Tag: Dad

Grief and guilt

I was 13 when my Nan – my Mom’s Mom – died. I spent a lot of time with her growing up, with all my grandparents actually. She looked after me when I was poorly and my Mom was at work, or during summer holidays, or just because. She had an infectious laugh. She used to let me play hairdressers with her grey curly permed hair and made me cheese sandwiches with sweet pickled onions. In summertime she would sit in a deckchair in the garden while I made up songs and dances with an upturned mop. We’d go for afternoon walks where she’d nose in other people’s houses as we passed. She always had a tin of broken biscuits in the cupboard. She was ace.

Inevitably though, when I think of my Nan, I always come back to a similar memory which makes me feel sick with shame even now, 27 years on. My grandad used to homebrew beer and lager. He had a set up at home with all the kit. And one day me and Nan went to the local town and she had to buy him a new brewing container, like a big plastic bin. On the walk home (Nan didn’t drive) I was carrying this big plastic bin, in a black bin liner, and it was bashing against my legs and it meant I couldn’t walk on the wall like I always did when we came back from town. So I was grumbling and whinging and Nan took it off me and struggled herself with the other bags as well.

If my Nan was around now, or probably even at the time, she probably wouldn’t have even remembered that day. She certainly wouldn’t have held any grudge and would tell me not to be silly. I was just a kid after all, probably about 10 or 11 when it happened.

But it weighs heavily on my mind, and I can’t help it.

I have a different type of guilt when I think of my Dad. I’m sure I did lots of shitty thoughtless things to him when I was a kid, but there’s nothing huge that springs to mind. There was the time, after he and Mom had divorced, that I was supposed to go out to lunch with him (it was his birthday or maybe Fathers Day) but I’d been out clubbing all night and fell into such a deep sleep that I missed my alarm and all his calls. I do feel bad about that, but in later years we talked and even laughed about it. That’s one of the “good” things (if you can call it that) about him being terminally ill and knowing that time was limited. We got the chance to say all the things we wanted to say. I apologised for things like the afore mentioned deep sleep incident. I brought up anything that had upset me or played on my mind but I’d squirrelled away, because that’s what people do, and he was able to explain situations and put me at ease. I can’t imagine losing someone suddenly and having unfinished business or unanswered questions.

Me and Dad

The guilt I have around losing my Dad is mainly connected to what I’ve gained as a result of his death. He was a very switched on and organised man who was saving towards his future retirement, which he was supposed to enjoy with his wife. And obviously his diagnosis stole that from him; from both of them. So I was in the position of losing my Dad at what I think to be a young age, certainly prematurely to what I ever feared but also being left some money. Money that I didn’t need, didn’t want and certainly didn’t want to inherit in such fucking tragic circumstances. Money that, his wife told me, he wanted me to have for my future in the absence of him having a future. The only thing he asked of me, before he died, was not waste it. I know he meant spend it on shoes!

There’s a huge amount of responsibility that comes with inheriting money as a result of such a life changing loss. The thought of using it towards enjoyment when it existed purely because my Dad had died was unthinkable to me. But having money sitting there doing nothing isn’t what my Dad would have wanted either. He wanted me to enjoy it and benefit from it. So we’ve used some of it towards our home. We’ve been able to stay in our chosen area and buy a property with the intention of having building work and renovations done to make it into a perfect home for us. We couldn’t have done that otherwise (well we could, but we’d be living on dust and in a building site while we saved up enough money to do the work we needed). My Dad’s gift has given us a home and garden that we love with all our heart (so much so that we don’t go out anywhere near as much as we used to!) It has given us some financial security and an investment in our future, because the work we’ve had done on our house will increase the value as the years progress.

But how can I be so happy with something that has come at such a huge personal cost? The dichotomy between loving it, and hating the situation that made it possible. Knowing that the person in my life who would have been THE MOST EXCITED for us will never see it. He’d have been involved every step of the way; wanting photos, listening to our builder woes, telling us to give people a kick up the ass. He’d have walked in and done his amazed face where his eyes opened really wide and he said “WOW. Just WOW”. He’d have walked backwards and forwards and around and said things like “I tell you what…” and not finish the sentence because he’d spotted something else to look at. He’d have opened and closed and opened our bifold doors and said something like “these are a bit smart”. He’d have listened while I told him about all the different birds that come to our bird table and how my hydrangea is growing back after a cold winter. His eyes would have crinkled up at the sides like they did when he was happy and he’d have hugged me really tight.

