Monday, 2 July 2012

My father's legacy

There were many tales told at my father’s funeral. I didn’t really know him so I listened to them all avidly trying to get a sense of what kind of man he was. What kind of man left two young daughters and created a whole other life without them.

St Nicholas Street, Galway
He died alone, in a cluttered, very, very dirty house in Galway by this time pretty much a recluse. It must have happened near his birthday. I’m not sure how old he would have been; 58 or 59 I think. Not old but he was an alcoholic who had escaped death three times I was aware of. It had to catch up with him eventually.

It was a waste, everyone agreed. A waste that a brilliant, charismatic, charming man had squandered his life in this way. In the end, for all his talents he achieved nothing apart from fathering two children he didn’t raise.

I spent a lot of my adolescence and early twenties being very angry and bitter. When I wasn’t being sad. One visit to Galway as an adult was unsuccessful, I didn’t repeat it. And I didn’t tell him he was a grandfather, I didn’t think he deserved to know, didn’t want to taint my small, perfect baby with his deserting inheritance. My stepfather was (is) the funny, loving, doting grandpa she needed. Life was simpler, easier, better if I erased my birth father from the story.

Then he died and erased himself. I put a photo of her in his very grand, oak coffin at the very grand Irish Catholic funeral the lapsed Catholic Irishman would have hated. Wishing I had sent one photo while he was alive. Such a small kindness it would have been.

There were many tales told at my father’s funeral. The time he bought a model aeroplane and didn’t start it; he didn’t want to make a mistake so he kept it in a box and thought about it, too worried he might ruin it to ever actually make it. The books he planned out were never written not a word put down on paper because each word had to be perfect. The truth was he didn’t think he’d be a perfect father so it was easier not to be one.

Nature v nurture. He didn’t raise me, one weekend a month from the time I was five, gone before I was ten. And yet I have the same fear and I see it in my daughter too. The fear it won’t work, it won’t be perfect. The fear that as we are not good enough it’s better not to try. ‘There’s no point me practising my violin,’ she cried out in frustration one day. ‘I’m going to fail my exam anyway.’ It’s easy to say the right words. To tell her that failure is nothing to fear, that as long as she does her best that’s all that matters. Practice makes perfect. But I have the same doubting voices in my mind.

Why haven’t I edited Summer Fling? Why am I stuck on a rewrite of one chapter that won’t flow? Why am I putting all my energy into reworking a book that hasn’t been asked for instead of working on the one that has? I am so scared of failing, of not getting right, of that R&R turning into a simple R I am paralysed, sabotaging my chances of success with the guaranteed fail not finishing it will bring. Better to orchestrate your own failure than fail despite trying your best.

'Stop trying to talk yourself out of what you're trying to achieve Right Now.' More wise words from my C.P. as I panic, flounder, doubt. And she's right. I was, am, do.

But I am more than my father’s daughter. I have written three books. I am raising my daughter. I gritted my teeth and carried on when things got so dark I didn’t think I’d ever see the light again. I am terrified of failure, hence the epic wallow at my last NWS report, as all I could see was it confirm all those secret, negative fears, ignoring every word of praise and encouragement.

 I am terrified that I will keep on and on writing books that are never good enough. But crucially I also know that if I don’t write them, if I don’t try, then I will never get there. I have to keep going. And in that I am not my father's daughter, I am my own person. 


Julia Broadbooks said...


Charlotte Phillips said...

What a terrific post. Your CP is right, focus on being you and let your writing exist in the 'now'. It is so hard to suppress fear of failure, but you can do it. Keep going and don't give up. X

tracey rogers said...

What an emotional post. The fact that you keep trying proves you are being you. Your determination will pay off. x

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