You would think that hearing the news that my ‘stepmonster’ had died would’ve had me jumping with joy. Interestingly, since his demise on 4th December, 2014, I have been in the deepest pit of despair that I can remember.
The call came only hours after landing back in LA. We had been visiting the UK and had attempted to visit my mother. She has dementia and Alzheimer’s and he unfortunately was her carer. Having never done a thing to help my mother – he was a lazy, inconsiderate, dishonest, gambling pedophile – it was rather a surprise to me when having explained how dangerous and lazy he was – that the NHS and Social Services over-rode my wishes for my mother to be housed somewhere clean and safe and instead they sent my once house-proud Mother her back to the filthy hovel she now shared with him.
It further astonished and greatly concerned me that my mother had no idea who he was or where she was upon arriving ‘home’ and called him ‘Dad.’
Up until this point I had barely had any contact with him in the previous 18 years, following on from having had far too much unwanted contact with him from the age of 5 upwards and suddenly due to my Mother’s condition, I was now forced once again to put her first and suffer at his hands.
A dishonest man never changes his spots. He announced to all and sundry, when I was asked to take on Power of Attorney for Mum, that half of the money in Mum’s bank account was his. Obviously, it would be my word against his BUT the fact was that they had never shared finances. My Mother clearly behaved stupidly around him – allowing such a revolting specimen of humanity to share and ruin our lives – but she would never be so stupid as to share a bank account. Everything we had was down to her constant hard work and efforts.
So, I declined the opportunity of taking care of my Mother’s finances and the local authority took over instead. Years on, I am still waiting to find out what they have done with them as Mum has no access at all, even to know how much money she has.
Anyway, I digress. The result of this repugnant creature not getting his own way or access to Mum’s money was that he wouldn’t allow us to see Mum. We turned up and the door would not be answered and neither would our calls. Eventually after a year of struggling with the reality of not seeing my Mother, whose memory was failing day by day and ultimately knowing that she could die at any moment, we left for pastures new on the other side of the world. What choice did we have?
Yes, the sun shone every day and we had wonderful adventures but in everything we did I carried the weight of loss within me. I had no idea whether I would ever see Mum again, or if I did what condition she would be in. Would she even remember me, her only child? It was bad enough that he had created a giant chasm between us from the first moment we met all those years ago but now that she was just a shell of a person, he still wanted more. He wanted to possess all of her in the worst possible way and had almost succeeded.
So, here we were at 9am the morning after arriving back from London sitting expectantly on the sofa as our friend Andy started to talk to us on Skype. He had sent an email saying that he needed to ask us a question, so we had no idea that we were about to be hit with this thunderbolt that literally came out of the blue.
The social worker had called Andy only a short while earlier to tell him that the ‘stepmonster’ had been found dead in bed. The social worker had called him because only 48 hours earlier when we had visited Mum (secretly, the ‘stepmonster’ had left her alone in the house and gone out for who knows how long), we had left her with a copy of our book ‘100%Simply Perfect Photographs’ and had written all contact numbers in the front just in case Mum ever had the wherewithal to make that call.
Fortunately, the social worker made that call on Mum’s behalf.
It was also fortunate that our bags were still packed as we immediately booked another flight back to London.
In the meantime, James called a friend to let her know what had happened. She was supposed to be one of my closest friends and knew all about the childhood sexual abuse I had suffered at the ‘stepmonster’s’ hands (literally) and all the subsequent horror of having this depraved fiend in our midst.
We were supposed to be staying at her mother’s home for the next two days to look after her dog as she took her staff on a work trip to Vegas. It had been planned for some time and we were happy to do that BUT I felt a little odd when my friend’s reaction to the shocking news was to immediately make sure that we were still going to dog-sit. Hours later it occurred to me that she could have offered to have the dog herself, or suggest another friend who could step in so that we could be free to make our plans and get our heads around the news. But no.
Instead, she asked all excitedly, “Wow! What happened?” In fact, over the course of the following few weeks she asked that same question a handful of times. Not sure what answer she was hoping for but our answer never changed. “He had a heart attack.”
The following morning when we awoke in her mother’s house, she called and suggested that we join her, her sister and her friend for brunch. Her voice was jolly and she was very upbeat with her invitation. I declined.
Is that really how normal people respond to the news of an unexpected death?
With that one Skype call, our lives and our future had forever changed. The weight of that knowledge was suffocating.
We would be moving back to London for the foreseeable.
We would be saying goodbye to a number of very close friends and a lifestyle that made life more bearable.
We would be returning to London without any knowledge of what we were about to face, to take care of a Mother who had never really taken care of me. I was about to do everything within my power to keep her safe when I had never ever known safety at her hands.
We didn’t know where we would live, how we would earn money and what we would have to do with and for Mum.
Meanwhile, I was waiting for a feeling of relief to flood my system with the knowledge that ‘he’ was now dead. Unbeknownst to me, his death had triggered an enormous wave of c-PTSD. Over a year later and I am still not convinced that he is really dead, or if he is that his evil black spirit is not lurking in the shadows about to suck the life out of me when I fall asleep.
Everywhere I go, I see him.
Everywhere I go, I smell him.
The truth is that since he was declared dead, he has become omnipresent. He has the power to be everywhere I am and is now undetectable in the shadows.
My wonderful therapist explained that these thoughts are flashbacks. Obviously, I am not a Vietnam veteran, reliving the worst ravages of war but not far off. Every day of my life in that house with him felt as though I was fighting for my life. I did truly believe that I would die. I prayed that I would and if God would not grant me that wish, I prayed that I would sleep walk and end his.
Thankfully God understood that those were the prayers of a terrified child and instead gave me the strength to get through each day but now, twenty-eight years later the absolute dread of those years has swamped me and I am now finding it hard to breathe.
The biggest irony of all of this is that my Mother, the person who chose ‘him’ and allowed him unfettered access into our lives, access that forever changed the course of those lives and damaged them beyond repair, has no memory of him.
Obviously what I am experiencing is some form of grief. A grief that has triggered c-PTSD and a sense of anger that he never paid for what he did and that we are all still paying and forever will.
I understand that grief has phases and it takes time to work through so I am trying to be patient with myself, knowing that at some point it will all be behind me but until then realising that death is not the end.
*For more background on this story, please read this post: