In the movies and many made for TV programmes, there is rapprochement between sons and their fathers, often on the deathbed. There is closure and acceptance, a final peace.
In real life this is not often the case. My father died last year after a 3 year battle with emphysema. He slowly withered over 3 years until his heart gave out. It was sudden and painless which was the best way for him to go.
About a month before he went, we drove down to see him. I was between contracts so had some time and had decided to walk the last mile with him and if he wanted, hold his hand at the end so he could have the love of his family with him as he went to wherever people go when they die.
But, this is where real life separates from idealised make-believe, as seen on TV. After a 4 hour drive to get there on a wet Friday afternoon we all sat down for a drink and a chat. He started to rip into me for not doing some things differently. I have burned into my brain his face turning purple as he gasped for air shaking his 84 year finger at me in rebuke and pouring out his venom. It would have been comical if it was not so real.
I was worried he was going to keel over on the spot he was getting so worked up. My wife was surprised at his venomous outburst and rather shocked. My mum attempting to sooth the waters said don’t worry dear he doesn’t mean it; it’s just the medication making him irritable.
Sometime later that evening in the quiet of our room I was talking with my wife and had a realisation. I had been there before. This is how he was 50 years ago when I was a child. He had always been this way. He had just removed the veneer of respectability as he got closer to death. This was the old man I knew and had grown up with.
We had never got along very well. My world was different from his and he never respected or understood mine and would often criticise or condemn my efforts without enough knowledge to hold a reasonable opinion. Read more »