David Coveney

Arica – Day 1

For no obvious reason I’ve woken up really early today.  Maybe it’s something to do with the herd of elephants that evidently checked in around 1am.  Or the, ahem, charmingly rustic plumbing that means the noise levels in here pick up markedly as the hotel awakes.

But it’s not a bad hotel, the Hotel Amaru, and cheap for Chile at $25 a night. So I’m not really complaining.

Anyway, today is the day when I get to start the process of discovering what my father was up to before his death. What am I going to learn?  I also have to start negotiations with the hospital over the release of his body.  They want approximately £1200 for his treatment.

Maybe I’ll Walk

Here’s the thing… I’ve come to try and do the right thing, and also to fulfil my need to understand my father better.  It’s largely an emotional response.  But I have no desire to take responsibility for him either.  He failed to act responsibly around his children, after all.  And this where he and I differ.  I have a beautiful 3 month old baby.  I would much prefer the money I’ve got to be spent on him than on a dead person.  The practical, business minded side of me understands clearly the difference in return related to where the money goes…and I like to maximise my returns.  I need to be prepared to be play, in the wonderful words of Paul Ockenden, Dead Dad Poker.

So I will make an offer to the hospital of a donation.  It will then be up to them as to whether or not they accept my terms.  If they won’t, I’ve decided that my best option is to be prepared to walk away.  They’ll even save me more money as I won’t be faced with the cost of a funeral – he will receive a pauper’s funeral paid for by the state.

I won’t feel good about this. Chile is a poorer country than ours and would rather not have to pay for the care of illegal immigrants.  But I don’t make masses of money, in spite of what some people think, and the cost of this trip along with the funeral are not insignificant for me.

So, let’s see what happens. This morning I will meet with the wonderful British Honorary Consulate here, Joaquin Alvarez, and start the process and the learning.

Coincidences and Denial

A few things I’ve learned:

  1. The consulate was an acquaintance of my father’s and they drank at the same bar.
  2. My father denied having any family but told people he had a daughter who was killed at 13 in a road accident. This may simply have been a way for him to avoid a subject painful for him to discuss, or a part truth.
  3. He lived in relative poverty and had not been looking after himself well.
  4. Everybody here believed my father to be Spanish.  It was only when he died that the truth was revealed.
  5. He made some money selling sweets at the market.
  6. He could have found me easily.  I couldn´t know for sure that a search here on Google would find me, but no, my name comes up top, as does his own.  Perhaps he knew of my website and the page I posted about him years ago?  Perhaps, even, he tried contacting me through it and the message got lost in the ether.  Who knows?

So a bit to digest there. Now for me to get up and have my daily battle with South American plumbing. Will I get a hot shower? A cold one? Or a randomly shifting combination of freezing and scalding?


Posted: 25 August, 2010 at 10:40 PM

Claire says:

What a decision to have to make, I am not sure many people would have even made the trip, but you did. Maybe when it comes down to it, that is all the closure you will need.

I hope you get the hand you want in the rather bizarre game of a poker you find yourself in.


Posted: 26 August, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Dave says:

Well, it turned out OK. Ish. I didn’t want to play too hard – it’s a poorer country and they could do with more money. The agreement to share costs seemed to work well and there’s always the option of a future donation if my money situation improves.


Posted: 26 August, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Dave says:

Oh, and thanks for dropping by! Appreciated.


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