I think the silence is the worst thing.
It’s not just the absence of sound, but something that is almost physical, cloying, thickening the air around me and dampening all other noises so they seem unable to penetrate it,to break through. I hear noises and, for a second, I think she’s home, in her room, chatting excitedly on the phone in that tone of voice reserved exclusively for anyone who isn’t her parent.
But it’s not her and the silence almost seems to deepen in malicious, gleeful response.
Earlier, I stood at the foot of her bed, the duvet thrown back exactly as it had been when she’d got out of bed this morning, the pillow still bearing the indent of her head. I notice, with a vision grown suddenly acute, a stray hair on the pillow and resist the impulse to gather it up, hold it in my hand. G-d forbid I should smell it. My acute vision blurs, acuity lost as, once more, the tears well up unbidden, unresisted.
So much has changed in such a short time. Just hours ago my life, if not exactly revolving around her any more, was still constrained within the confines of her needs. Would she be home for dinner? Was she going to be with me at the weekend? Did she need a lift somewhere? This last despite the fact that she now had her car, the little purple monstrosity inherited from a generous Aunt that, in such a short time, became almost as much a financial drain as another child and even more demanding.
Oh yes, the car. It now sits, unloved and un-needed on my Mother’s drive, almost recriminating with me for not taking it shopping, to a party, out for pasta. Yet even if I drove it, I feel it wouldn’t respond to my silence, to the radio, missing the laughter, the shouting, the unique coded language that she and her friends shared, excluding anyone old enough to remember the days when social networking meant meeting people.
G-d but I hate this silence.
I make a mental note to see if I can reduce the number of channels on the cable TV package. It was only a matter of weeks since I proudly told her I’d extended them, giving her access to channels I knew she’d watch in 6 second bursts, as the remote control was punched repeatedly at the screen in some sort of cathode-ray gunfight at the OK Corral. I make a mental note to stop thinking of things on TV I need to tell her about, to stop buying DVDs we can watch together as we eat dinner off trays on our laps.
What to make for dinner? Suddenly I don’t have to worry about what she will want, whether she will like it. I don’t have to consider a menu that will entice her to spend an evening with me, rather than being out with her friends, although perhaps that would have, should have prepared me for this feeling of emptiness, of loneliness. For this terrible aching silence.
I dread the next Friday night dinner at my Mother’s, knowing that the empty chair, the un-set place will be a hole in the fabric of my life, sucking my gaze inexorably into it, almost believing if I stare hard enough, she will be there, a light at the end of the tunnel. I find myself wishing I had a tape of her voice, like the one I made for her when, terrified and crying, she went on her first school trip to York. I made a recording of our ritual goodnight and embedded it in a teddy bear, so it would be my proxy when she hugged it at night.
I could do with a hug. I really could do with a hug right now.
I think of where she has gone and, fleetingly, I wish I could have gone with her.
I should have. She shouldn’t have had to go there alone. No child should have to go through that without a loving father by her side.
But where she has gone, I can’t follow. My life has to continue on its own path, a path suddenly more bleak, yet I know in my heart she would not want me to be with her, she would want me to carry on with my own path and not deviate from it to be with her.
That is, after all, why she decided to go to University in Birmingham and move away from home. I was so excited when she got the place, even though I knew it would mean her moving out. To think, I was worried about how SHE would feel.