I had a brilliant, courageous, decorated, naval pilot for a father. Women adored him, men adored him and at his funeral, grown war heroes cried.
He was from another world, a colonial master world, a Mad Men world (seasons 1-3). He was once Chief Pilot for Cathay Pacific, in a time where Chief Pilots were thought of as Gods. One of the reason’s my parents divorced (the first time) was because of his whoring. During this episode of their marriage, my mother hired a private detective who took pictures of my father and some woman friends ‘playing musical bumps’.
I still wonder what sort of erotic experiment that may have been?
But my father hated women. He was a misogynist of the most extraordinary calibre and was proud of it. Below is a list of what was and wasn’t acceptable for a woman (in his opinion).
- Sherry or occasionally champagne. Whiskey was not all ladylike.
- Secretarial jobs but after marriage, stay at home. Professions such a Doctor, Lawyer, CEO for men.
- Laying the table, cooking, sewing. Mowing the lawn for men but only after 4 pints at the local, flirting with my ballet teacher, Miss Shakespeare.
- Soft, quietly spoken, non-assertive opinions. Stay away from politics, religion and anything interesting.
- All this applied unless my father thought you were pretty and then it all went out of the window.
As my mother was dying of a particularly aggressive and painful cancer- my father began an emotional affair with one of my friends. Once, I watched my mother staring at them on the terrace, as A smoked and my father drank her in.
‘I’m not sure he ever loved me’, was all my mother said about it.
I’m not sure he ever loved any of us.
The man described at his funeral was one I didn’t recognise. Who was this, ‘warm, generous, funny, dependable chap’ people spoke about? I was asked to speak at his funeral but I was loath to lie and it would have been inappropriate to speak my truth so I pretended I was too emotional.
And I was emotional. Relief was flooding my veins like the Ganges bursting with monsoon water. From the moment my brother told me of his death I felt myself begin to blossom. No longer a disappointment but a fresh start, a new way of living.
I remember my brother complimenting me on how strong I was being. It wasn’t strength – it was euphoria.
This post comes from a talented friend wondering why I found it difficult to accept I could write. I realised that it is time to let my father’s choke hold go, he was only flesh and blood, after all.
And in his own words, his last words actually to me, he said, ‘I know I’m a bastard, but I do what I can’.