why my father scares me

It was at a rare away game a couple of years ago that we first spoke about it properly.  In a pub beforehand, roughly equidistant between Birmingham New Street station and Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s ground.  A rough and ready sort of venue with no furnishings that would take more than a few minutes to clean.

“It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain,” Dad vehemently explained mental health, depression.  He’s taken medication for years, but is still prone to slumps like today.  Days where his face looks like it might spontaneously fold in on itself.  Days when he’s paralysed by it and Mum bitches about him more than usual.  “He’s done absolutely nothing today, sat there and dozed most of the afternoon.  Then he’ll moan about not sleeping tonight. Could be because he hasn’t been able to exercise, but, you know…?”  I never know.

It could also be because we have an extended family gathering tomorrow.  Not only is Dad crap with children, he also struggles in groups like this.  Which I find strange.  He says he can’t do professional networking, yet he affects an extrovert’s cloak of sociability each Friday night at the small local pub amongst fellow villagers.  He can take the attention then, enjoys it, bathes in it even; he’s done auctioneering and revels in any kind of public speaking.

I cannot fathom why the family scenarios challenge him – still because of his own tricky upbringing, which he left aged fifteen?  Is that still a viable excuse?

So, he could well be nervous, despite the veneer.

During Match Of The Day this evening, Gary Lineker mentioned the mental anguish of a player – Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar screaming at his goalkeeper for unnecessarily kicking a ball long and conceding possession.

This is probably entirely coincidental, but I glanced over to my father and saw him wiping an eye.  He’d looked fragile and on the verge of tears all evening, which isn’t uncommon when he’s like this.  The gesture of hand to eye, whether meaningful or not, added to mopey face: some might want to slap (my mother, brother), but to me it twanged something.  Perhaps because I sense his genes more closely than I’d like.

This physically reflected sagginess of his is never as explicit when there’s company outside us immediate three: my parents and I.  When my brother and his family are here, the carte blanche to wallow is rescinded and he tries harder to banish these external signs.  He looks like the saddest person in the world.  “Just feeling a bit run down,” is all I get on asking him directly if he’s ok.  Mum’s sympathy has long run out, and I can’t blame her.  She just perceives the laziness.

It terrifies me from a selfish point of view too, because I can feel or sense the instability sometimes, the crushing disappointment in self.  Perhaps not to the extent he does.  Hopefully not.  Though perhaps more; I struggle to envisage myself achieving what he’s achieved personally or professionally.

I never want to take medication to regulate emotion – though I’m also aware that this isn’t as uncommon as you might think: I know of several young girls who have; my ex did (pre-me, I might add).

But at not infrequent low, self absorbed ebbs when dark thoughts rise to the top, I feel those infected genes of his fizzing around my neurons like predators, just waiting.  We’ll come, they tease.  Just you wait.

“I get it too sometimes,” I admitted to Dad in that dodgy Brummy pub.  He kept claiming that it’s a chemical imbalance, scientifically proven, like he was almost proud, or at pains to state that he wasn’t some totally freakish fuckup.  We then discussed my brother’s typically effortless scepticism, his shrugging outlook: life is easy, just get on with it.  Which he has and does infuriatingly well.

It’s like a neverending, clawing rugby challenge which tries to haul you down.  Sometimes you feel its gravity harder than others and it takes more effort to carry on, keep going. Other times you’re barely aware that it’s there and breeze through.  But always you live in the nervous fear that it might one day manifest itself in a new and extreme way, succeed in dragging you to the floor and pinning you there.

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2 Responses to why my father scares me

  1. Pingback: a distressingly disappearing iPod « Swashbuckled

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