Dear 13 year old me…
So you’ve just turned 13. Congrats, you’re now a teenager, but things are about to take a turn for the worst. Remember last year when Len died, and you couldn’t say goodbye to him properly? Well, it’s going to get worse. The school you’ve known for two years is about to change and the uniform and many other things.
The main thing that will change is dad. Have you noticed he’s started looking more and more yellow these days? Well, it turns out it’s an illness that will, unfortunately, end up with him dying and everything that you knew and was your normal would change.
Your outlook on things will become different. You develop this fear of going back into foster care, which we both know wasn’t a fun experience, but you keep it to yourself as you don’t know who to trust. Your current social worker will convince dad to go to the doctors and then to the hospital to get an answer about what’s making him ill finally, and just like you did when you were younger, you went with him and walk with him and held his hand.
When you are on the bus with him, he gives you a mint from his pocket. A few months later, he has the op, and then early Saturday morning, the house phone rings, and it’s the hospital. When you see him, he doesn’t look the same, and he doesn’t sound the same which scares you.
A few hours later, uncle Ernie turns up with a woman you’ve never seen before. It turns out it’s your auntie Sheila, so you get to put a face to a name after all these years. Unfortunately, dad died that day which is pretty sad, and mum is distraught too, as well as your siblings, but there’s something inside you that wants to be strong for mum, almost like it’s the right thing to do.
Being at home without Dad is very strange. It’s almost like he hasn’t passed away but that he’s just gone out, but you know he’s gone. The house isn’t the same without him. Over the next couple of days, things are just strange your whole life until you had both parents at home, every Sunday, you knew what time he’d be up, and you knew what time he’d go to bed.
Remembering those times, you would sit on their bed eating a biscuit while he told you all stories about nan and granddad and what they were like or the time he gave you a fireman’s lift to bed when you were little. Every part of the home is filled with so many different memories of him and still feels like it’s all a dream, but it’s not. You’ve now got to go to school, but it’s the last place you want to be, but you know it isn’t long until the summer holidays, and you can be at home with mum all the time.
Being in school is just strange as most of your teachers know about what happened but your not sure how they know, you go to every lesson, but each one feels like the last. You’ve still got two more months left of school, so you grin and bear it as best you can. A few people around you aren’t part of the school who genuinely want to support you.
You find out your social worker has left, and you’re supposed to be having a new one soon, but you’re not that interested. You don’t see your new social worker for a while, and by this time, they’ve all become a blur. You tend not to get close to them either. Over the years, you were labelled a shy, quiet kid, but now you really keep yourself to yourself, and you would love nothing more than to be invisible at this point; so much has happened, and it’s just too much to process.
It’s been about 2 weeks since dad died, and things are still bizarre, but one of the kids you used to play out with has come round to see how you are and see mum too, which was nice. You bump into his mum the next day, and she offers some kind words, but what can people really say at this point when you haven’t gotten your head around it yet.
It the day of the funeral, and things are just strange at home. Today makes things more real, but there’s not at the same time cause there are memories of him around the house. Flowers are being laid in the garden the whole day seems off; Uncle Ernie made most of the dictions. It seemed like mum was just too upset to decide what to do, although he came across as like he didn’t want any investment from her. We never really knew him that well apart from he was dads brother, and that was it.
When you get to the cemetery there are two people you don’t recognise, it turns out they’re your cousin’s well two of them anyways, another name to the face, you’ve always seen their names on your birthday cards but never seen them in person, and you’ve never really questioned why you never knew who they were before today.
The church cemetery Is quite bare as uncle Ernie organised it, so he doesn’t really know any of dad’s friends, the people you grew up around, the same people who taught you to play darts even though you weren’t old enough to really play, the same group of people who you watch play snooker and tell you how to play it and how many points for each ball but you assume that they don’t know about today because uncle Ernie didn’t have much to do with dad’s friend’s.
Mum is really struggling with the loss, but you can see she’s trying to hold it together for us, but you can see straight through it as they start to play the final song, which you recognise as you heard it being played growing up. That night mom sends you to bed early as you have to go back to school the next day, which in some ways seems strange.
The next day feels strange as it’s time to go to school, but you can’t bring yourself to go, but you do because you never argue with mum, not at this time anyway. School days always feel longer than they actually are but today feels even longer, but you do your best to keep out of teachers sight which seems pretty easy as they never pick on the quiet one’s.
The next couple of months go by like a blur. It’s now the summer holidays, and you really don’t know what to do with yourself; usually, you all go to town for the day, but now dad’s gone it’s not the same, you try to be strong for mum because you know she’s still missing him.
