Just visited my Dad in hospital. He looked like an oversized baby, swaddled in blankets. He seemed so relaxed and peaceful which is so unlike the angry, domineering man I know. Perhaps old age does reduce us to infancy again – a time when all prejudice and bigotry are just words we can’t begin to comprehend. I wish I could feel something, anything for this man but I can’t.
Family life has always been a mystery to me; I spent most of my childhood in an institution with other disabled children. I formed my ideas of family through sickly sweet shows like the’ Walton’s’ and ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Whilst back home, my mother, brother and sister were living in a war zone where dad always won. I caught glimpses of the chaos on school holidays, when dad would shout at mum for not ironing his shirts properly or forgetting to buy butter.
I didn’t escape either – the toothpaste war would begin on the first evening I came home. It was the lid that was the problem, I just couldn’t get it back on the tube because it was too small. And I had very little coordination in my hands so after trying for a while and wasting more toothpaste as it oozed out onto the sink, I’d just give up and hope that he wouldn’t notice but he always did, even when my childish mind had forgotten all about it and had moved on to the land of sleep. Dad wasn’t often violent but boy could he shout! I would jump out of my skin and try to hide beneath the warm blankets and flinch at his loud, angry voice.