Monday, October 20, 2008

Daddy's Girl

My father moved from Lahore, Pakistan to London in 1958. He was one of the hundreds of thousands of people invited to the UK to take up jobs that the British work force wouldn’t or couldn’t do. He came from a Muslim family, was an excited immigrant and wanted to be “the best westerner.”

My mother was born and raised in the East End of London, the daughter of white English working class parents. She was a smart, feisty and hard working woman.

They met on a production line in a factory. A few of the racist employees had rigged my father’s machine so that it wouldn’t work properly and my mother went to his rescue. That was in 1964 and, well, to cut a long story short, I was born the following year.

My parents had a hard time finding decent, affordable accommodation – many “To Let” signs included the adage “No Blacks, No Pakis, No Irish”. He was always in full time employment and she worked a series of part time jobs, some of them based at home (like gluing hand bags together).

During my childhood, my father began to drink and gamble heavily and many anxious Friday nights were spent waiting for him to come home. His religion would “flare up” frequently and turn our lives upside down. My parents separated quite a lot, sometimes for a few days or a week, sometimes for a month or a few months.

And then in 1975, my father’s “first” family arrived from Pakistan. “First” family (a complete surprise to everyone, especially my mother) being a wife and 4 teenage children (one of whom liked to throw bricks through our window).

Around this time my father’s religious bent grew exponentially. Suddenly, not being allowed wear dresses without a pair of trousers underneath or take part in sports lessons that included boys was the least of it – there was talk of being taken to Pakistan.

In 1977 my parents separated for good. My father was living his religion and for him this meant living in a mosque environment and teaching the Quran, he became a fundamentalist.

My teenage years were spent dreading his visits and living for them at the same time. Whenever I raged about him, my mother would shrink and admonish me and say “don’t talk about your father like that”.

My 20s and 30s were marked by his sudden appearances in my life, turning things upside down again and me falling under his spell every time.

I was always a daddy’s girl. He called me Number One Daughter and made no secret of the fact that I was his favourite. I was completely entranced by him. I loved him even when I hated him.

My earliest memory is of my father. I was around 3 years old and with both of my parents in Regents Park. The image I have of him that day is in glorious technicolour, I can even see his socks. I don’t remember my mother being there at all but I know that she was. In fact, I’m ashamed to say, that I have no memories of my mother before I was about 12 years old.

I was with my mother when she died nearly 20 years ago. There’s no way to say this without sounding hackneyed, but she never stopped loving him. There was a kind of understanding between them that she never lost sight of but that he came to forget.

In 2005 I found out that my father had died earlier that year. I hadn’t seen him for some time and didn’t know that he was ill. His friend told me that he’d been talking about me just before he died. The friend remarked sadly, how difficult my father could be at times. Well, yes.

I’m not wondering what my parents would have made of me. I know that my mother’s love was unconditional and that my father’s love wasn’t. I need some closure though, and I’m planning to write him a letter and leave it in Regents Park.

The experience of my father taught me some pretty negative stuff that has been very difficult to know and unlearn – an ongoing process. The experience framed, and sometimes despite my best efforts continues to frame, my interaction with the world.

How have your parents framed you? Any daddy’s girls out there?


femmeismygender said...

I think the idea of writing him a letter and leaving it in Regents Park is perfect. I'm so glad you chose to put this post up here Rose xx

Holden said...

I'm guessing this must have been hard to write so well done. Big hugs. x x x

Honey said...

Fathers are tricky, yes? Our little baby hearts love them so much and then comes the inevitable ache of disappointment. Thank you for sharing your experience. It means a lot to me to hear your story.

I was in my early twenties when I saw Father of the Bride. Have you seen that movie? When it was over I cried and cried and cried. Just thinking of it now makes me want to cry my eyes out. Steve Martin plays a doting, loving father who wants nothing more than to protect and love his favorite daughter. This is what I wanted more than anything from my dad, but for many reasons, he couldn't be the image I wanted him to be.

