Losing My Dad
A small lamp is illuminating my keyboard. I’m sitting upstairs in my parents’ house. The faint tick tock of a grandfather clock downstairs is echoing through the nightly silence. I don’t know what to write. It’s Thursday the 19th of September as I write this. My dad died this morning and I hoped that writing something down would help in some way. Instead, there’s an emptiness that I’ve never known before.
On Monday I received news that my dad had unexpectedly fallen ill the night before. His condition was serious. From the Isle of Skye we drove as quickly as possible back home. We were updated regularly on his progress. There was a chance an operation could help him. By the time I’d arrived in the hospital ward, we all knew that our dad was dying. I wasn’t prepared for it.
I saw him last Wednesday. He was thrilled to show me a Grandfather clock he’d bought. The large, wooden timekeeper didn’t suit the modern living room in which it now sat. It was always his dream to own one, he said. He’d seen it at a secondhand shop the week before for £90. A few days later the price was down to £50. They’d struggled to repair it. My father bought it, took it home, stripped it, put it back together again and brought it back to life. Those hands ticked again for the first time in years. I could see it meant a lot to him.
My dad, the man who taught himself to build computers at 60, the man who could learn to fix anything, who carried me in his arms to hospital when I was ill, who made me feel protected, who taught me to protect myself, who comforted me in his last moments because I wasn’t strong enough to comfort him.
As a small boy he hitchhiked up to Scotland just to see how far north he could go on barely a pocket full of small coins, such was his desire to travel. His explorations took him across the world. Never confined to one job, he went where he needed to, fueled by a desire to seek out the unknown.
Finally meeting my mother in Zimbabwe, he found some stability. We were born, however, during growing violence in the country. My dad was forced to use a gun on more than one occasion to protect us. Despite his love of Africa, we moved back to England to settle.
I was 17 the first time we bonded as adults. I had lost a close friend. In Cyprus, in the military, my father’s best friend was shot and killed as they walked side-by-side. Against the orders of his screaming commanding officer, my dad made sure that was the shooter’s final act.
Despite the different circumstances, this was something that we could relate to. I felt like he was the only one to know my grief.
He was my hero as a child, although I never told him. A man larger than life whose bravery seemed unconquerable, I often wondered if one day I could be as strong as him.
This morning we received a call from the hospital. His condition had deteriorated. We needed to get there as soon possible. As I walked into the room, despite his failing health, he recognised me. He asked me how long he had left. He knew us all well – all of our strengths and weaknesses. He wanted the truth and knew I’d be direct. Holding his hand and with tears in my eyes, I told him he didn’t have long. It was the hardest sentence I had ever mouthed. He comforted me, told me everything would be okay, and for the first and final time in our lives, we said ‘I love you’.
My dad died shortly after with his wife, 7 children, and brother by his side.
He’s still my hero. He stared death in the face and showed no fear, only love.
That old clock, the one I hear ticking and tocking below, keeps pulling me back as I daydream of times gone by or re-live the last moments we were lucky to have with our dad. I have to smile as I imagine him winding the old timekeeper and seeing it come to life for the first time.
Even in my emptiest hour, my dad makes me smile.
Dad, I miss you.
This entry was posted on Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 7:58 am
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