My father was my legend, a dependable, kind, passionate human being, and through his eyes the world was my oyster. Dad was a great person to be around, no matter what capacity you had the pleasure of knowing him in. He had a way of making people feel welcome and you could take him anywhere. Striking up a conversation was something he always found very easy to do.
My Dad adored football.
He literally lived and breathed the game. In fact he was also a great sports man. A sprinter in his younger years, he played league football and then later went onto becoming a scout for Charlton FC. Clinton was a founder for Lewisham Borough FC and a recognised figure, particularly within the borough of Lewisham.
Dad was a real community man and he spent all his spare time trying to improve the sporting facilities in Lewisham the place where he was raised. If a club needed a better building, pitch, kits or equipment he would apply for funding somehow and make it happen. He wanted as many young people to have the opportunity to take part in sports as possible, and he was willing to help in any way to make it possible.
The first time that I recognised Dad’s sorrow was when I was a young girl.
I have no recollection of my exact age but I was older than a toddler and not quite a teenager, so let’s say age 10 for the purpose of the example. On a visit to Jamaica one year, my father’s place of birth, we went to visit his Great Grandmother’s grave. GG as I will now refer to her, was the equivalent to Dad’s mother. He lived in Jamaica with GG for much of his childhood and came to the UK to join his parents when he was 13 years old.
Dad had never quite come to terms with leaving Jamaica all those years ago, as upon arriving in the UK he suffered the culture shock that is grim British weather, new faces of all colours, racism and unfamiliar culture. In addition to missing GG, Jamaica and his life as he knew it, I imagine this provoked an undetected trauma in his young life.
At the grave that day my father cried uncontrollably, like literally ‘from the gut’ tears. I watched him sob and remember looking up at him and wondering what had caused this pain. He expressed how much he missed GG and that his life changed when he came to the UK. This wasn’t him saying that he didn’t have a great life; he made me understand that his love of sports, his family and feeling settled in a great career made him happy and proud. I however got the feeling that his loss of GG was a massive void in his life. Looking back he often had private moments where he felt sad, and I can imagine that his thoughts took him back to GG and the sentiment of her love and care for him.
Fast-forward years later and I am in my 20’s. I feel like I am on top of the world with little to no real cares in the world. It was more a case of going to University, making a few wise and many foolish financial decisions and trying to travel the world. My family life was great up until say age 22, and then there were cracks in my parents’ marriage. A lot of loss and grief caused my parents to like each other less. It was sad as I feel I pretended that I didn’t know what was going on.
My maternal grandmother passed away, causing a massive rift as she was a real pillar of the family. Dad coped by drinking and he started to drink heavily. I noticed that he concealed bottles around the house and that we ultimately had a real problem on our hands as family. At the start, his drinking went unnoticed due to him eating mints or gum and carrying out his normal everyday life. At this point he was a functioning alcoholic. Sadly, as months went by he suffered deeply with anxiety and depression, which fuelled his need to reach for alcohol as a crutch.
As a family this was such a new and perplexing issue to have to manage. We come from a Caribbean background whereby we often have social gatherings and drinking is part of the pleasure and culture. My extended family is very large, so trying to explain to my aunts and cousins what was happening with Dad was very difficult, as they felt that there wasn’t a real drinking issue. Dad had always “liked a drink” as far as they were concerned.
It’s only when Dad’s condition worsened that they could see what was actually going on. I feel that the way I looked at drink, and the damage it can cause if abused changed at this point, where I witnessed the decline of my father’s overall mental health and wellbeing. The addiction grabbed hold of my dad with both hands and I saw him physically change from a burly, athletic guy who was my protector, to a man that became gaunt and weak, he lost his teeth as a result of the acidity in the alcohol and had to wear dentures prematurely. I felt so sad and I had to start to learn about his condition.
Mum and I sought help in a counselling service that helps families dealing with an alcoholic relative.
It was an open group, giving us a forum to exchange our experiences and have an insight into the mind of the addict. This was incredibly helpful as I identified that my ‘tough love’ and cruel replies, at times were extremely counterproductive. The reason that my frustrations came out in this way is that I realise when people are under the influence they can say some really harmful things, in a way to lash out and also to manipulate a situation. Often to make you feel as sad as them. I wasn’t aware of this until I attended this help group and I am glad that I went as I was able to give better responses and have better coping strategies.
I think like most things in life when you are presented with a new circumstance, good or bad you somehow learn to adapt. After a few admissions into rehab and just as many relapses, Dad had sadly reached a point where he had exhausted the system. The NHS had to refuse further care at that time, as there were other’s waiting to be treated. It was now that we had to upscale our surveillance measures, as when very intoxicated, Dad was a danger to himself. We therefore had a timetable in place to look after Dad, we made a great team and we always made sure that he pretty much had round the clock care.
It wasn’t easy by any means, as essentially you are looking after a grown man and making them feel like they are a child. To say that my father didn’t appreciate this “intrusion” is an understatement, but we refused to stop. Despite all our love, care and persistence my father was unable to combat his demons. Even with the best professional care in the world, we had to try and accept that the individual concerned needs to want the change for themselves. This was a hard pill to swallow as you continually will the person to choose “LIFE”
Sadly on the 4thDecember 2009, Dad stepped out to buy something to drink and then returned to his flat. On CCTV that morning was the last time he was seen alive. It seems that after drinking he fell and suffered a head trauma. That was when our lives changed forever.
By Natalie Rhule
The family of Clinton Rhule are launching a charity organisation, with details of the fundraising gala below.
On behalf of the Clinton Rhule Foundation (CRF) we invite you to our FUNDRAISING GALA.
Come along to celebrate the life and work of the late, great Clinton Clovis Rhule. A.K.A. “Bumpy”.
Not only are we paying tribute to Clinton’s remarkable legacy, by marking his 10th year anniversary; the CRF are also celebrating our official charity registration.
In return for your attendance and generosity guests can look forward to:
- Bubbly & Canapé Reception
- Two Course Meal
- Guest Speakers
- Top DJ providing the best in Reggae, Lovers Rock, Rare Groove, Soul, R&B & Afrobeats
- Comedians Slim & Curtis Walker
- Raffle Prize Giveaways
This is a prestigious event and for this reason we need everyone to pull out the stops with the dress code. Men please arrive suited and booted and ladies please turn up the elegance. There will be a photographer/videographer on the night, so get ready for pics that will later be loaded onto social media.