Life was uncertain, tense and in limbo, and then I got a call to say that my father, with whom I have had very limited contact, had had a stroke and wasn’t expected to survive long. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, but I still hadn’t expected it.
The ash cloud put the stoppers on any ideas of flying over, and prices did the same for the train idea. Driving over alone, the fourteen-hour journey from Hanover through Germany, Belgium, Holland, France and England to Barnstaple, would have been difficult-to-impossible. Ela borrowed her ex’s car (we’ve never really hit it off, mostly because I’ve never been very nice to him: he however, immediately agreed to use the aforementioned expensive train for his own weekend plans so we could have his car. I am a shameful lowlife), rearranged her work life, and set off with me at three in the morning. We, or rather, she, drove and drove until six the next evening in the hope of catching him, even though I knew that the chance wasn’t high, and that in the context of our non-relationship all this looked a lot like attention-seeking melodrama. When we stopped, an hour or so from our destination, I charged up my phone and received a message telling me that he had died at six in the morning, and everyone had gone back to their homes.
Travelodge baths are so shallow that you can’t cover your legs, although maybe that wouldn’t have been true before I turned tubbo. They also don’t give you bubblebath, only soap. Bubblebath is important on two counts: one; small pockets of air insulate the water against heat loss and enable long soaks to remain warm soaks, and two; small pockets of air in large numbers become opaque. I don’t want to see my body while I’m trying to relax in the bath, thanks.
Ela slept the sleep of those who turn their lives upside-down for others, and I cried the unjustifiable tears of the confused and self-consciously self-centred. I could have had a real relationship with him, if I had got back in touch. I told myself I had been protecting myself, but I could hear from the tone of my voice that even I didn’t believe my crap anymore. Weakling scaredycats who hide away in another country and leave fathers to live and die with rejection because of their own childish fear of adults kicking off, those children don’t deserve grownup treats like bubblebath.
So today, I will inconvenience Patrick to the same degree as Ela, hiring a car and returning to the UK to parade my self-indulgent sorrow at my father’s funeral on Monday. I will be honest: I will hang my head in shame: they will think it is respect., I will wear black, as I always do, and people will think I am grieving for my father. I, as always, will be grieving for the better person I wish I could have been.