And all of that would have happened because of the money he gave us, but can’t happen because the money he gave us is because he died.

It’s a headfuck.

I feel so lucky to have a wonderful home, but so unlucky to have been afforded it in the way it’s happened. All I can be is thankful and grateful to him. To do him proud. To have invested the money wisely in property, and not in my wardrobe! To be happy and settled. To share it with family. To make it a welcoming and lovely place to be. A place he would have approved of. To try not to feel guilty, because what good does that do? Gratitude is much more useful than guilt.

Somehow though, just like the feeling I have when I think about my Nan, it’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake off.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

The last “first”

It’s been a year today since my Dad died. A whole 12 months. That’s a long time. A lot happens in 12 months. Things change. People change.

This is the last “first”.

We had the first week after he died, then the first month. Getting back from the first holiday without him being at the end of a phone wanting to know everything in detail. Then there was my birthday, with no phonecall from him pretending to have forgotten how old I was, the first Christmas without him, swiftly followed by what would have been he and his wife’s wedding anniversary. The first birthday in March, and his wife’s birthday in April. The husband and I moved house – a major life event that he would have been so proud of. Our first return to Stoupa, a place he loved so much but didn’t make it back to before he died due to chemotherapy.

And now, today, the first year of him not being here anymore.

Loss

It hurts. I know it will always hurt, but today I’m thrown back to that last day so vividly; the early morning phonecall from his wife telling me I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible; the panic at the build up of traffic as I tried frantically to get there, close family around his bedside, the kindness of the nurses during the long long hours that followed. Hearing his breathing slow down and holding his hand; wanting him to stay for selfish reasons but willing him to go so he wasn’t suffering anymore. And the emptiness afterwards, when he’d breathed his last and we talked to him and cried – as much for ourselves and our massive loss, as for him.

Today is also my wedding anniversary. Rotten timing eh? I’m thankful everyday for the husband. The support he’s given me during this past year has been immense. He’s ace.

So it’s a day of smiling and sadness, all intermingled, as I think of the two most important men in my life now and always.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

Grief – 6 months on

Today should have would have been my Dad’s 60th birthday. Instead it’s 6 months since he died. 6 months. Half a year. That’s ages, right? Think how much can happen in 6 months.

I don’t know where I expected to be, grief wise, 6 months down the line.

Grief

People say that time is a healer, and I know that to be true. But, so far, time only makes things worse. For me, anyway. I feel like it’s getting more difficult to accept that my Dad is gone, because it’s so hard to comprehend that I’m never going to see him again. That all this stuff – 6 months worth of life and living and things – is happening without him and I’ll never be able to share it with him.

At first it just felt like I hadn’t seen or spoken to him for a while (even though that very rarely happened). But it gets more and more real as time goes on.

Today hurts every cell of my being. I ache with loss.

My Dad had an opinion on so many things, and he never hesitated to share it. All this house buying and selling malarkey would have been equally exciting and infuriating to him. He’d have been frustrated on our behalf with errant estate agents and sloth like mortgage applications. He’d have been excited at our moving and renovation plans. It’s almost impossible to comprehend that he’ll never visit our new home.

We speak about him often, in general conversation or around specific subjects. I’m very close with his wife, who is so young to be widowed and who he loved so much. Having her gives me a closeness to Dad, because she is so vivacious and full of life – their life and her own.

We talk about them

But, ultimately, there is no rulebook to feelings and dealings. Some days just thinking about him makes me cry, while others I feel pure joy at the memory of him. So many times I think that I must phone him to tell him about something that has happened at work, and then the fleeting moment where he’s still on the end of a phone is gone, to be replaced with abject sorrow.

What am I saying here?

It sucks. It still sucks.

I guess it will always suck.

I just wanted to put something into words, to mark today, to relive his memory.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Its my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to…

its-my-birthday-and-ill-cry-if-i-want-to

Image from Etsy seller Sassy Baby Applique

A slight bastardisation of the Lesley Gore song lyrics, but as I’m not having a party it’s the most appropriate. And I have cried. On and off since Friday. It’s my first birthday without my Dad and I miss him. I miss his daft jokes where he pretended not to know the date or how old I was. I miss how he’d play me up and tell me I wasn’t allowed to open my presents early, even if I wasn’t going to see him on the day. And I miss him phoning me up, and the excitable tone of his voice when he used to say Happy Birthday to me.

I know it’s to be expected, with it being the first Birthday since he died, but I didn’t expect to feel this bereft. This is the worst I’ve felt since his funeral at the end of September.

