I kinda lost my drive to look at the humour in things around me lately and instead I sat in my kiddie pool of self pity and misery. This shit happens sometimes. It just creeps up out of the blue and kicks you in the vagina so hard that it knocks you to the ground. Sometimes, it's just easier to stay lying there.
To be honest, I've been a little preoccupied with things at home. But I think I'm ready now to share my personal revelation on this very public forum.
I lost my dad.
I didn't lose him to death. I didn't misplace him. I lost the dad I thought I had for the past 41, nearly 42 years.
In a sense, I guess he has died inside me. A tad melodramatic, I know, but that's how I feel.
Around the time of my 18th birthday, I found my mum collapsed on the lounge room floor wailing in what I thought was pain. My dad had just left. He didn't say anything to me, or my brother or 11 year old sister. He just walked out.
Apparently, it was for the best. Apparently, it was because he was having trouble living with post-traumatic stress from being sent to Vietnam. Apparently, it was because he sat in his shed with his pre-amnesty army gun thinking of taking us out.
So he left and moved into a 'Men's House', where other like-minded men lived. He would visit Mum weekly as if nothing was different. My mum also accepted these visits as if nothing was different. A married couple living apart while the husband sought the help he needed. The Vietnam War did this to some men.
For years, I felt sorry for him. I thought Mum was better off without him, but I did feel sad and angry that this is what the war did to our family. My sister was so young - the same age as my daughter is now - and I can't even imagine what it would feel like inside a young girl's mind when this sort of thing happens. A young girl whose role as 'Daddy's Princess' was abruptly cut short. I on the other hand, was a bitchy 18 year old.
My dad would continue to visit Mum weekly and even took her for the occasional weekend away. She would return home optimistic that things were getting better and that he may come home. He visited more frequently when she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and had a short time to live.
I was given Dad's phone number at the Men's House with instructions not to call unless in an absolute emergency, and then to ask for him by name, not 'Dad', to never say it was 'his daughter' calling, and never leave a message. It was just easier while he lived their with so many other men, he said.
When Mum died, he was the grieving widower.
Seven years after her death, we learned, by pure accident, that he had a lady-friend.
10 years after her death, we learned that he had been living with this lady-friend for more than 20 years.
There was never a 'Men's House'.
He never intended to come home to his wife.
Two weeks ago, I learned that the 'joke' my sister and I shared about him having another family somewhere was, in fact, true.
My dad had given me a copy of his Will.
Just a standard stock Will. Nothing important in there really, he had said. Nothing to pass on. Only written instructions about the funeral, he had said. Wouldn't even bother looking at it. Just file it away until I fall off my perch.
I decided two weeks ago, as I was reaching up to stow it in My Cupboard Of Things That Need To Be Filed Eventually cupboard, I would have a look at this Will.
Some words caught me off guard.
He was right. There really wasn't much for him to leave behind. But this is not my issue. I seriously don't care. Seriously.
I had realised at that very moment that this man I had called 'Dad' was little more than a stranger. An imposter. A fraud.
I felt sick thinking I was a part of a game. The winner had already been decided and the rules manipulated to suit just this one person.
Humiliated. Deceived. Manipulated. Betrayed. Abandoned.
The 'Men's House' was her house.
The other people at this house were her kids.
Looking back on the past 20...30...actually 40 years, some things are suddenly clearer. Some of the stories are now pricked with holes. My mum went to her grave not knowing a thing.
I have learned that in the eyes of this other family, the eyes of his spouse and of his step children, we are not nice people. We only go to him for financial help, never invite their family over to our family's festivities, never want to visit them at their home, and have never accepted them into our lives in all these years. Or at least, that's what they've been told.
Years ago, my Dad told a lie, and had to tell more lies to hide the first one.
As I stare blankly at this computer screen I feel stupid. My entire world as I knew it feels very different today. I had backed this man up millions of times, defended his actions, his early departures, his depression, put the gaps in his anecdotes down to ageing and memory loss, and saw this man's life as one of the consequences of being conscripted to the Vietnam War.
This is not the whole story. Not by a long shot. But it's the part I want to share for now.
So I have been a bit preoccupied with this revelation and my thoughts of how to handle this situation. And I think it is unfair that I have to. I'm angry and hurt and I'm mourning the loss of another parent.