Today it’s two years since my Dad died, a marker of sorts, just another day, and an anniversary all at once. I’m never quite sure how to mark anniversaries, does your death day deserve a celebration? In a culture that so readily celebrates birth days, why not death days too? I mused this quite a bit yesterday and had plenty of time for it, as I spent most of it sat on a motorway. A fairly routine 4.5hour journey ended up taking 9 hours due to the M6 being shut.
The obvious metaphor for this post is one of journeys and snarl ups. Information is more readily available than ever before, and yet as we sat on the M6 trying to decide whether to make our own way on an unknown road, with no phone battery, or sit on the road we’d originally planned to take and wait for things to clear, it was hard to know what to do.
It got me thinking about life choices and life journeys. Regardless of the amount of information available, some days you just need to make a call, opt for a course of action and do your best. I said several times when Dad was ill that there was no manual for cancer, for knowing someone you love wasn’t going to be around any more. There’s similarly no manual for grief, for getting on with life, for remembering not wallowing; it’s sort of a journey that you’ve set off on, at a time when you’re least equipped to deal with it, without a map or compass….you get the picture.
One of the reasons behind me starting this blog was the arrival of niece one. I couldn’t bare to think that she’d grow up and not know how truly awesome her grandad was. She was two when Dad died, but she remembers him and talks about him often. The weekend before last I spent the day with her and we got chatting as we were out on our adventure. She was asking me if I remembered where she grew up (great question from a 4yr old – she lived in Wales until last year) and if I remembered visiting her with Grandad. I remember vividly the time she was referring to, it was the week after her little sister was born and Dad and I went on a reverse roadtrip. Stocked up on recent blood transfusions, we took a calculated risk to get to Wales and back before he became more ill. I honestly thought he was going to die in the service station car park on the way home. Instead he was wiped out for a couple of weeks from that trip and went on to die about 10 weeks later, but he got to meet his second granddaughter and we enjoyed that journey together.
I drove past Gordano on the way north yesterday and it got me thinking about journeys with Dad. My Dad’s family live in Lincolnshire, a good 5 hour drive from Devon. One of my earliest memories is of being picked up out of bed wrapped in my blanket and carried up the hill by my parents house to the top road and into their car. I remember being half asleep, noticing how bright the stars were, and thinking how cosy it was being cuddled up the hill. I can’t remember falling back asleep but we’d wake up as the sun was coming up, snuggled in the back seat with my big bruv and little sis, just in time to try and spot The Stump as we came into Boston.
One of my earliest, strongest and favourite memories. There was something remarkable about it, almost like time travel, you’d goto bed in Devon and wake up in Boston. Magical.
I’ve come to realise in the last year more than ever before that my parents did an amazing job with our childhood. While we may have been a bit short on some of the material stuff and holidays that our peers had (I was 21 before I got on a plane), the one advantage was that we did a lot as a family. We walked on Dartmoor most weekends, we went camping or visited family for holidays, we spent time together, lots of time together. The other rule that my parents insisted on was that we had dinner together as a family ever evening, and you were never allowed to eat while watching TV (something that I mistakenly thought of as the height of sophistication as a teenager). The pay offs from this last a lifetime.
As much as I miss Dad like I couldn’t have imagined, I also remember him like I couldn’t have hoped for. Rarely does a day go past where I don’t think of Dad, chuckle at some childhood memory, or reassure myself that I’m doing ok and consider what he’d think. Proud Dads remains one of my favourite blog posts I’ve written, its an eternally useful benchmark ‘Would Dad be proud?‘. I hope so.