Death of My Father

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I identify with Lawrence who declared in Sons and Lovers, 'I loved my Mother as a man loves a woman.' This to me was not an incestuous love but a deep need for approval. A closeness that excluded all others. Such was my love for my Father.

I received no sign of affection from him during my childhood years. My brother and I were never nursed or petted but until I was five we were expected to give our parents a goodnight kiss. When I noticed that my brother had stopped doing this I demanded I be let off too. I never kissed either of my parents again.

None of the 'grown ups' in my family kissed apart from Granddad's French visitors who kissed him on the cheek. The only exception was at Christmas parties when kissing under the mistletoe was compulsory and we played kissing games such as Postman's Knock. Even then I was kissed by cousins and uncles, never by my father.

During early childhood I was terrified of him and yet he had never hit me. I only saw him hit my brother once and that was when we had been squabbling and Mother riled him. We didn't see much of him for he was a bus driver and worked shifts. He spent his spare time on union business.

Both my brother and I received a 'Saturday's penny' although it was not always doled out on a Saturday. It was never volunteered and it was always my task, urged on by my brother, to ask for it. Sometimes Father became very angry and asked what we had done to earn it but eventually he paid up. Money was short Father mended his and our shoes on the hobbing- iron. My brother and I were often fed from Grandma's 'pot au feu' and I wore my brother's outgrown jumpers. Every Sunday we were sent to Sunday School both morning and afternoon although neither parent ever went to church.

During my early teens my father rarely had a Sunday off and Saturday was a normal working day for bus drivers for which I was grateful since he ruled me as harshly as any Victorian father. If I stayed out later than the time he set (9pm when I was sixteen) he would insist I stayed in one night for every minute late. My mother was at odds with him but rather than argue the case she allowed me out when he was working her only rule being I must get back before Father got home.

I was eighteen when my relationship with my father changed. I had joined the local Labour Party and become an active member. He was home more now and we spent many evenings arguing the merits of Unionism verses Labour Party. He thought the party should serve the Unions. I represented my local party at the Trades Council meetings and believed the party should be in control. Through our political affiliation we became friends and drinking partners. He still laid the law down about the time I was expected home and where I was allowed to go. I often deceived him although I no longer resented his strictures but reveled in the loving care that lay behind them.

The knowledge that if I brought disgrace upon myself it would devastate my father was enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. There would have been no greater disgrace than conceiving out of wedlock and I was determined not to risk this. At the same time I was confident that should it happen my father would stand by me. He would be desperately hurt but would never urge me to part with a baby.

I formed many short term relationships during my teenage years but every man was measured against my father and had to gain his approval.

My devotion to my father prevented me from becoming involved with any foreign serviceman. I would not risk having to go to a foreign land. A cousin married an American it was inconceivable to me that she could contemplate leaving her family to go to the other side of the world.

Eventually I married and had a family of my own. Originally we were to rent rooms at the top of a three storey house for which we were to pay £1 a week. There was a cooker on the landing and the shared bathroom was on the floor below. However, my Father asked if we would be prepared to live behind the shop next door. He had bought both premises some time before (1936) and had leased the shop next door to some one as a hardware business that failed. The tenant then sub let the shop part and she incurred my father's wrath when he came home one day to find it was to be used as the 'Conservative Party' headquarters. He had been a socialist since he was a boy.

Inspite of this he would have found it difficult to obtain the premises for us but for the fact that he discovered she had accepted 'key money' for the house part.

We were delighted at our stroke of luck even though the rent was to be twenty-five shillings a week.

After I left work I worked in my father's snack bar at lunch times for ten shillings a week. An entrance from his shop through to ours was made and he had set up a snack bar hoping to attract customers from the nearby Players factory. He had the idea that I could provide homemade cakes but I told him they couldn't be made cheap enough to be viable.

Father had thought there was a fortune to be made in cups of tea and bought a second hand urn from a market trader. The tea was vile!

The second error was in setting up a bar with bar stools. No one used them and he had to abandon them in favour of tables and chairs. Another mistake was he had calculated the profit to be made on such items as beans on toast, reckoning on one table spoon of beans per customer. He had over looked the possibility of every customer making a different order. Lunch-time ended with the kitchen table full of various open tins and, as cooking was done on a standard household gas cooker, the waiting time caused dissatisfaction.