I’ve had such a lovely weekend too, of live music and old friends and new friends and Christmas market and food and husband. But sometimes feeling happy can make you feel even more sad when it hits.

Anyway, not to be a complete misery guts I’ve busted out some season appropriate clothing – wearing my new velvet boots (present from me to me, via Primark) and my new sequin sleeve top (present from me to me, via Everything 5 Pounds) and I’m trying to have an ok day, even though I’m in the office. I’m also wearing red lippie because it’s fierce and my Dad’s watch so I have a little piece of him with me.

birthday-outfit

I’ve had lots of birthday messages from lots of lovely peeps and I have all my cards and pressies to open when I get home, and the lovely husband is taking me out to dinner.

You know what though? I’d give it all up for 10 more minutes with Dad.

Normal (more upbeat) service will resume soon. Thanks, as always, for reading. x

A change of Christmas heart

I’ve struggled with the idea of Christmas this year. It was quite obvious, even from this time last year, that my Dad wouldn’t here for Christmas 2016. And although Christmas isn’t a time I associate with my Dad (he thought it was a commercial waste of time!) it’s still tough when there’s a massive gap in your life at a special time of year.

I’ve also been finding Christmas more and more stressful as years have progressed. I have always absolutely loved the festive time of year, but in recent times I find it more difficult to buy presents for people (everyone just already has everything) and the lead up just becomes one big self induced hassle with me still wrapping presents and swearing at midnight on Christmas Eve.

So, this year, I have been quite vociferous in my disdain for the impending season, poo-pooing the idea of wasting time and money on Christmas presents and generally being a bit of a grouch. I’ve been actively encouraging people not to bother buying me anything, and suggesting we spend our money on holidays or meals out or anything that doesn’t require me racking my brains on what to buy whilst simultaneously wishing everything Christmassy would go away. That’s not to say I don’t intend to celebrate. Food, drink and time off work, what’s not to like? I just don’t feel actively engaged (baring in mind I’m usually buying presents as early as September).

Then, last week, I had a tiny inkling of festive spirit in a work trip to Llandudno (I know, all the glamour). The festive lights were sparkling and the decorations were up in the pub and I felt a little flutter of excitement, which I quickly tried to stifle.

peeking-santa-claus-christmas-is-coming

But the following day, my Dad’s wife (who was of a similar opinion to me) told me that she’d bought some new Christmas decorations, and had decided that we couldn’t and shouldn’t ignore it because, although my Dad didn’t love Christmas, he knew that we both did and he wouldn’t want us to not celebrate or be miserable. And it made a lot of sense. Not only that, if she can be brave and decorate her home and face her first Christmas alone, then I should bloody well do it too! When the husband and I first got together he was a Christmas Grinch because his Dad had gotten ill at Christmas and he associated it with bad times. And I cajoled him and encouraged him and sweet talked him out of that and into a state of Christmas happiness, so I can’t take that away from him, especially when I worked so hard!

The upshot is that I have gone into present buying overdrive (which, strangely, I’m finding much easier than expected and even enjoying!) I smile at Christmas songs on the radio and I’ve established a date for putting our decorations up at home. Because, as the saying goes, life goes on. And I know my Dad would want that too.

Ooh, and I’ve been asked to write a guest post for Estellosaurus, which is all about my Christmas traditions, so it’s a good job I’ve had a change of heart as otherwise I would have had to say no, which is pretty rude when someone has made a kind offer (I’ve never been asked to do a guest post before). Have a pop on over to her blog and sigh with wonderment at her amazing blue hair! You can also follow her on instagram and Twitter.

How are you feeling about Christmas? Do you like it/love it/loathe it? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Signs from…somewhere?

It’s been a month today since my Dad died. Those words…they hurt. Some days I can say them quite matter of factly. Others, not so much.

On the day he died I couldn’t see as far as the end of the week, let alone further forward. A month seemed a lifetime away. But here we are. We’re surviving. Adapting. Doing him proud.

I wanted to share with you a whole host of things that have happened in the wake of Dad’s passing. Weird things. Stuff that, on it’s own, might seem just a coincidence. But, together, it seems much more. I’m not at all religious, I don’t believe in heaven (it would, after all, be so over populated by now!) and I’ve never truly believed that anything really happens after death, although I do struggle with the idea that someone can live a life full of laughter, memories and experiences and then it just ends and becomes nothing. Maybe that’s because I don’t want my own life’s work just to be snuffed out when the time comes, and I don’t want to think that my Dad’s character and zest for life just completely disappeared as he took his last breath.

