Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Great Escape

It's been seven weeks since Dad died and I'm fine. In fact I'm a little worried at how quickly I've defaulted back to 'normal', although there are a hellish amount of unresolved issues both with Dad, and my sodding head. As a result I still haven't started my annual New Year's Final Diet Ever as I fling back metric fucktons of shitty beige food and sedate my issues with alcohol.

I went through the usual stages of grief that began with good old denial, repeating over and over to my stepmother on the night he died, that 'I can't believe he's gone,' as if a poorly eighty-year-old man had it in him to keep going for another thirty years.

Then things took a surreal turn. Due to my sister's habit of logging every fucking sneeze and haircut on Facebook, she'd been detailing Dad's descent, and discussed his healthcare. A journalist picked it up, and it spiralled out of control. A week after Dad died I was in my sister's kitchen peeling potatoes when my nieces screamed at me to come into the living room. There was Dad's grinning face on TV looking back at us and millions of others as a BBC London News anchor mentioned him by name. Then it cut to a report filmed in that same room as my actual sister next to me squirmed at television sister complaining about Dad's care.

Life went on. My sister and I were named in Dad's will as executors, and I had an estate to sort out which sounds rather grand; an Estate, as if he left behind a large mansion house with fine tapestries and objets d'art.

Except he didn't. It turns out that Dad was terrible with money. Actually, let me clarify that: He was fucking appalling, and if it tarnishes his memory to implore the six people who read this who may be in pecuniary straits, then so be it: If you're in debt, PLEASE GET OUT OF IT. Accept that any money you earn simply isn't yours until you're back in black. You're not going to win that cash back at the bookies, or make canny investments that'll solve all your problems. Instead, make huge sacrifices and crawl your way back up to £0.00. At least from then on in, it's all yours.

Dad didn't have a gambling problem, or a drink problem, and certainly not an issue with drugs, so it was a complete mystery as to how he managed to rack up over twenty-seven thousand pounds worth of credit card and overdraft debts. It took a while for the penny to drop, but it was a combination of several decades of a poorly-paying job alongside a stubborn refusal to stop spending money. Dad had a near pathological need to keep buying things; records, CDs, DVDs, cheap Chinese gadgets that pretended to be iPads but weren't, Dad loved a bargain even though he couldn't afford it.

Three years ago the debt appears to have caught up with him, and he pulled out his trump card. The flat he shared with his wife was paid off, so he found a lender who'd give him a huge chunk of cash in return for a slice of the flat - They'll get their money back one day when the flat gets sold.
The trouble is those vampires are charging a hideous interest on that loan and the £60k he took out is now £75k as it increases by (currently) £5,000 every year. So Dad's gone, having left behind a legacy of debt that continues to eat away at my stepmother's home and her children's inheritance.

Last week, she told me she now hates him.

I'm trying to sort out all this mess. My sister and I had a huge argument - all via text as she refuses to speak to me - that was pretty spiteful and mean, mainly from me, because I've dealt with everything alone. I've trashed all Dad's audio cassettes and VHS's at the town dump, and sold a couple of new DVDs on eBay. I've scoured all Dad's paperwork to uncover the debts, then written to all his creditors to start sorting this out. Admittedly she helped find a solicitor and attended our first meeting, but only because she used to work there. I still have to clear out a lifetime of his belongings, sort out his car, deal with solicitors, make offers to banks, and try and tackle that fucking equity loan.

I'm not ashamed to say that despite my strident atheism, I've been buying lottery tickets and scratchcards under the assumption that my dead father is still somehow 'there', and has assumed supernatural powers to make his bereaved family millionaires.

Except nah.

If I've got anything from all this besides a small pyramid of scrunched-up lotto tickets, it's a wrought-iron conviction that products don't make us happy. Consumerism is a giant con, and the most sensible thing in life is to spend less than you earn and save for your retirement.

I'm also no longer scared of death. I used to obsess about it to an unhealthy degree, fretting about achieving nothing and wasting my life. Instead I've realised that Dad used it to escape his debts. He won, in a weird kind of way. Death's great for the deceased, provided it comes at a dignified old age with next to no pain. It's actually shitty for the rest of us.

I've also realised I'm doing okay. I've been doing the right thing all along, though my damn book has come to an annoying standstill three-quarters into draft three, but once I've got closure from all Dad's stuff I can get back to writing it again. And once that's done, I'll have the free time and headspace to get back to my glorious Final Diet Ever so I can date attractive female hominids even though I'm turning fucking forty in as many days,  but that doesn't matter as my Autobiography of a Complete Nobody storms the planet and I become a huge Internet sensation who hadn't wasted his life after all.....