My Father's Runners
August 15 1989.
It was late, a knock at the door, a policewoman’s voice. She was there to inform my mum that my father had taken his own life. Had they not divorced it would've been their 13th wedding anniversary.
He had called her earlier that afternoon barely lucid. She knew something was horribly wrong.
Even with his history of violence, instability and alcohol abuse, my mother could never have imagined what he had just done, or what he was about to do. She pleaded with him to come to the house. Whatever was wrong, she could help work it out.
Fortunately for my mother, sister and I, he didn’t take her up on the offer and moments later he took his own life in the bathroom. Two days later his partner died from injuries my father had inflicted.
I did not hear the full story until 2017, almost 30 years after his death. Not just the inquest-version of the murder-suicide, but the full-uncensored story of my mum’s nine-year marriage. We were in a shitty AirBnB apartment during a visit to meet my newborn niece on the other side of the world. Mum paced up and down like a caged tiger as she spoke.
On that day I finally understood the trauma of her marriage to him – the fight to keep the house, the fear, the endless debt, the police visits.
One of the detectives who had attended the scene found a new pair of runners there. He sold them and gave the cash to my mum: he saw how hard her life had become because of him.
This story of kindness couldn’t have come at a more poignant time in my life. My husband was in his first few months of policing.
The story that ended so simply with my father’s runners unearthed some realisations.
I believe this event has created in me an immense fear of loss. I have hoarded items from the family home as if they were priceless ornaments. I now see they all represent my mum, I am terrified of losing her, and those around me.
Second. The idea of burying pain, regardless of how shameful the source of it may feel, is temporary. Its impact is far-reaching and unknown.
With this series I will start the first chapter of my family’s story. It begins with my father’s runners.