Yesterday marked the 8th anniversary of the unexpected death of my father, and for the first time the day drifted by in mundane normality. I couldn’t have imagined, back then, that the pain of his passing would ever be anything but raw and unbearable. Despite having a complicated and often turbulent relationship with my dad, and despite not having lived with him for more than a few weeks at a time since I was nine, his death left a huge hole in my life. The last years saw us come to an understanding and we had a friendship, a shared view of the world, that I’ve never found with anyone else.
The tragedy of my father’s death is that it came before any of his grandchildren were born. I believe that spending time with his two granddaughters and two grandsons would have completed my father’s journey. Despite my in many ways awful childhood, Dad was much better with small people in later life. He would have been an amazing grandfather, taking the children fishing and to cricket matches and for walks along the canal.
What hurts most, now I’ve become a parent, is that I now understand my father and my childhood and utterly forgive him for all his flaws. He wasn’t a great Dad at times and I’m certain he was a terrible husband. But he didn’t have the best upbringing himself, with two volatile parents, and a dominating, controlling mother.
Like me, he had little patience and a quick temper. Like me, I imagine he found it hard to be home with the children, trying to fix cars and mind the kids, while Mum worked a 9-5 job. But he didn’t have the support network that I have. There were no Dads Groups in the 1970s, no blogs and online forums. I’ve never hit my children, but I’ve come close. And I’m pretty certain I’ve repeated every terrible thing I heard as a child. The difference is I can cry and apologise and explain. I can’t imagine Dad doing the same.
My hope and fear is that my dad was reborn in my son. He reminds me of Dad in so many ways. It gives me hope for the future, that Dad’s memory and legacy are not lost. But fear that, just as happened 8 years ago, my son may also be taken from me, suddenly, without warning, with no chance to say goodbye. If I’m an over-protective, worrying, clingy parent, it is for that reason. All the love I couldn’t show my dad, that I didn’t know I had until it was too late, is lavished on a cheeky, naughty, charming little boy. And maybe, somewhere, Dad is watching. I hope so.