My father died very suddenly last week [was it last week already?]. Thursday 2nd December. Five days before his 72nd birthday. He wasn’t sickly. He was fine. He took good care. He'd been for his check up the day before and jovially informed Mum that he would live until he was 90. And I hadn’t spoken to him in a while. Now I regret that so much that there’s a big pain in the middle of me which won’t go away.
On Thursday he decided to go out and sweep the snow off the path so Mum wouldn't slip. Had his lunch, pottered off outside - and the next thing Mum found him lying dead on the path. Paramedics, air ambulance…no-one could help. He was gone. Ischemic heart disease apparently. Personally, I blame the snow. Always hated the damn stuff, now I loath it with a personal passion.
There’s never enough time. Time to talk. Call, write a letter or an email. Visit. Either we’re working, sleeping…something…there’s always an ‘important’ reason to put off that quick contact until tomorrow. Or later. That quick action that says we care has to wait while we do all the things that seem so absolutely dire. And aren't - not really…
And then it’s too late. Now it’s too late. And I am left with plenty of time for regretting.
Dad, like most Dads…is in hardly any photos as he took them. Mostly with people's heads chopped off…but here he is with Mum. This is in South Africa.
When someone dies - we all make time. We all get together, go to the funeral of the person who we didn’t make time to see or talk to when they were alive. We do this without consideration or thought. We will drive through snow and storms or whatever it takes. We will leave work and pets and worries. Because we want and need to. We want to honour them, say goodbye to them.
We need to talk about the person who died and remember all the good things about them. And maybe discuss the irritating things too - but they are also the things that made you love that person. So they are gentle gibes. We laugh about those foibles over bendy egg and cress sandwiches at the wake. Emotions are raw and we perhaps say the things that in other situations, we wouldn’t. Or couldn’t. But should. We really should. We really really should.
The problem is that as long as we know that person is ‘there’, somewhere, we think that there will always be time to get in touch. To say we love them. We forget about mortality. We are complacent.
For me this is unforgiveable in myself. I, of anyone, should know better than to think that life just goes on. I thought I’d learnt a lot these past three years, but patently I didn’t learn enough. I failed.
I didn’t see my Dad a lot. I didn’t talk to him a lot. But I thought he’d always be there. And I always knew if I needed him, or Mum, they WERE there. No matter what. And now I miss him. Because I know he's out of reach forever?
I remember him reading Rudyard Kipling to me, O Best Beloved. They have always been my favourite stories - I can't wait to read them to Grace. And carrying me about on his shoulders. And making the best fried bread EVER for breakfast.
Giving me away at my first wedding [we went in the posh car together - what fun!] - helping me with a biology project where I really wanted to get a 'real' arm from the local ‘Dead People Place’ [I was only 12 - I had no idea what mortuaries really were]. We used card and string instead.
And when he stopped taking sugar in his coffee, I was so impressed [I was about 14], that I did too. He was an artist - he was my inspiration to go to art school. He did a brilliant pencil sketch of our Malamute that I recall vividly. And he made those string pictures with the little nails on painted black board.
I saw the Malamute sketch today at Mum's on the wall. He always wore a St Christopher medal. I saw that today too and I nearly broke down crying. I wanted to steal it. It's one of the things I remember him always having. Just that, his wedding ring and his watch. But always the St Christopher medal. Dad took masses of photographs [his father, Grampy, was a photographer]…slide shows were always good. We have lots of photos he took, as my brother has been archiving them. All our travels all over the world are down to Dad. And recorded in pictures by him.
He was a bit bonkers - here he is with his brother Ian at his 70th birthday lunch - I have no idea why he's pulling that nutty face! He could sew; he always fixed my school shoes. I remember how his glasses would have to go to the end of his nose so he could look over them - sort of through his eyebrows. I remember him rescuing me when I sleepwalked right out of the house. On and on and round and round my mind goes...the Beach Boys on 8 track all the way to Cape Town. Letting me light his cigarettes when he was driving [as he knew I was a sneaky smoker ;) ].
This really reminds me of Dad - got to Get Around…plus, check out the guy on the right - that's real 'Dad dancing' ;)
I keep feeling surreally ok - as if it hasn’t happened. It can’t have happened. Dad has always worked away, so we are used to him being gone for months at a time sometimes. Then it’s like a brick hitting the back of my heart, and I can’t stop crying. I keep thinking of my Mum. I can’t begin to imagine how she feels. They’ve been married for almost 50 years. They were. Married almost 50 years. March would have been their anniversary.
It was Dad’s birthday yesterday. Mum has all these books she picked out for him. And she bought him cigarettes even though she HATES smoking…a treat. For Dad.
Here we all are on Mothers Day. Can't imagine what the FH is up to here! So now I have learnt a new lesson. Do not prevaricate. Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today - I was looking forward to calling Dad on his birthday. Birthdays. Always a phone call at the very least. My card was always sent at the last minute because I am useless at the post office. I had the card. One of those big fancy things. I ripped it up in a rage. It’s not like I have another Dad to send it to. I know Dad is sitting up there [with his crossword] telling me to stop being such a drama queen. I know he's somewhere, because yesterday [his birthday] should have been awful, but a whole lot of good things happened - I don't really believe in coincidence. I'm sure it was him.
well, I can’t. Stop being a drama queen. I am so sad. For me. For my poor mum. For my brothers.
Mum... P... D... I do love you all so much. I just never take time to say so....well, I’m saying so now.
And here we all are. A '70s pic. This was so funny. Dad was fuming with Mum and I, as we had one of those laughing/giggling attacks that you just can't stop…as you can see, Mum is almost crying!
Today we went to register the death - I wanted to scream. The registrar was so utterly impersonal, she took so long…she was a total 'jobs worthy'. Mum was chatting and trying to be friendly and brave and cheerful and this woman was just like a block. I lost it when she asked if Mum would mind 'answering some statistical questions'. WTF?? My mum just lost her husband and lifelong friend - why the hell should she answer anything more than she needs? I have a problem with form filling when I'm upset, and it was a miracle we left without me doing something awful. My mum looked so forlorn, and this stupid woman was asking unnecessary questions?? grr.
But leave we did. Calmly. And it took all I had not to burst out crying all day. But I can now. I am dreading the funeral on Tuesday - I don't think I'll be able to hold it together. But really, one has to. Doesn't one?