5 Seconds

This particular post comes with a warning, as it deals with the subject of parent suicide. It is a graphic description of the discovery of the body of my Father after he had taken his own life.

If you think you may find it too distressing or possibly triggering in any way then please leave this post now.

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Amazing, what one can absorb in a few seconds. When I opened that door I expected nothing but the usual landscape, doormat, stairs to the right, narrow hall, radiator on the left, hall table and chair on the right. Except this time the chair was on its side in the middle of the hall, which struck me as odd; what the hell had he been up to now? [there always seemed to be something] Then I saw his dressing gown, draped against the panelling in the staircase. I couldn’t remember there ever being a coat hook there, and anyway he nearly always wore it when he was in the house. Wore it?……..then I realised, he was wearing it. Time suddenly compressed, speeding up. My eyes flicked about to what seemed a multitude of different points, as I took in the scene. My Fathers face, his eyes closed, his expression somehow softened. But then his tongue bulging out of his mouth like some obscene balloon, coloured a dark purplish red. The cord stretching upwards past his left cheek and disappearing up towards the first floor landing. I remember thinking that he looked somehow insubstantial; as if his body wasn’t there, just the gown draped against the staircase with his head perched on top of it. I felt a powerful sense of disgust and revulsion and seemed to fall backwards through the door, pulling it closed after me. Reaching for my mobile I dialled 999; I remember screaming at the poor woman who took the call, “stupid, stupid man; there was no need for this, no need”. I was apoplectic with rage, I felt I could have kicked him around the housing estate. I became vaguely aware of my surroundings again; people going about their business as if nothing had happened, except, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that the guy next door had come out to see what all the commotion was about. He was standing there looking a bit lost, but managed to ask if there was anything he could do. I asked him for a chair, which I collapsed into and waited for the emergency services to arrive. The ambulance took an age to arrive; traffic was always heavy on that road. They took the door key off me and let themselves in, only to come out a few seconds later to confirm what I already knew, that he was dead and had been for a few hours.

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I think that it would not be an understatement to say that I did not have a good relationship with my Dad. I didn’t hate him, but I didn’t love him either. He was hard work and, apart from our genetic link, I felt I had little in common with him. Born in 1916 he was very much of that generation. There was little sentiment about him. Life was mostly about practicalities, and this also applied to raising children. We were fed, watered, clothed and educated. However, there was little in the way of positive attention. The main times he engaged with us was as disciplinarian and occasionally as an educator; with his own rather strict style of education, which was more inclined to put me off a subject rather than have me embrace it.

In the weeks leading up to his suicide, he gave no indication that he was going to take his own life. He had been ill with bladder cancer for some time. However, right from the early diagnosis, his arrogance and ignorance were such that he dismissed this diagnosis out of hand and refused treatment. It was the very early stages of what was referred to as a superficial cancer in his bladder, which could have been treated if he’d allowed it. Instead, he dismissed the consultants diagnosis and insisted he had Prostate (which he called his Prostrate!) cancer. Over time the cancer progressed; ultimately leading to regular blockages, severe pain and him phoning the emergency services in the early hours to rush him into hospital. I usually ended up with a phone call from a neighbour first thing in the morning, advising me which hospital and ward he was in. Eventually, the cancer worked its way to a Kidney. As Dad was 90 years old they didn’t want to risk general anaesthesia, so the surgeon had to use keyhole surgery under local anaesthetic to cut off the blood supply to the Kidney and isolate it in the body; allowing it to harmlessly atrophy. A few weeks after this he started passing blood again, and very shortly after…

To this day, I’ve never felt the need to grieve over his death. What I have felt, and still do occasionally, is rage. I’ve never seen his action as a sad act of despair by a sick man;  I see it rather, as his ‘fuck you’ moment. An arrogant act of power and control and a last slap in the face to me. Actually no, the last slap was to write me out of his will and make me his executor.

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