long time ago, and he was just a character in it.
This far in time, I don't know if I can say that I miss him, or that my life is any better or any worse without him, because so many years have passed, a lot has changed and I don't remember much. Often I feel angry at him for the way he lived his life, for having children when he never had his life together or like I "missed out" on much because of his absence. I think about what a good father he was considering the circumstances, and the good ten years I got to spend with him. I could never ask for him to be anyone other than who he was, because his addictions had taken hold of him at least a decade before I was born.
Although it is fruitless, I can't help but want to cry because of what could have been, because I didn't have a conventional father, because I have struggled to fill that void. To have experienced his death, to drugs, before I really understood what death or drugs were was, and still is, frightening, bizarre and felt like it signalled the end of childhood. My mum described how he had died as him having taken a this drug called heroin and it put him to sleep and he didn't wake up. Years afterwards, I still don't know why he didn't wake up, why somebody wasn't there to wake him up, if it was intentional and if I'll ever feel a peace about it. Nine years feels like forever, but it also feels like just yesterday. I think about the transient, unpredictable, intangible nature of life, and death, I think about his death being the first of many I'll experience in my life and that it's all part of something much larger that I'll never comprehend. To grieve feels pathetic, fruitless and very human.
I feel a need to commemorate this date, though I have often used it as my one day of the year to cry about it and be done with it until it comes around again.
I'm sorry if this has made you feel bad or if you didn't enjoy reading it. It did feel good to get it off my chest. I guess I just didn't want to internalise it this year and although it feels unwise or unprofessional to put it into a public forum like this, I wanted to share it as it's a large part of me. I don't have a resolute, happy conclusion to close this with except that I'd like to thank you for reading.