I'm so glad for getting older. Even though my relationship with my father hasn't really changed, I am able to take deep breaths from outside of his control and see him as a real person rather than as the archetypal dad figure. I realize as time goes by, that he loved me in the only way he was capable, and when I think of it that way, I feel so loved and so flattered and so happy.

I spend a lot of time remembering how it was before he emotionally disappeared. I loved riding on his back to bed, pretending he was my pony. I loved being on his six foot tall shoulders, above the crowds, able to see for miles around. I loved the smell of his hair and I loved to sleep curled up in his arms, the safest place on earth. I don't know that I've ever slept so good since.

I'm sorry your relationship with your father has been so difficult and heartbreaking. It's impressive that you're able to write about it and I also think that writing a letter is a really great idea.

Butch Boo said...

This is really moving. I lost my dad when I was 24... he was my hero.

Somedays for no reason whatsoever I miss him more than others... and the gap will always be there. He he now sits on the biggest pedestal- not all of it deserved.

But he was the biggest influence in my life and I always wanted him to be proud of me.

I think you are very brave Rose and very special. I think the idea of the letter in Regents Park is excellent and hope it helps you to feel some closure.

I have a perfect image of your father in Regents Park and his socks!

Honey your description of your father and him being your pony is lovely- thanks for sharing.



QueerRose said...

femmeismygender - thanks for your encouragement to post it x

H - it felt good to write it but hard yes x

Honey - I haven't seen Father of the Bride but can relate to what you're saying about wanting to be protected and loved. I think like yours, my father loved me in his way and I'm very glad of that. Your comment moved me. Thank you very much for sharing and for your kind words x

BB - I think that your dad would be very proud of you x

And just to say that I wrote this because I've never written about it before and I needed to do that.

I decided to post it because I'm writing for myself and because I'm using this space to explore & share.

I'm hoping that my blog / cyber experience will be richer for letting you know a bit about where I'm coming from.

End of Public Service Announcement! QRx

greg said...

That's what this is all about, really using this space to better yourself and letting some of the pain out to breathe.

I am so impressed by you for writing him a letter - I cried when I read that. Such a couragous post. Thanks for sharing this with us.

QueerRose said...

Dear greg, yep, I agree, I think this space is very useful for that. I was reluctant to post it at first because I got a bit caught up in what people might think but like we've already said, you have to write for yourself. Thanks for your encouraging words QRx

nattnightly said...

My father is totally and completely my hero. Even now, far from a time when I lived under his roof, he still represents the best of what I hope to be. Sometimes I think it is my love of my father and being his little girl that keeps me from a place where I could think about being fully male. I 'm still working that piece out, but I truly cherish our father-daughter connection, even moreso now that it's been re-established. So yes, I'm a daddy's girl. And I'm really okay with that.

QueerRose said...

Dear nattnightly, your father sounds like a wonderful man. Thanks for answering the question "any daddy's girls out there" - you & me both. It's very interesting what you raise about the father-daughter connection and the issue of considering tranforming sex / gender. I'm wishing you the very best on your journey. QRx

Jeff Guard said...

My Dad has two families I was part of his first but its his second that he lives and honors.

After I was 14 and went to live with Mum and Step Dad he kind of dropped out of my life completely. And now, it's like I don't exist. he's one of the reasons I meditate heavily on the mantra of forgiveness. I imagine myself meeting him on a beach, and embracing him, feeling his body against mine and whispering in his ear, "I forgive you for every thing and blame you for nothing. And I never stop loving you." and feeling each of those words in my heart and soul. I don't know if I'll ever see him again, but making peace with him is what I need more than anything.

My Step Dad was the monster of my youth. if there was someone who cooked my brain, who made me feel like the walking worthless it was Jim. he's part two of that forgiveness mantra. I imagine being by his beside upon his last hour of life telling him not to worry that I've forgiven him for everything he did to me and when crosses over for him to feel that forgiveness and for him to find his own salvation in that love--hopefully his own demons will come to rest...

QueerRose said...

Dear Jeff, thank you for sharing your feelings about your father and step father. I can't imagine what the experience of your step father must have felt like following the loss of your father. The forgiveness you feel now must be so liberating. With love QRx