I wouldn’t say that the things I’m going to tell you about have changed my views. But they’ve certainly made me think slightly differently.

signs-from-somewhere

As you know if you’ve read this blog for a while, my Dad had cancer, diagnosed in May 2014. It was already inoperable by the time it was detected and we’d been told the end was not far away back in August this year. He was starting to deteriorate quite rapidly and was due to go into a Macmillan hospice on the day he died. Early that morning he had a massive stroke and was rushed to hospital. I received a call telling me I needed to get there urgently.

Dad struggled on during that day, much longer than we all expected, right into the night time, sleeping or dosed up on morphine. All the family were there, in a private room with a big window. During the afternoon we heard a dull thud at the window and saw a tiny pretty bird bounce off the glass and land on the flat roof below. Rather than fly away he just sat there, looking at the window. He was like nothing we’d ever seen, certainly not a common bird, with red and orange markings on his head. He sat there for quite a while, before flying at the window again. The next day my Dad’s sister sent us a message saying she’d identified the bird – it was a zebra finch, known as the bird that sings while it sleeps. Weirdly, my Dad’s wife realised she had them as pets when she was a little girl.

When my Nan received a call to get to the hospital, that same morning, she noticed a white feather on the wedding photo she has of my Dad and his wife. When she got in the car to drive over, there was a white feather on the windscreen of the car. The morning after my Dad died, when someone came to visit, we found a white feather on the floor in the lounge. Most of the family have had feathers just appear to them, including three that fell in the garden and caught Dad’s wife’s eye while she was in the lounge with Dad’s Mom and his sister (one feather each), and one that was perfectly placed in her bed when she pulled back the covers one night. Even my Mom, who divorced my Dad many years ago but spent time with him a few weeks before he died, had a white feather appear on her lounge floor when she got back from holiday.

After Dad died, when we left him at the hospital, we went back to his house in the early hours of the morning. His wife originally said she wasn’t going to let anyone know immediately, then changed her mind and sent some texts to friends. A guy my Dad worked with about 20 years ago, who is now a hospital porter, text back immediately to say that he’d been called to take my Dad from the ward to the mortuary, and that he’d looked after him professionally and personally. Of all the people and wards in the hospital, the chances of that are pretty slim. It was a great comfort to us.

On the day we went to register Dad’s death, the registrar turned out to be a lady that Dad’s wife used to work with, who she hadn’t seen in years and didn’t know her whereabouts. The first thing she said was “I remember you, you married (my Dad). Who’s death are you registering?” Her face fell when we told her.

As Dad got more and more poorly, he asked me if I would like one his watches to keep. I kept putting it off, not wanting to face the inevitable, thinking there was plenty of time to have it. A few days before he died he told me to fetch the watch and insisted I have it there and then, which I did. I wore it on the day he died, and for the next few days after that, before noticing it had stopped, at some point, at 10.55. Dad died at 10.40. Maybe just a coincidence, albeit a close one. Then we realised that on my Dad’s wife’s watch it was 10.55 when he died. She’d noticed earlier in the day that her watch was fast, and not altered it.

(to add more significance to the watch story, my Dad had his own Dad’s watch in a draw for many years after he – my Grandad – died, and decided to wear it on his wedding day. It hadn’t been looked at or touched for years, so he took it out in advance of the wedding in order to replace the battery. The watch had stopped at the time he was due to get married, and on the same day (5th). He took that as a sign and didn’t replace the battery, wearing it as it was).

On the day of the funeral, a multitude of things happened.

I wore the watch my Dad had given me, that had stopped. I hadn’t worn it for over a week, and noticed it had crept forward a few minutes, in spite of me not replacing the battery.

Not long after we left home, I was saying hat I thought there would be a lot of donations from people at the funeral (we requested donations instead of flowers). One of the charities we chose to support is the Retiired Greyhound Trust. My Dad won a lot of money on greyhound racing over the years and owned lots of different racing dogs. As I said it, we saw a man walking a greyhound down the road. The husband had never seen a greyhound being walked as a pet before.

We went to my Mom’s house first, and I told her the strange coincidences that had already happened. I was talking about white feathers and how it seemed I was the only person in the family not to have received one. I realised I’d forgotten to put earrings in, so my Mom suggested I see if my little sister had some. As I opened the jewellery box, there was one odd earring – a dangly white feather. A coincidence, or a sign? Either way, it made me cry!