Mother had been against the idea from the beginning and they argued bitterly. She reminded him of a costly mistake he had made previously. He had been offered a large quantity of sugar pigs, coupon free. Unfortunately, just after he bought them sweet rationing ended. The walls of my old bedroom, which he converted into a stock room, were lined with boxes of them.

One of the best things that happened was that my former school friend bought a house a few streets away, she had a baby girl and we took turns to visit each other. But for her companionship I would have been very lonely indeed as Father told me I should not invite neighbours into the house. I suppose it was because of the easy access to his shop premises.

We lived next door to my parents for eight years. It never occurred to me that I would lose my father. He had never had a day's illness. He carried milk crates as if they were no heavier than a new born baby. Often he challenged my brother to 'press ups' and 'arm wrestling'. I had grandiose plans of what I would do for him when he was old.

It was therefore a great shock when he had a heart attack at fifty. I was carrying my second child and I was so terrified of losing my father that I bartered with God, the life of my unborn child for my father. He recovered and I almost lost my baby.

When my father came home he refused to be treated as an invalid despite the doctors' instruction. Although I never ceased to be anxious I still did not accept that he soon might not be there for me especially as he constantly tried to prove he was as strong as he had ever been.

Then Cancer struck. He had a year of increasing pain diagnosed as indigestion It was a locum who had finally referred him to hospital. He was suffering from pernicious anemia. I realised the possibility of cancer and prayed that if it was cancer he would die quickly. My Grandmother had died of cancer and I knew only too well the pain he might endure.

My father died December 1958. I knew he had gone before my neighbour fetched me to the phone. As I sat at the breakfast table I had a premonition, a sudden feeling of loss as if a cold wind had passed through me.

. He was cremated Christmas Eve. I didn't cry until I brought in the Christmas tree. I had not intended to acknowledge Christmas but my brother upbraided me saying, 'It's still Christmas and you can't deprive the kids.'

Father had always made so much of Christmas and it was a long time before I could welcome this festival again even now over forty years later the grief remains. With his death I lost not only my father but my faith. I looked at his neighbours, some were drunkards, others had no one to live for and I thought, 'why are you alive when my father who spent the greater part of his life trying to better the conditions of his fellow workers is dead?' I cursed his doctor who had not diagnosed his cancer and I blamed Mother, for when I urged him to ask for a second opinion he said he wanted to see Mother through her cataract operation. She had been losing her sight for some time. Neither of us realised the hospital had lost her records. Most of all I blamed God.

I was so traumatised I was unable to accept my husbands love and it was twelve months before I could resume physical relations. To have done so seemed a kind of betrayal.

Was my despair unnatural? I know to lose a father is natural as King Claudius told Hamlet 'your father lost a father, that father lost, lost his' but like Hamlet I felt my Father's death to be unnatural. He was fifty-eight and I saw his doctor as no better than a murderer for failing to send him to hospital earlier.

Time heals, is a truism. Yet even now I cannot forgive that medical failure. It could be said that God answered my prayer for my father died a few days after his operation. He was alone since the nurse at the hospital sent us home saying, 'he needs to rest.' She promised we would be sent for should there be any change in his condition. We heard nothing until the following morning when we were notified of his death.

To my everlasting shame I was so overwhelmed by my own grief I gave no thought to my little boy's trauma. He had been so close to his Grandfather and I offered him no comfort.

Gradually my bitterness gave way to a dull acceptance, I no longer blamed God for I realised he did not exist. I had believed as a child believes and I ditched faith along with Santa Claus.

My father still retains his influence over me. Every success brings the thought, 'I wish my father knew' and every failure, 'I'm glad my father doesn't know.' I have never got as close to any one as I was to him.

I have said many goodbyes since the death of my father but none have been as devastating. As a child I desperately longed for his love and approval as an adult I believe I attained it. If he had lived I could have returned it as it is he never knew how much I cared. Neither of us ever said, 'I love you.'

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Joan Mary Fulford
Fulord Consulting Ltd
West Bridgford
Nottingham NG2 5GF


Clifford W Fulford
162 Edward Road
West Bridgford
Nottingham, NG2 5GF

Telephone: 07923 572 8612