It’s Fathers Day* and for the first time in 49 plus 4 years I have no-one to give a card to.
Dad died on 30 November 2011. His last three months were spent in hospital but he had been really pretty ill for several years. Multiple issues around his heart and lungs were not made easier by a huge daily intake of prescription drugs, an appetite which allowed for about 400 calories a day and, latterly, a tendency to self-medicate with alcohol.
This last was the cause of some real tension between us in the last year or so, mainly because I hated what it was doing to him and, more importantly, to the Mater. I’m not proud of some of the arguments we had, or the entrenched positions we took. But I am, if nothing else, my father’s son and I know my faults too. But now, six months later, it is easier to see past those last couple of years, and I can get on with remembering him how he really was.
If you only knew the Pater in the past few years of his life you didn’t really know him. He was never a good patient and he hated becoming increasingly reliant on others, and increasingly tied to home. He had been in the navy in his youth and was used to commanding ships across the oceans. Despite being ashore almost 50 years, that time remained incredibly important to him, and always fresh in his mind. Frequent (and frequently repeated) stories generally started with “Did I ever tell you about the time …”. He didn’t like it when the family used to point out his similarity to Uncle Albert in “Only Fools and Horses”.
But he came ashore to be with his family. He and the Mater knew each other since nine years old, and were married 55 years. He was a great Dad to me and WeeSis – firm sometimes, but fun more often, with a wealth of stupid songs and silly jokes that I have shared with my own Boys (and most of my friends and colleagues). And, despite some misgivings about being too young, he just adored being a Grandpa. He was a master builder of sandcastles, a finder of great picnic spots and a teller of preposterous stories. He was clever, funny, loyal, a good provider, a great host, busy, capable, stubborn, a decorator, a gardener and a fixer. And he had an infuriating gift for finding the perfect parking spot.
Most importantly he taught me everything. Not everything I know, just everything that’s important. He taught me that it’s important to think and to have an opinion. He taught me that you should make your own way in the world. He taught me the importance of friends and family and home and honesty. And he taught me that when the chips are down, no matter how far, you can always rely on your Dad.
I miss him.
* Just for once you can place the apostrophe wherever the hell you like (or not). It all makes sense.