Tuesday, July 6

22 Years.

When I was 4 years, 4 months and 14 days old, my Dad died.

I have to be precise to make sure I don't forget what little memories I have left.

I am the youngest of 8 children. Two families with 3 siblings on one, 2 on the other and they joined up and made us three. Two don't talk to the other 6 and 3 don't see the other 3 that often.
But still, family is what we are, once united by grief, then torn apart by politics.

It was considered lucky that I was only 4 years, 4 months and 14 days old when my Dad died. I managed to escape all the fights over the will. All the slander over my Dad's fidelity. All the rumours of half-siblings. All the despair over who should have what possessions. All the rows in Italian; my Mother frantically trying to find the phrase book to try and find and way of saying "We need this banking document".

I wish I was lucky to not have had to witnessed it first hand. I wish I didn't see my Mother in despair, worrying how she was going to feed us let alone how she was going to pay the enormous mortgage, on a house that my Dad had purchased in the April before his death.

But I did see. I watched as a 4 year old.

I'd only known love. I'd only known a Mother and Father. From the 5th July 1988, all the love I received was tinged with guilt. Sadness for not having a Father, pity for not knowing what was going on around me.
But only, I did know what was going on. From that day on, I was no longer a child. I was a girl who's Dad died of a heart attack at 51.

Each member of my family before me have each had there own personal issue with our Father dying. Each had there own scenario which has scared them for life. My Brother discovered my Dad, my Sister had tried to revive him. Everyone else was just too late to get to him.

But I've never been able to tell mine, until now.
Except what has scarred me is that I don't have a story. I was asleep the entire time the heart attack took my Dad and killed him. I was only 4 years, 4 months and 14 days old. In some way, this makes me feel distant from my siblings. I don't have a story to tell, because I was doing what every other 4 year old was doing. Sleeping and dreaming of My Little Pony.

Memories. My visions of my Dad are fading. They are sometimes brought more vibrant when a family member talks of him. Something he used to do or something he didn't do. Even still, it is something that makes me remember him a little bit longer.
I often hear from my Brothers and Sisters, that 'There is no way I could remember such and such' or 'You were too young to remember that'. And for some of it, that's true.

But I remember walking across a bridge over the Thames, sitting on his shoulders. Dad immaculately dressed in a suit, with coiffed hair lacquered to within an inch of its receding life. I think I have a red coat on. It was cold. But the picture is now silent. I don't remember the noise around us.

I remember being in the bath with him as an 18 month old. It wasn't weird back then. It was the bonding time we had with Dad when he got back from working long hours in his restaurant. I remember the gold chain he worn whilst in the bath, not worrying to take it off.

I remember the heavy set frown and laughter lines, which my older Brother now has himself. I remember tracing my finger in the grooves of skin and wondering where they came from.

But his voice.
His Voice. That is something I don't remember.
I wish I could hear him.

If he was alive today, I would imagine it to be raspy from the secret smoking he would no doubt be doing. Words still thick with an Italian accent. R's would be rolled and he would probably only speak to us In his Mother tongue.

That is what makes me jealous and sometimes separate from my Brothers and Sisters. It sometimes hurts my heart to know that they might still grasp some sound of him. They might be right that I wont remember everything they know. But at least they might remember what he talked like. What it sounded like when he said 'I love you'. I wish I remembered him saying my name.

I'm not writing this as moan to my family. I'm writing it because this is the first time I've had the courage to say anything at all. Because even though I was only 4 years old, I did lose a Father. I went through everything everyone else did. Just because I was only 4 years old, didn't make that any easier.

I love my Dad with all my heart. He wasn't perfect and nothing ever is. But in my memory of the two of us walking over the bridge, I can pretend for a moment it was.

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