Uphill Starts
Emma Oulton

I ended up starting over a little over a year ago. Which in my mind is odd, as usually ‘clean-slates’ on large scales are things that grown up twenty-somethings do when they want to take their lives in new directions after actually living a little.

But I was eighteen and a half, and my Dad had just died.

Mum and Dad had divorced when I was eight, and Dad went on to remarry and start a new life with his partner. I visited on weekends and for a while, it worked. But underlying tensions broke and we simply didn’t get on – for a number of reasons too long to put on here.

Things first began as a few off-handed comments being said to me when Dad left the room. Then over the years it became stronger, about how I favoured my Mum over my Dad, and how I wasn’t treating him fairly (to put them simply.)

I was a nervous wreck, and these words made massively deep cuts into my mind. I felt constantly guilty and shameful.

But I sucked it up and things eventually settled. There were nice times, and when my sister came along, that was lovely.

Then Dad became ill. He was very pale, falling asleep at the table at lunch in public, which was a very not-like-Dad thing to do.

It was then revealed that he had stage four Bowel Cancer.

Understandably with such a turbulent and stressful atmosphere, the relationship with Dad’s partner soured. Everything I did had a bigger motive apparently, becoming stinging barbs about how I was just after his money, how I didn’t even care about him. At the time I was a fifteen-year old juggling my GCSE’s, my friends and life with my Mum too. I was doing my best.

This continued for two years and over that time I went through the motions of acceptance, grief and hope that he would live a little longer (which he did, eventually passing away in hospital on his 47th birthday.)

I wasn't there when he died. His partner made me feel incredibly uncomfortable when visiting so I took a day off, planning to see him on his big day. I wrote out a card, got ready to give him his present (a copy of Karl Pilkington’s ‘Idiot Abroad’) when the phone rang. He’d passed away.

I can’t remember what really happened in the next few weeks. Most notably, it was the beginning of the relationship with my Dad’s family slipping away. They were caught between his partner and their own grief, and I was grieving deeply at my Mums. Very much out of the picture.

Funeral arrangements were made without my input. Flowers were ordered with none from me. People visited him in the Chapel of Rest. I had to call up a family member to ask them to take me. Nobody had offered.

The funeral came and went. It wasn’t my vision of my Dad’s last farewell, but then again, there was no say from me. I would have had a nice, summery bunch of butter yellow roses to put on his coffin (they were his favourite.)

In November, the scattering took place. I stuck with my Uncle and Aunt, and the proceedings happened. His partner uncorked the tube and shook out the ashes.

In December, my things had been packed without my knowledge and I was out of my Dad’s house. With no reason, and not one of his possessions (bar an old fleece.)

After that, I decided to start over. I had dealt with over ten years of pain, anxiety and then depression, and I knew I didn’t want to stay in the town that symbolised all of that. My A-Levels were just a few months away and I put my pen to paper and madly revised.

Luckily, thankfully, I got into my University of choice: Leeds Trinity. The one Dad had seen with me (the only one), and a place that wasn’t too far from home if I wanted to see Mum.

I moved there last September to study Journalism, and I haven’t looked back since.

The relationships with my Dad’s family are slowly mending, as I decided to tell them what exactly had been going on, not that there is anything anyone can do. I haven’t seen my sister in a year. That breaks my heart, but I hope to see her one day. Explain to her why I did what I did.

I do grieve the life I had, even though it was stifling and constricting and I honestly thought that was it. There was no way out.

But I decided to do a ‘do-over.’ Not with life, but more with myself. I refuse to let anyone tell me what I am, and nobody can belittle me. I am now independently living with a bunch of wonderful people, and happily studying a subject that I have a passion for.

I started over, and I know that my family and my Dad are proud.