It’s my Dad’s birthday today. He was never one for any fuss being made over him, and he would tell us off for wasting our money on cards. But he did enjoy a pipeful of tobacco of an evening, and the occasional tipple of a liqueur such as cherry brandy or a drop of rum in his extra strong coffee. So buying for him was usually easy. There used to be an excellent tobacconist in town that sold such things as flavoured pipe tobacco and special pipe lighters where the flame came out the side and could be directed down into the bowl of the pipe. I bought him one of those, and he used it all the time.
He was a quiet man really. My memories of him from my early years are happy ones and include things like him coming home on a friday evening with a bag of chocolate bars – one for each of us, and standing on his feet as he held my hands and walked me around. Family days out in the car at the weekends.
And the endless hours in the days and nights before ventolin inhalers, when me and my brother were the only children in a school of 400 kids, who had asthma. Treatment for an attack back then was a small pink pill that dissolved slowly in water. So mum and dad would take it in turns to rub my back – slowly, repetitively – keeping me calm, slowing my breathing, rubbing the asthma away until the pill dissolved, could be drunk and do its job. If I have an attack now, rubbing my back is still the most effective thing to do for me.
I was such a sick child. Allergic to everything apart from cereals….and horses.. the tests revealed. Dad travelled abroad a couple of times for work and once brought home a buffalo cheese. I remember it hanging up in the kitchen. I was allowed a small slice at a time because it didnt make me wheeze or cover me with eczema.
My dad loved football. He was a lifelong Liverpool FC supporter and had a season ticket. When I was about 10 he took me along to some of the Wednesday night games. Football was a big thing in my house growing up. In a city with 2 teams it was everywhere really. But in our house it was part of life. The ‘pools’ were done, and spot the ball – and the results always listened to as Dad checked in case he had won.
He loved cats too, we all did. And a house just isnt a home without at least 1 cat.
He worked hard too.
He wasnt perfect. He was a man. A human like everyone else. He made mistakes.
But who among us can claim perfection? No one.
He was my Dad. He was gentle. He loved me. And I loved him.
Even when I moved away, got married, he would drop in to see me and my girls. Sometimes mum had sent him, sometimes he just called in.
When we lived in the same village a couple of years later he would often drop in for a chat. He’d tell me his worries and help me with mine. We couldnt often solve them, but it helped to share. And I always felt honoured that he chose me to talk to.
Dad was taken from us far, far too soon. And in a terrible way. He had multi-infarc dementia. In essence its alzheimers. A gradual loss of the person you know and love. They change before your eyes. They regress, they can become violent, they can even forget what parts of their body are for. And there is nothing you can do. Nothing that will stop it. And once it starts, there is no return.
But the cruellest thing?
They have moments of lucidity when they are aware of what is happening to them and they know what they have just done. They know what’s still to come.
We held onto Dad as long as we could. And I believe he did the same.
We held vigil by his bedside for the last 50 hours of his life. Apparently very few people do that anymore and I find that strange.
His funeral was an amazing tribute. His coffin went out to “you’ll never walk alone”
And he doesnt. Because he’s always in my heart. He raised me so he has influenced my life, given me values and principles to live by. My girls knew him and loved him and we talk about him.
Sometimes, especially when I am driving, I can feel him in the car with me. Especially on big roundabouts, which I hate. Or if the weather is bad. Its as if he’s watching over me to make sure I get home safely.
I also have his brown eyes.
So – Happy Birthday Dude xxxxx
We loves you
ps Dad…..this didnt cost a bean!!