Today is Father’s Day and as my husband is away – with his dad – and my own dad passed away ten years ago, we don’t actually have any dads here to spoil/bow down to and worship!
I often think about my dad at this time, especially when buying Father’s Day cards, as I’m always conscious of having one less person to buy for. It’s not as though we made such a big deal out of Father’s Day when I was growing up, but we always bought cards and usually went out for a Sunday lunch – it’s a bit of a tradition where I’m from to go out for a roast dinner on a Sunday, especially if you have the excuse to.
I remember the last Father’s Day that I spent with my dad. He was very ill by that point and understandably grumpy with it. He didn’t want to go out but we made him anyway. Looking back I think my mum and sister and I all needed to go out for a couple of hours to try and pretend that we were a normal family. It didn’t work though, as dad was miserable throughout the entire meal and he couldn’t even eat his food. I remember trying to be upbeat about it and putting on a brave face, but really I couldn’t wait to get home and pretend it had never happened. I haven’t ever forgotten it though, not least because I am reminded of it every year, but also because mum took photo’s of us in the garden before we went out and they are the last photo’s that were taken of me, my sister and dad all together.
It wasn’t until the following April that my dad succumbed to his illness. By that time he was so ill that he could barely communicate with us and it was quite clear that he had given up. For a long time after he had gone I felt angry. He was only 63 years old and he wasn’t supposed to have died so soon. His illness had been caused by asbestos poisoning; something which is well documented now and could have been so easily avoided, but back when he was a young man, no-one knew about the dangers of exposing yourself to this material. It seemed like such a waste of a life and still does.
My dad was always a child at heart. He had an affinity with children of all ages from toddlers to teenagers. He was a good uncle and all his nieces and nephews loved him; before I was born, he was a father figure to some of his nephews and they continued that relationship right through to adulthood. Such was their bond that my dad even took on a kind of ‘granddad’ role to the next generation of children in the family as well.
I often reflect on how unfair it is that all those children got to spend time with my dad but yet he never got to meet his own grandchildren. All that we can do is tell stories to the children about their ‘other’ granddad to help keep his memory alive. The older the children get, the more they want to know and my eldest daughter even went with my mum to visit dad’s grave last year.
Children are curious about death, especially when they get to around school age, when they suddenly seem to realise that they are not immortal. Both my girls have had bad dreams at around six years old, concerned with either me or my husband dying and it has really spooked them. I think it may be partly to do with the fact that they are conscious that both of us have lost a parent of our own – my husband lost his mum when he was twenty years old – so I guess they’ve been exposed to death from a young age. We’ve been careful to explain that what happened to our parents does not happen to everybody and that we are both fully fit and well and we just have to hope that it’s enough to allay their fears.
I don’t feel sad today, I’m in more of a reflective mood. I have come to accept what happened to my dad and though I will always feel sad for his loss, I am also able to celebrate his life too. I can laugh at the good times and joke about the bad ones and when I see elements of my dad’s personality and creativity being re-born in my own children it makes me smile. For that is how he will live on in our lives.
Spoil your dads today and do something special for them.