Over the past few weeks, you keep having the same dream. You dream that dad isn’t really dead and that he’s just gone out, but he’s come through the front door as always, and everything is normal again, but then you wake up and realise it was just a dream. The next morning you find out that the social services want to help mum around the house because clearly, they think she can’t do anything.
A few weeks later, some people from social services have come to help, but mum is telling them what she wants to keep, but they don’t listen. They start chucking things out, and they got rid of mum’s medication, and now she’s had to go to the doctors for an emergency prescription, but unfortunately, she has to wait a few days for her medication which you know isn’t good.
The summer holidays fly by, mum has her medication back, and she’s not having as many seizures as she was when she wasn’t on them. Before you left school for the summer holidays, you were told that you would be going to a new school as your old one is getting knocked down.
You really don’t feel like going to school. It just doesn’t seem that important anymore, but you know that mom would only moan at you for not going, so you take your time walking to school, but by the time you get there, you just can’t face it, and so you turn back, and you tell mom they sent you home because you were sick.
This carries on for a while, but slowly you start going to school properly, but you still not on time. Still, the teachers don’t seem to bring up it’s almost like they expect it from you, your head of year pulls you as side one morning and says that she wants to talk to you, so you go up to her office and you miss your first lesson.
Your head of year knows what’s happened, and she’s suggested for you to have counselling. Still, you keep quiet as you know there’s no point questioning her about it; she thinks it’s a good idea to talk to somebody about how your feeling, but at this time, you still can’t get your head around the fact that dad has gone but he so real in your dreams.
Counselling gets arranged through your head of year, and she’s arranged for you to see somebody at the centre you go to every Wednesday, but you really don’t want to go even if she thinks it might help, you really can’t bring yourself to open up and talk about what’s happening.
A week later, you get a date for your counselling session, and you really not looking forward to going to it because you really don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what they’re going to ask either, you go to the first session, and you find out it’s with a guy you already know, so you find it harder to really open up.
The guy starts by asking what you want to talk about, but you don’t feel like talking because you haven’t properly processed everything; everything is still raw. You’ve never been comfortable talking about what’s troubling you as you don’t know who’s going to hear what’s being said.
Your councillor decides to ask you a few open questions to make you feel more comfortable by talking asking what you want to get out of the sessions, but you tell him that you don’t know and that it was your head of year who thought it would help.
A month later, it’s time for your pep meeting and review. Around this time, you get to meet your social worker; unfortunately, this new one is just the same as the others, this new social worker wants to get to know you, but you know they’ve read your file, and they think they know you based on what they’ve read.
The only constant in your life is your independent reviewing officer Louise. She’s been around since you were a kid. You have your pep meeting first, and as per usual you’re pulled out of your lesson to go it, but luckily they’ve pulled you out of maths which you don’t as it’s your least favourite subject, but you still don’t like the idea of being pulled out of your lessons as you feel like it draws more attention to you.
Pep meeting is the same faces, and it goes in the same way, they start with your sister as she’s older but not in the room and then go on talking about you and how things are progressing in school and how you’re coping with everything but they don’t seem to ask you anything. They all have information about you, but you’re not sure how or where they’ve got their information.
Once the pep meeting is done, you go back to your lesson, but you walk slowly as you want to go over what’s been said. They want to know how you are coping with being in school after losing dad, but you not sure what to say to them because, in all honesty, you haven’t gotten your head around it yet.
Before you finish for the day, your head of year pulls you aside once again and wants to know how counselling is going and whether you think it’s helping, but you keep your answer pretty short as you know that it’s not working, but you know she will ask more questions, so you lie and tell her it’s going ok.
School is more difficult these days as you want to be invisible and to be left alone, you feel like all the attention is on you, which is the opposite of what you want, you already feel like an outsider in school with social workers pulling you out of lessons, but now it’s every time you bump into your head of year she’s asking how you are, but you want to be invisible.
Since you started secondary school you’ve been compared to your older sister, the teachers wait until the end of the lesson to tell you that you’re nothing like her, you hate the fact they compare you to each other. You purposely sit at the back of the classroom as you feel you won’t be noticed, and you don’t want the teacher’s attention; you want to be invisible, and that feeling of wanting to be invisible stays with you for a while. There’s a lot you’re dealing with now, and things at home aren’t the same, but you feel like you have to keep it to yourself to be strong for mum.
A week later, and it’s about 7 am, normally by now, mom has come into you to wake you up and to tell you it’s time to get up for school, but she hasn’t, you have this feeling like something isn’t right, so you go straight out of your room into the bathroom to find mum on the floor, luckily it’s not long until your brother gets home from his friends and helps mum up off the floor..
You wait until mom is dressed and fine before you even think about leaving for school, but by the time you get there, your already half an hour late, but being in school is the last thing on your mind. Your only a few minutes away from the school when you don’t feel like you can face it today. All the questions of why your late and many other questions to follow, and so you turn back around and go home.