Finally, as I mentioned, my Dad was very into greyhound racing. A lot of his friends from the track were at the funeral, and at the wake in the pub afterwards. They all sat together and had the local race track streaming on their phones, betting and enjoying themselves as my Dad would have wanted (and as he’d have done if he’d been there!) Late afternoon they called me over and said there was a race coming up where they had a good tip, on a dog called “Bonny Lass”. Quite a few of them were betting it, so a few of my family got involved, as did I, betting £25. The form was that if the dog came out of the trap well, it would win. It didn’t, it came out poorly. A couple of the guys actually said “it’s got no chance”. But that dog came from behind, bearing in mind the race was about 30 seconds long, and it weaved through it’s race companions and it only bloody won! Photo finish, but it won! I won £100, the husband won £100, family members and friends won, it was amazing! Not only that, at the end of the race a beautiful full rainbow appeared over the racetrack, and also outside the pub we were in. It was like my Dad sending us all a win, and a big smile to let us know what he’d done.

Am I bonkers for thinking these things mean anything? Maybe! If they were happening to anyone else, would I think they were significant? Perhaps, perhaps not. And I don’t think any of these things mean my Dad exists in a parallel universe or is in heaven or anything like that. But it’s nice to think that somehow, some way, it’s a continuation of the energy he exuded in life letting us know that he’ll always be with us, even though he can’t be.

I miss him so much.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

My Dad died on Monday

12th September is a day that will forever be etched in my head and heart for two reasons. 8 years ago – on Thursday 12th September – I married my best friend, the fabulous husband.

5 days ago – on Monday 12th September – my Dad died.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may have read my previous posts about his cancer diagnosis and the advancement of the illness. We knew the end was imminent. But recent visits from the palliative care team suggested there were a few weeks to go until the end. In fact he was booked to go into a hospice for pain control on Monday. He never made it. He had a massive stroke at around 5am and was rushed to hospital. When my phone rang I thought it was his wife telling me what time his hospice transport was booked for. Instead she was telling me I needed to get to A&E as quickly as possible. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that’s not good news.

Somehow, maybe due to the strength of his organs due to his pretty healthy lifestyle and relatively young age, it took until 10.40pm for his poor cancer ravaged body to shut down. An agonising day into night of watching him, listening for changes in his breathing and willing him to let go. Everyone who needed to see him did, including his Mom. That’s not the natural order of life; having to say goodbye to your own child, no matter what age they are.

My Dad told me a couple of weeks back that we should be relieved when it was finally over, because it mean he wouldn’t be in pain anymore. It’s not just physical pain. It’s the mental anguish of knowing the end is coming and wondering how bad things might get before the inevitable happens. He had no positivity or fight in him, because it was pointless. He had no quality of life because of the pain and was unable to enjoy anything because he was consumed by the disease. He told me, his wife, family members and medical professionals that he wanted to die, before the pain got too bad and he became solely reliant on other people to care for him.

Unfortunately, due to the archaic laws and closed minded politics in this country, that wasn’t an option. He didn’t have that choice. For that reason, rather than flowers at his funeral, we’re requesting donations, half of which will be passed to Dignity in Dying to help fund their continuing campaigning to allow people to be treated with the same compassion as animals (I know it’s a cliché, but you wouldn’t let your pet suffer in the same way we allow humans).

I had this tattoo in January last year. I wanted him to know how much I loved him while he was still with us, rather than having a memorial tattoo when he’d gone. It’s on my right hip, so he’ll always be by my side.

dad-tattoo

I also know how proud he was of this blog, and how much he enjoyed reading it. I have to attribute my level of education to my Dad; he encouraged me so much as a kid and spent time learning with me and teaching me.

I’m forever grateful to my Dad for everything he did for me – be that working all hours to provide for me; playing in the swimming pool with me on holiday; setting me maths questions; playing yahtzee; teaching me to drive; wanting to know everything about my first job; buying me a dishwasher for my first home; talking for hours about travels and holidays. I certainly inherited his appetite and we never tired of talking about food and how much we loved it.

I’ve been touched by the kind messages of love and support for me in my loss, and overwhelmed by how well liked and respected my Dad was by so many people.

Losing him at 59, losing our future years together, is the worst and most unfair thing I’ve experienced in my life so far. But I have no choice but to cope and get through this. Bitterness and anger won’t help in the long term.

At least we had time – time to talk about things, time to reminisce and time to somehow  say some form of goodbye.

I already miss him so so much.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x