It wasn’t the relevance of the article, mind you, more the fact that it got me thinking. This was my father they were describing, albeit ‘father’ in name only. The author was waxing-lyrical about Brigg’s once-great business acumen, really laying it on. He had gone through a stage of mild philanthropy, before he blew all his money after my mother died, and this apparently makes him a huge and worthy man.
It’s a shame his generosity never extended this far. Dad had shunned me as soon as I started making choices that didn’t correspond with his worldview. I was young and naïve, not bad, but when I made mistakes he showed me nothing but his cold shoulder. Whether my mother would have been any more understanding it’s hard to tell because his influence over her was so great that his opinions also became hers.
It wasn’t through lack of trying but life seemed to be dealing me bad-hand after bad-hand in those days. I wanted to be free and by hell did I achieve that. At my lowest point I slept outside in the cold rain and my shoes were never dry. My father only lived three counties away and I bet he wished it was further. I know what it’s like to be alone.
Desperation leads you to some funny places and I made it out eventually. I hauled myself bleeding through ten miles of metaphorical shit to get where I am today; I wouldn’t change a thing about it but that doesn’t mean I forgive him.
The article that lay before me was lamenting the demise of Austin Brigg. How could it be fair, the writer wondered, for such wretched circumstances to befall this big-hearted man, who had done so much in his life to help others? Here he is today, penniless, etching out a copy of life in a world that is no longer his.
Poor father. Now you are old and I am rich and it is my time to return what you gave me.
Gemma Meek’s writing has appeared in the Linnet’s Wings and the Cynic Magazine, among other places. Following a peripatetic previous life, she now lives and works in London, England.