As your walking back home, you’re talking to yourself about what to say to mom when you get in as you know she’s going to ask questions about why you’re not at school. You think of a good excuse, and you hope that mom believes you, your about 5 minutes from home, and you just can’t face going home just yet, so you go to the one place that brings you a bit of peace which is standing outside the church you grew up in by the big tree. Ever since you were a kid, there was something about the church that drew you in, but sometimes you didn’t have the courage to go in, and so you stand by the big tree and look at the church.
After half an hour of standing by the big tree opposite the church, you decide it’s time to face the music and go home. You take your time walking back home, and then when you get in, you tell mom your excuse. She bought it, or at least you think she did. You get out of your school uniform, put your pyjamas on and lie on your bed with your two teddies. You remember how if dad caught you at home, you’d be in trouble, you found a CD that really reminds you of him, which brings back memories of him sitting on your bed telling you stories of different things, the songs make you really miss him.
Its been about a week now since you haven’t had the courage to go into school. You’re not sure what is actually stopping you from going in, but somehow trying to go back to having a normal life doesn’t sit right with you. Everything still seems so unreal you still haven’t gotten over losing dad, and let’s face, it’s not some quick fix; you don’t know how you are supposed to carry on when nothing is the same anymore.
Some days you only get as far as the park before your turning back as there’s this feeling in the pit of your stomach that is just telling you that going to school isn’t right at the moment. Luckily nobody from the social services has been in touch, nor from the school, you couldn’t care less what they think is the right or wrong thing to do because at the end of the day they don’t know what’s going on properly they seem that talking to a counsellor will do the trick. You’ll be back to going to school again.
You don’t feel like talking to anyone will help as you feel like this is something you have to work on yourself and keep talking to yourself about how you’re going to things and how you’re slowing going to start back at school the last thing you want is twenty questions from the people in your year as well as a lot of sympathy from your head of year. She’s known you since year 7 and thinks she knows you quite well but still doesn’t know when to leave you be.
A month later, you’re back at school properly, but in the pit of your stomach you still don’t feel right coming to school every day, but you know if you don’t then soon enough they’ll start ringing mum, and then you have to try and get out of that one.
The only plus side of going back to school is that now you have the choice of what lesson you want to go to as your head of year says she understands this is a difficult time at the moment, be glad they think your the quiet one as you hate it when teachers say they understand when they clearly don’t. Still, you don’t say anything as you don’t want to get into trouble, you choose not to go maths as its not your best subject, and the teacher gets up your tree.
The next lesson after the break is English you decide to go to that as you like the teacher however as you get to your classroom you see a girl who usually sits behind you has jumped in your seat claiming she didn’t think you were in as you weren’t in maths.
You ask her nicely to shift out of your seat. So she does and goes back to her own seat. You don’t pay much attention to what your teacher is saying to the whole class as your just not feeling being in school, but the one thing you like about where you sit in English is right by the window to slightly listen whilst looking out the window.
Some teachers are starting to notice something is up, well you think they notice that you aren’t really paying much attention in lessons, luckily your social worker isn’t around to bother you either it’s like they up and left without any notice, you are sure they will be around soon enough, you’ve been in the care system long enough to know they don’t stay away for long.
All you want is to be invisible, but let’s face it, however much you walk around with your head down, someone will see you. Still, you just wish you could redo everything so you would have longer with dad and to be able to make more memories with him and not have him pass so soon, you feel like you never had enough time to really get to know his personality and sit with him whilst he brushed your hair or just watched whatever was on TV that day. You would do anything just for things to go back to normal just for him to be home and everything can be ok again.
There’s only so much you can take on; as much as you hate reaching out to people, maybe it’s worth finding one person you feel like will listen and express to them what’s on your mind, how you’re feeling, about the dreams about everything because keeping all inside doesn’t help anyone.
Somehow things at school are starting to become normal. You still can’t wrap your head around dad being gone because he was fine only a few months ago, and you were talking to him about school changing. What it may be like and the change in uniform, you have all these memories of him taking you to your hospital appointments, and you remember sitting at the end of their bed on a Friday night and listen to him tell you stories about your grandparents. Those little moments that when you close your eyes, you can still picture him.
As much as you feel silly for thinking about him and dreaming about him, he will always be your dad. No matter what, you have to cherish the time you had with him; you may not have been able to find out what his personality was like or even walk down the road holding his hand one last time. Those memories will be with you forever; as much as you feel lost right now, you will eventually find a new normal you will learn to adapt as time goes by, never feel like you can’t talk to anyone just because of social services some so many other people will want to listen to you that aren’t part of that. You will find people you can truly trust, but like with anything, it all takes time.