2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appWe are driving, just the two of us, at 100mph. I am about seven. There is loud music blaring, possibly Carly Simon or Donna Summer, and the speed of the car both excites and terrifies me. Being with my father on my own is rare, he is never home from work before bedtime. When he stops to pick up a hippy-hitchhiker, I am anxious but thrilled.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appAlthough my father never actually terrified me, he could be quite alarming – banging the table to emphasise a point, or shouting, swearing and laughing very loudly. He smoked and drank and was ‘dark and handsome’. As a teenager, I liked the way he wanted to know my opinions about politics and current affairs, and really listened to what I had to say.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appWhen I declared I wanted to write, in my early 20s, it was he who bought me my first computer and encouraged me. He often took me out for dinners in sophisticated restaurants and urged me to invite friends. He dressed in a white suit at one of my book launches, and several people asked who he was; he was having a cigarette outside when I gave my speech.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appBut when we both got married (him for the second time) and had children around the same time (me in my 30s, him in his late 60s), our relationship changed. Our regular lunches dwindled. He stopped wanting to take me to groovy restaurants and insisted on meeting in a grimy café.
I had always gone to him with a problem and he would always, somehow, sort me out. But when I called him tearfully about something, during the first few years of my marriage, he said he wasn’t the right person to talk to. His reaction was devastating. The world no longer felt so safe. I realise now that he was dealing with being a father again and he was forging a different life.
We both retreated and communicated mostly by text. He was living in the country and came to London less and less. I would visit him occasionally but he never came to us. Then, about five years ago, I was having lunch with a cousin when she blurted out that my father had breezily informed her that he was not leaving anything to his first three children (which included me) in his will.
The news made my heart jolt and plummet. I felt sick and betrayed on so many levels, not only that he’d told her and not us, but also being left out made me feel erased and expendable. I was far more aggrieved by the idea of not being included than I was about not receiving a legacy. It seemed inappropriate and grasping to question a parent about a will and so I didn’t. It wasn’t until six months later, when I realised it was impossible to ignore what I’d heard, that I confronted him by letter, but he would not confirm whether what she’d said was true or not.
I decided to stay away from him, mostly because I was hurt. At times he would email me snippets from articles he thought I may be interested to read, but we did not talk or see each other for two long years, apart from once, for just five awkward minutes, when he’d dropped my children home after a Christmas outing.
It was August 2017, and I was away in Morocco celebrating a friend’s birthday, when my mother called at 7am to tell me my father had died quite suddenly of a heart attack. He was 85, but had not been frail or unwell – to me, he had always seemed invincible. I was deeply shocked and stricken, both that he was gone and that we had not repaired our rift.
I read at his funeral, and broke down at the burial, not only because I would never again hear him calling me ‘Katie darling’, but also because I had not seen him for so long.
In a way, our estrangement meant I began grieving his loss even before his death. The only way forward was to remember the good times we’d had. I was grateful that, when he’d sent me an invitation to a family party, due to take place a month after he died, I’d accepted. I had hoped we would start to re-establish our relationship in some small way, and I was relieved he died knowing I was coming.
There are times, though, that I am sad and indignant. I want to ask him why he didn’t leave us a letter explaining his decision to leave us out of his will, not even to be named, and feel frustrated that he’s not here to answer. Other moments, like writing this now, or hearing music that reminds me of him, I crash down and weep. I wish his death had not been so untimely. I wish I had kissed him goodbye, and that he’d said, ‘I’m sorry for hurting you. I love you and always will’ and that I had replied, ‘I love you too.’
Read our report: Why family feuds are on the rise