At about 4am four years ago, we were with you as you took your last breath. In some ways I can’t believe it’s only four years – it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed as our families have expanded, the children have grown up and life has continued apace, as it always does. So much we would have loved you to be here to share.
I miss you.
When you first told me about the bowel cancer, Little H was a week or so old. I didn’t want to find out anything about it, I didn’t want to know. But I had to – no point hiding from it. And the two – five years typical life expectancy was too shocking to accept. Two years? Is that all? And for all the ups and downs, all the hopeful operations, all the ‘maybe this time’s, two years is what it was.
Almost the hardest thing was realising Little H would be too young to remember you as part of her life. I can’t know for sure, but I have a feeling one of the things you fought so hard to live for was to be part of your grandchildren’s lives. You were a great Ganda to them. It was wonderful to see you relax and enjoy being and playing with the kids, despite how much their noise and chaos must have disrupted the order and peace you liked to have in life.
I wanted to write a chatty letter to you about what the children are like, what’s happened since you’ve been gone. But it seems that’s not where I am today. I want to remember you and the things I loved about you. The things I miss. Sorry if that’s a bit melancholy – you would hate it, wouldn’t you, Dad – you were never one for dribbling on about feelings, except when you wrote to us – those poignant letters and emails when you felt able to share your feelings.
There’s a lot I miss. I miss your bear hugs. I miss “Well, quite”. I miss those times when you deadpanned a joke which had us all looking at you a bit uncertainly until you cracked a massive grin and laughed. I miss the satisfaction you took from finding a really good wine. I miss seeing you in your chair by the fire playing with the cat, letting her scratch the hell out of your hand or chase a laser madly around your feet. I miss your quietly said, well-considered advice (although I don’t miss the expectation that we followed it!). I miss your voice. I miss the chats about what was going on in the world. I miss your irritation with the downward spiral of the English language from its proper form. I miss your inability to do a food shop without coming home with DVDs, way too much awful packaged sweet stuff and enough drink and snacks to do Christmas all year. I miss the way you would always do things ‘right’ – house guests meant G&Ts at the yard arm, well filled glasses and good snacks, fun outings and preferably a good pub lunch.
I miss the bond that grew between you and Mr H, particularly during and since those treasured months we lived with you when we got back from Sydney. I miss the unspoken pride I saw in your eyes, or in a fierce hug, when one of us did something that made you proud. I miss your quiet determination, your methodical, fastidious approach with your interests and projects you took on, whether genealogy, clocks or helping us with house hunting, car buying or DIY. I miss your fascination with new technology. I’ll never forget you discovering eBay and suddenly all these clocks appearing as you tested how it worked, Mum worrying about just how much money you would fritter away on your latest obsession, and just how much more stuff you could cram into the house. I miss your sense of duty and of doing the right thing, with and for family as well as friends and colleagues. I miss your generosity and desire to help whenever you could – the way you would have a quiet word and offer what you thought was needed, whether I was at school, university or an adult. I miss the calm way you approached problems, particularly given my own tendency towards overly dramatic panicking.
Recently, I heard your voice on a video clip I opened for Little H. It threw me quite a bit, but actually it was lovely to hear you. Moments bring you back to me suddenly – a phrase, a situation. I treasure those moments – the art of remembering, as I’ve written about before.
I feel sad that you aren’t here to watch the kids grow up and become the lovely little people they are, to share in their joys, triumphs, curiosity and innocent wonder at the world. Mum is so very present in their lives, which is wonderful. But wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if you were too?
You always loved this time of year. The traditions, the carols, the big roast lunch with all the trimmings, all the silver out, the family occasion. How you managed to resist our petulant nagging about putting up the decorations and tree before Christmas Eve for so many years, I have no idea. That was just one of your things, and I guess it did make Christmas week feel ultra special in a way we now try and make last the whole of December!
Perhaps if you had to go at some point, it was better you went at this time of year, when we can remember you together as a family, at a time infused with so much memory of you. Next week we will all be in Aldbourne, where you grew up, married, and were buried, all your children, grand-children, Mum, Granny. We will drink good wine, eat good food, say hello to you in the churchyard on Christmas morning, sing our hearts out and laugh as the children complain about waiting for presents until after lunch, just as we did to you for all those years.
Love you Dad. You’re often in my mind, and always in my heart.