You never really expect your dad not to be there. He’s just a fixture in your life, the one you turn to when you can’t open the jar of pickles. The one you ring home to beg money for. The one that gave you lift after lift into town as you spread your wings and went to paint the town red on a Friday night. The one that had your back when you needed it and pulled you up when you required a short, sharp wake up call. You just expect that he will go on and on forever. Always being there.
Then they’re not.
My dad died suddenly 5 years ago. Unexpectedly. Quickly. Out of the blue. My mum woke up, came downstairs and he was gone.
Days before he died I discovered something. I had a little secret that I never got to tell him. That little secret is now a 4 year old asleep in the next room as I type this on my phone, unable to comprehend that it’s been 5 years since I last spoke to my dad.
On February 5th 2012 I found out I was pregnant after landing back from holiday the night before, newly engaged. A planned surprise he took us by shock at how quickly it happened. That night I also had my last conversation with my dad.
We compared holiday notes. We’d just returned from Argentina and Brazil, while they’d been on a trip out to Cuba. We talked weddings, where I had thought of doing it, the guest list and the fact that my dad had used the same line on my husband that was used on him when he asked my grandad to marry my mum.
Are you sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for son?
And we discussed the idea of having a massive family holiday the following January to celebrate both my 30th and my dads 60th. A cruise no less.
One that would never happen.
All through the conversation I fizzed with excitement, stroking my tummy imagining what was happening inside. Scarcely able to believe I was pregnant. Itching to say, to tell, to hear the excitement. But I didn’t because I had a grand plan to surprise them at 12 weeks.
Except that didn’t happen.
3 days later, on the 8th February, my home number flashed up on my Blackberry at worked. In that instant I knew something was wrong, home would only ever call my personal number, to be honest it was all generally done by email while I worked. In fact I didn’t even realise they knew my work number.
My mum on the other end. Shocked. Confused. Bewildered.
Your dads dead.
The man who was my loudest cheerleader and biggest critic, gone. The one who said that no man would ever be good enough for his little girl, yet shook the hand of my future husband and gave his approval in other ways. The man I turned to when everything fell apart and the one who laughed me out of being grumpy.
My dad was so many things to so many people. More than that, my dad was so many things to me.
My champion. My critic. My supporter. My reality check. My bank roll at one point. So many roles all rolled into one.
Being a father.
Then one day it was all gone. No warning, sudden death.
Since then life has been different. The same. But different.
There is a dad shaped hole at celebrations, my brother walked me down the aisle, my mum met her grandsons on her own, she fretted as I went into labour sworn to secrecy on her own. Holidays that were planned were rearranged. Important days come and he isn’t there. Days that mean something arrive and there is no one to celebrate with.
It’s not the same raising a glass when there isn’t someone on the other side. But raise a glass I will because I know that even though my dad is gone while we remember him he will never truly leave.
I see him in the smiles of my boys, I hear him in the words I speak, I feel him in the love he left behind. The lives he touched, the stories that are told. Tales of generosity, of drunken exploits, of humour. I see his traits in me.
And they make me smile because if I’m even a little bit like my dad then I’m doing ok.
My dad may have died suddenly. He may have gone from the everyday but he lives on in his legacy. He lives on in me. He lives on in my boys.