The following morning I found my dad asleep on the sofa, he hadn’t moved from last night, his empty wine glass sat next to a bottle of vodka, I sighed and put the half empty bottle back. I turned on the kettle and made him a cup of tea, by the time I’d made the tea the snores had ceased and he was sitting on the sofa, his head in his hands.
“You okay?” I asked him,
“Ta,” he said taking the tea from me, “I’ve got a headache…” he trailed off and looked at the table with the empty wine glass, “did I only drink one glass of wine? I feel like I downed seven!”
“I put the vodka away,” I told him, “I don’t want you going back to your old habits,”
“I won’t, I promise, it only happened once,” my dad promised. Between the ages of seven and thirteen my father had had a drinking problem; it started the night my mum was diagnosed with her first tumour. He’d stopped six years later because my mum’s cancer had been successfully removed, but when it came back again two years ago I had begged him not to start and he’d stayed strong and sober for me. It was hard for him because alcohol was the only way he knew how to cope, but I was glad because the second round of cancer had been a lot worse and Mum had been in the hospital a lot more often. It was nice to come home to a house where my dad wasn’t off his head; it was nice to come home to family.
“You know what?” I said going back to the cupboard where the alcohol was stored, I took out the beer cans and the half empty bottle of vodka, “I’ll rid of the temptation,” I told him, whilst tipping the vodka into the sink.
“You’re just like your mum,” my dad smiled, I felt my heart stammer and the lump appear in my throat,
“Grandma will be here in thirty minutes, go and have a shower,” I told him, he stood up slowly and smiled,
“I love you,”
“Love you too,” I said distractedly whilst trying to open the beer bottle,
“You’ll need the bottle opener for that one,” my dad laughed.
By the end of the day I was exhausted, I’d taken on the role of home maker as visitors came into see dad and me. I reckon by seven O’clock I’d made twenty cups of tea and served three packets of biscuits. Dad had sat on the sofa most of the day talking to neighbours, friends and family, a small collection of flowers had appeared in the dinning room and a plethora of cards plastered the mantelpiece.
"You okay?" he asked,
"I'm fine, a little tired," I admitted,
He picked up the remote and turned on the football, ending the conversation. “A beer would go so well with this,” he said putting his feet on the table – he wasn’t allowed to when Mum was around – “you didn’t happen to throw them all away did you?”
“My bad,” I stood up and went to my bedroom, I hated football, I rummaged under my bed and pulled out the box Mum had given to me before she died. It was a box she had put together when she knew she only had a few weeks left to live, she told me to open it two days after she died. I had been saving it because I didn’t know if I could bear opening it, but I thought I was ready now to see what she had placed inside for me. I unlatched the hook and lifted the lid, a letter in thick card lay on top and so I opened it first and read the contents,
My dear Cinderella,
I cannot find the words to put into this letter how sorry I am, I’m sorry because I will not be around for the hardest time in your life, therefore I have failed you as a mother. I wish I could see you excel in your school work, see you grow into a beautiful woman, watch your personality change as you figure out who you are…I wish I could be there to comfort you when you get your heartbroken for the first time, I wish I could share in your sadness and heartbreak. I wish I could be there in times of happiness and joy, I wish I could see your face when you come home from a date and I’ll miss those times we sat on your bed, when we laughed, cried and talked about anything and everything.
But even though I am not there in the flesh, it doesn’t mean I’m not there in spirit, I will always love you Elle, even when I’m dead and gone, I’ll be thinking of you every minute of everyday wherever I am. I do believe in life after death and you should too, it’s always a comforting thought to think that the person you love is somewhere else…in a better place.
The fact is my death is inevitable and I still cannot convey how sorry I am not to be around for you, I know your father will do the best job he can but every girl needs a mother and when I’m not around I know you’ll have a hard time adjusting. That’s why I’ve made this box, inside is a letter for every major occasion, one for you’re A-level results, your first day at university, your wedding, your first child etc… I know not all of these things may happen, but you must always be prepared for anything. Also inside this box are a collection of my favourite memories with you in an album, look through them with happiness – not sadness. There’s a picture of me, so you don’t forget my face and a few hand-me-downs which I knew you always had your eye on, even as a child you pinched my locket from my bedside table and put it on…do you remember that?
Honey I love you with all my heart, and I will never stop loving you even when I’m gone. I want you to remember that. I’m sorry with all my heart for not telling you that I love you everyday, I wish I could be there for you now, I’ll miss you.
Love from Mum. X
I fell back onto my bed; I hugged the letter close to my heart and stared at the ceiling. Hours passed by but I was in a trance, I preferred it this way, it meant I couldn’t feel the pain – all I felt was a numbness, and numbness was a whole lot better.