My Father’s Eyes: a guest post from Chris Leech

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Let’s Talk About Loss is delighted to repost an excerpt of a post written by Chris Leech for his blog, Blind Psyche. Chris is a PhD researcher in Psychology looking at video games and student mental health. He talks about psychology, mental health, grief and loss and disability, as Chris is a person with Albinism. In this blog, Chris talks openly about the loss of his father. Read the original post in full here.

A photo of Chris Leech

Content warning: This post details poor mental health and traumatic grief with references to alcohol abuse.

“My father’s eyes”

I chose this Eric Clapton lyric as the title – because it sounds much better than “My dead dad, let’s all get really upset for several thousand words”. However, the song itself plays a part in the story, as many songs do. The song meant little to me, up until the first time I heard it after my own father had died. Suddenly, it was different. Life was different and it was never to be the same again. That is, one of the sticking points of grief and death – it is ultimate. There is no undoing it. Once you are dead, well you are dead. I thought a lot about writing this, and if I should even bother. Nevertheless, I know, as a psychologist that I needed to, as ignoring it was a potential hindrance. I thought too, about how best to represent this complex tale, there is only so much I can tell you, as I did not know my father very well.

Which, in part makes it even worse because one of the things I struggle with most is – what would have happened if he hadn’t have died?

Let us start with him; there is much of the detail I cannot recall as it has faded with memory. I could go and look at some old pictures but in all honesty, I would rather not. He was a larger man, big voice, bigger mood. Sometimes jolly, sometimes the most vicious thing I’ve ever known. I was scared of him for a long time when I was young; he was such a statue, with a big voice – whose moods could change with the wind. I was scared to ask him things, because of how he would react – even his facial expressions. There’s more I don’t know about him than I do and I do not want to shame him – this is all to paint a picture.

The positives, he was caring – I know for sure he loved me. He always made that clear, in many ways was very forward thinking for a man of his time – he had no issues telling me he loved me or cuddling me. The negatives, he was an alcoholic. The beer belly very much is a product of drinking lots and lots of beer. He was, sadly, the worst kind of alcoholic – a functioning one. If you saw him between the hours of 10am and 5pm, you would probably never know. Seemed completely normal, unless of course, you worked on the checkouts in the supermarket. He had a short fuse also, I have thanked him for it before, quick to anger, slow to calm. A bit of a hypochondriac, always something wrong with him.

He loved football, and you very much knew if his team won or lost with minimal effort. He loved football, more than he loved himself and that was a very large amount. Things always had to centre around him – even if it was not his moment. The family suffered his abuses, in all the various forms they took. It spanned the entire time we spent with him, as a family unit until we moved out.

One of the key things I have learned about him is that he was not always the way I knew him. Before the drink, he was a completely different person – described in ways I could not even imagine. A combination of what I always thought was post-traumatic stress disorder (He was at Hillsborough), and the internet. He was again somehow beyond his own era in the way he used the internet. No one can ever be sure, I am probably being too generous when I say it is both, it may have just been the temptation and darkness of the internet that ruined him. Either way, he drank, always. Honestly, I do not think he was a great person, not from what little I do remember. I do, I think recall him being a little self-aware of it, but that is an addiction, isn’t it? Awareness with no control. He, sadly was not a great father, bless him.

“The last thing on my mind”

My dad died in January, the last time I saw him was a couple of months prior to that in November when I visited him at the hospital. It was naturally a bit awkward at first, there was little said between us. He told me about this song, the subheading again by Tom Paxton. It is an amazing song, about losing everything you had, but only realising when it was too late. He said that is when he knew he had to change. Not the hundreds of chances he had while things were together, but after it was over. The song is one of the saddest, and most beautiful I have ever heard. It makes me cry most times I hear it. We were saying goodbye, at the hospital doors – we hugged, I said goodbye. He said “Goodbye Son” – he was still tightly squeezing my arm, he was crying. That was the last time I saw him. It really was the last goodbye. It was not the last time we spoke. We exchanged a couple of texts before his death. Which, in part makes it even worse because one of the things I struggle with most is – what would have happened if he hadn’t have died? Could he have got better, could we have any sort of relationship? – It is the fact that was robbed from me, that potential that is what angers me most.

Ten years on

Does it still hurt? Of course it does, it doesn’t get any better, he’s still gone. But, it does get a little easier. A friend of mine was giving me some advice from their parent, years ago. It feels terrible now, and then one day you wake up and it’s been ten years or more. They were right, it hasn’t been quite ten years, but it’s the same feeling. If I can live through that, I can do anything. I’m not undermining anyone else, their story, their grief. It is individual, what you’ve experienced in any capacity may well have hit you harder or even worse than this has me. Which is ok, it isn’t a competition – this isn’t the misery Olympics. There’s no gold up for grabs. It is just important that we are all honest and work together, to talk, be open and help each other.

Chris Leech

Read the full, original version of this post on Chris’s blog Blind Psyche here.

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