I was 24 when I last talked to the father. It was during my first year of being on-campus at university and I’d agreed to stay with him for a long weekend. He hadn’t been contributing to our care since the divorce when we were 16, but we still a sense of duty to him because… well, he is the father. To say that the weekend was a disaster, would be an understatement. He lived alone in a cold, small, two bedroom semi-detached house situated at the bottom of a hill. The house felt dirty, but I think that was our association of his dirtiness getting mixed up in the perception of the house. He had become a bitter, mean old man who took pleasure in putting others down and feeding his narcissistic desires. He was not pleasant to be near.
In a move similar to asking the mother to leave when she came to visit, I left the father’s house earlier than planned. I couldn’t cope with him. The day I left I knew that I would not be able to see him again as he was too toxic. I grieved on the drive home… grieved for the father I realised I would never have, and the one I was now leaving behind. While listening to the radio during the drive, a song came on that started the tears – Stand by me by Ben E. King. To me, the song is about being strong enough to face the darkness of your fears, as long as there is someone standing beside you. During that car trip, this was particularly meaningful… I knew I was about to tell the family about my decision to no longer have contact with the father. I also knew that I was probably going to have to confront the father as well.
At the time I was living alone – I didn’t even have Winnie (our cat). So, I knew that there would be no one standing beside me, instead it would be up to the dissociative system to come together in a meaningful way to protect us all. This was at a time when I had no working knowledge of my dissociation, but I remember the internal conversations which evolved as I was taking the long trip home… There was fear, screaming, celebrations and physical pain caused by tension… But then, in a shift that I’ve now come to identify as M taking over, there was a sudden calmness and knowledge of what needed to be done. This calmness allowed Sophie to listen to the song and begin our grieving. I don’t think we fully explored the grief, but the song allowed us to cry for things we wouldn’t have and to get to a place of accepting what was happening.
When we got home, we made the necessary phone calls to the family. I don’t remember much about that time, but I do remember slamming the phone down on the father with the parting words that he and I had “never been able to talk”. I have seen him since that time – grandfather’s funeral etc. We’ve tried to be civil to him, purely out of fear and not wanting to cause more trouble within the family. But I know that under that veneer of civility, Frank is waiting to tell the father just what damage he has done. I also know that such a discussion would be pointless, as he is incapable of seeing his own faults and it would only serve to frustrate us further.
There have been other versions of the song done, but it’s Ben E. King’s version that affects us the most…