I just have no idea what to say. I have written this blog post in my head so many times over the past 48 hours and yet this page has been open for many hours and yet nothing has been written. I’m sitting here in the dark waiting for my phone to go with the news that my dad has passed on. He had a major stroke on Tuesday morning and the decision has been made to turn off his life support. That will be happening this evening.
At the moment I’m holding on to two things but both of those are very tentative and I’m not sure how much I can rely on them to get me through. The first is that he is in no pain and passes away quickly and serenely. I couldn’t go and watch him die. I just couldn’t. The second thing that I’m holding on to was that my dad had faith. I do not. However my dad does and he has long believed that when he died he would be met there by his daughter and thus he had no fear of death. I think it might be strange for a person with no faith to latch on to that of another for comfort but that is what I’m doing and I’m doing it with every fibre of my being.
This post won’t be about my dad. He was a very private man and seemingly even more private than we knew so it wouldn’t be right for me to go on about him and his life but I need to talk about how I’m feeling. I can’t do that with my family because we are all hurting and I need to be strong for others. With you though – the anonymous readers of this blog – it is different. You don’t need to be strong. You can just read or not read at your pleasure. I don’t care but this is just somewhere where I can let my feelings out.
When I found out this afternoon that the next of kin had agreed to terminate life support it was both a relief and a curse. Even though I had already come to terms (to the degree that anyone can come to terms with such a thing within 48 hours) there is already that finality and that moment is coming up imminently. When I found out on Tuesday morning and having spoken with the consultant who uttered the words ‘how soon can you get here?’ I knew. I got the train down to the Island and said my goodbyes. I have no idea if he heard them. I’d really really like to think so, so I’m choosing to believe that he did. I wish my final goodbye was better. I wish. Oh god I wish that I had some acknowledgement that he heard it but sadly that is something I just can’t have.
I wish that I had spent more time with him. Kept in more regular contact. You always think that there is next week or another day. You are always too busy when in fact you are never busy at all. I hadn’t seen my dad since July 2010. I feel like the worst son that ever walked on the face of the planet. I live in Southend and he lives on the Isle of Wight and after I moved away from the Island for good I hardly saw him. I used to pop down a couple of times a year but I just haven’t. Ww didn’t even speak that much on the phone. We just never knew what to say to each other. We are both extremely private individuals and the conversation used to be the same. ‘Anything new son?’ ‘You got anything to tell me?’ sadly there was very rarely anything new or anything of interest to tell him.
The last time we spoke was after I’d interviewed Nick Clegg last year. He didn’t say very good words about him and isn’t keen on politicians at all. I can hear the words ‘don’t tell me you’re one of those liberals son?’ ringing in my ears from that phone call. I never even told him that I was running for council as I thought he’d think ill of me for doing so. Apparently this wasn’t the case because my mum had told him a few weeks ago and he had said that he was proud of me and even said he’d of voted for me as I am a good person. How I typed that sentence without any spelling errors is beyond me considering I can’t see out of either eye at the moment.
I wish that he had gotten the chance to see me happy and settled. He wanted grandkids but they were never going to come from me. I didn’t want kids so that ‘burden’ as it were falls on my brother and one of my sisters. However I never once introduced him to any partner of mine. Mainly because until a couple of months ago I had never been in a relationship. My longest string of dates was about five I think. On the rare occasion that I had met someone whom I liked and who liked me back there was always something in the way that led to things not working out. That is sad but the saddest thing was I never got to introduce a girl to my dad.
He took me in when my mum moved away from the Island in 2001. My parents had divorced a little over a year earlier. Of course I could have moved with my mum but at the age of 18 and really not knowing where my life was going – moving away from my friends didn’t seem like a great option. Money was extremely tight with my dad and I know I was a burden to some degree. One thing he was though was an extremely selfless man who worked hard to keep his family under a roof and with food their plate no matter the consequences for himself. There is a lot of him in me but in many ways I do think that he was a far better person than I can ever hope to aspire to be.
I remember – and this is arguably my biggest crumb of comfort right now – that as I got in the car to go to university in the autumn of 2002 after living with my dad for a year that it had been the best year of my life he was so chuffed. He told me how happy that made him that he had helped me both enjoy a year of my life but also find a path of sorts. I may have had a shit job but I was having a great time with friends. The poker school was great and the Compton trips with Baz and Pickle are times I look back on with so much fondness.
He was always about the little things. He wasn’t a big gesture man. He never was and I think that is something I very much get from him. I’m always about the little things. At the time I was a season ticket holder at Fratton Park and if it was cold and wet and/or Pompey had lost he’d always have a curry or a chilli waiting for me knowing I’d be cold and/or upset. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated those types of things. He’d see I had had a rough day so would bring me back a Chocolate doughnut from work. Going back to when I was super young I’d often wake up before school and see a note ‘Neil: Football on Tape’ propped up against the video player to denote he had taped from football from the previous evening to watch before school.
Those little things are the ones that stick in the mind. We didn’t have much money so big gestures were never going to be realistic but we grew up not wanting them because we were instilled with the value of money. To this end some people say I’m tight but I just know that creature comforts and fancy meals and posh holidays won’t bring me happiness. Sadly we all need money to get by in this world but even more importantly we need people that will go out of their way to make life that little bit more special. People do this and not material goods. Both my parents taught me this and that is a lesson that resonates deeply today of all days.
He brought up five children and all four of us who reached adulthood have degrees. Considering our background that is an achievement that should be laid primarily at the feet of both my mum and dad. They always told us that being from a council estate didn’t mean that doors wouldn’t be open to us. We just might have to work harder to knock down those doors but those doors would open and open they have. This is a testament to both my parents of course but sometimes I felt that dad didn’t get enough credit for how we were brought up because he was always the good cop to mum’s bad cop.
Dad was always better with coping with us when we were young. When we got to teenagers and had formed opinions and in some cases had learnt how to talk back then we weren’t as innocent any more. Those little things that used to make everything better didn’t work as well any more and at times he didn’t know how to react to things. When I was a small id and had endured a bad day at school then watching the football with my dad after he’d bought me a can of coke and a Mars bar solved everything. When I was a teenager and had coursework, puberty issues, self-confidence issues then sadly those things didn’t get solved so easily. I know he at times felt bad for this but I never did. I knew – and I do mean this – I knew that he always tried his best with all of us. If he found it troubling then that wasn’t due to anything he did as he did always do whatever he could. I think I’ve already wittered on about what a selfless man he was but he really was. He deeply loved us and was so immensely proud of what we all became.
As I finished that sentence I got the news.
He has passed away peacefully and in no pain and that is one of the two things I had hoped for.
I had more I wanted to write but I think I’ll end it there. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers and I have no doubt I’ll write more. You are my outlet for my emotions and for that I thank you.
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