I lost my Dad last year. I went home for 6 months so he didn't have to go into care. It was harrowing
My father was a stranger the first 20+ years of my life. I can recall this quiet unassuming man arriving late at night once in a while and like some exotic Santa Claus he would produce out of a well worn bag a gift that was always tasteful and beyond the age of the little girl with saucer eyes and hands held out.
No sooner had he arrived he seemed to be gone again.
I think I can only recall two Xmas's with him there. Thoughtfully my mother would record our Xmas morning on a little tape deck and for many years I thought if I wanted to speak to my Dad he was at the other end of the microphone!
We all adored him and were used to him not being around we being army children. For us it was just the norm.
The older I got the more and more I confided in him, particularly the poor relationship I had with my mother. That was something we both ended up with as my parents drifted apart. Dad and I united by our degrees of being in trouble and happy in our secret rebellion. We would ditch carefully packed sandwiches in favour of swanky hotel lunches on our numerous Dad and daughter days out. Escaping Mum became normal! Not only did we escape but our double act grew until in an unspoken manner Dad and I slipped into the usual routine of me as 'decoy' as he'd slide some purchase into the House that would have been deemed frivolous.
Years later when Mum died Dad only ever spoke of her with admiration and respect, such as the Gentleman he was.
His own childhood was a desperately unhappy affair riddled with rejection, an absent adored father, and a birthmark which was cruelly exploited by ignorant children. I once asked him, knowing my Father has no comprehension of vanity, would he have had it treated? He said quietly yes.
If you remarked on it to me I would have struggled to recall, at some point I stopped seeing it.
In my teenage years I leaned more and more running to him via desperate letter writing as angst got out of control. I pleaded with him to mediate until bang she was gone.
' A cloud of grey hung over Bounds Green befitting the knock on the door. My brothers both grave, 'Dad' I said 'Mum' came the reply. We clung together in an invisible grief. It was her choice to die. And that was that. ' unpublished book 2008
I recently came across a letter I wrote pleading with him to come home. I had visions of a perfect life with my Dad at Well House. That must have been a hard letter to read and unfairly but understandably written by a drifting 19 year old.
As the years spun so my Father shed his stranger skin and although there was always a formality about all relationships with him, he was very kind and totally committed to his children.
I wrote to him in 2010, another letter he kept, telling him how much I loved him, how he had shaped me and how thankful I am. He will have passed it off as sentimental. And perhaps he is right. Hell of course he is, and thank god for it!
As I lie in this rose scented bath hoping that the shudders of grief that still wave through me won't cause me to drown my iPhone, I am struck not by my loss but by my gain.
In his passing I have gained his voice, I have his stories, his opinions , his personality all fused with my own. If you want my Dad you simply only have to speak to his children.
I last saw my Dad alive at 6.30pm on the day he died. As I left I stroked his arm and said god bless Dad we love you. Earlier he'd said he'd put me through quite an ordeal I told him it was nothing. It was nothing because he was everything. At 9.00pm he died peacefully in his sleep.
Since then my PD has bitten hard. But I'm biting back harder.