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Letter to my Dad who killed himself a week after my 11th birthday

Me and Dad

Dear Dad

You took your own life a week after my 11th birthday.

I was having tea at my friend’s house when I found out you’d died. We were eating belly pork. It was fatty and disgusting and I was pleased that mum and my sister Jayne had arrived to take me home. They were both crying on the doorstep. I was relieved that I didn’t have to be polite and finish my tea. Because when you’re 11 it’s all about what’s happening next. Tomorrow is ages away.

Jayne and mum said that you had died and my friend’s mum gave me a hug and said I could come back whenever I needed to. In the car Jayne asked mum whether you had left a note. That made me feel awkward. I didn’t want Jayne to make mum cry any more than she already was. Anyway, mum told her that that you hadn’t. I didn’t think it was the right time to ask about how you did it or where you were found. Because that seemed a bit rude. So I found out when I read the local paper the following Thursday. You had gassed yourself in our yellow Austin Metro in a place where you used to play when you were little. I liked that car. It was fun and the number plate said ‘SMA’ at the end like the baby milk.

I cried because everyone else was. I didn’t really understand what was going on, or what was going to happen next. Only my granddad had ever died before and he lived miles away and he was really old. We went to the funeral and that was it. This wasn’t the same kind of thing.

On your messy desk there was the funny hexagonal cup with a bit of tea in it from where you had been drinking from the day before. That was weird. Yesterday you were drinking tea and today you were dead.

The house got busy and friends and family came over from everywhere. It was nice to see them. We had takeaway pizza for tea every night. The house smelled of lilies.

My school teachers and school friend’s parents came over to drop off flowers and cards. Everyone was nice to me. It was all very exciting and dramatic. What seemed like a million cards arrived from MPs and councillors and other important people. It was in the newspaper and all of my friends knew what had happened. They wrote me cards and invited me to go and see the Flintstones when I was feeling better.

I wasn’t surprised that you had killed yourself. I knew it was going to happen one day. You were so worried all the time. You and mum would stay awake late every night drinking red wine or sherry and Mum would try and tell you that all the things you were worrying about weren’t going to happen. But even I knew that they might. So you must have been scared.

You would tell mum how you were going to kill yourself and what might go wrong and how it might not work properly. Every night, over and over and over again. I told her it was like Groundhog Day. She thought that was funny and told you. I felt naughty for being rude and I was sorry because I thought I had upset you.

Mum told us everything that was happening. Sometimes it frightened me, but she did it so that I understood what was going on. Mum told me one night whilst I was going to sleep in her bed that she had walked in to find you tying a rope onto a ceiling light fitting. She asked what you were doing and you told her that you were trying to kill yourself. But she had interrupted you and so you tidied the things away. Mum said we had to be careful about putting the hosepipe in the garage after we’d filled the paddling pool and make sure that any tablets were put away in case you tried to kill yourself again.

It was just the way it was. We would go and collect you from the mental hospital after school and take you to the pub. That was what it was called then. Mental hospital. I loved going to the pub. We went to fun ones that had climbing frames and swings outside in the fun yellow car. You told funny stories about how you played Monopoly with your other friends at the mental hospital and then how one of them tried to pay with their shopping with the pretend money that they had stolen from the banker. I wasn’t allowed to go in and see where you stayed though. The people who lived there were very poorly too.

One day you came home. Mum said that you told the nurse that you’d leave some of your stuff on the bed for when you came back. The nurse told you that she needed your bed for someone else to sleep in and that you had to go home now. For you, that was it. Without your hospital bed, it was back to the real world. Forever. And then they could get to you. All the things you were scared of could get to you. So you killed yourself a couple of days later.

When it did happen, it wasn’t a big shock straight away. Because I knew that you had it all planned and so it was just a matter of time.

But when you died that was just the beginning. Mum missed you so much. She kept going for us children. Eventually, the visitors stopped coming and everyone stopped crying. Mum made sure we had holidays and parties and nice times. She made things fun. But I knew that she cried every night until about 10 years later, when she died too.

It wasn’t your fault. There is nothing to forgive. It’s just sad that I’m writing about your death and not about how much fun we had like when you were well.

Love you.

Lolla x

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