It's not enough to respond in kind

Since I left England, and even before then, I have had very little contact with my father. Twice a year, on my birthday and at Christmas, he’ll send me a text. Within a few days I’ll send him a reply, roughly equal in length to whatever brief message he sent to me, sometimes I’ll send a few photos too. It’s been almost five years since we had sight or sound of one another.

Yesterday night my brother rang me in a panic, asking for £1800 urgently to pay off a drug debt before his dealer broke both his legs. Like a scene from a movie, he described being dangled out of the window by his wrists. He’s not above lying, who among us is? I doubt he was actually wrung out of his window, he’s too heavy, but the debt is probably real.

Not wanting to trouble ma, I rang my father. For the first time in five years, I heard his voice. He didn’t have much to offer about my brother, and why should he anyway? Was I expecting him to know my own brother better than me?

I think I’d woken him, he sounded tired. He has cancer. Or more fully, he has cancers. Leukaemia, kidneys, now skin. I didn’t know about the last, and I only knew about the first two via my brother.

I could have picked up the phone any time in the last five years. I’m not emotionally stunted, not any more anyway, but with my father I am. Cordial but curt is about all we can manage at this distance. Distance doesn’t suit us, we are alike in that way. In a room together we can talk plenty, with most anyone, but we have no instinct for remote contact. No patterns exist in our minds for that.

So maybe I couldn’t have picked up the phone, maybe it was inevitable that we would lose touch. As we rang off, I said maybe I’ll try and pick up the phone again, sooner this time. He wont, he’s not wired that way. And maybe I wont, because I’m the same.