Saturday, 11 June 2011

You give and take away

Well, today is the sixth anniversary of the day my Dad died. If ever I hesitate about how long it's been since Dad passed away I only have to think of Elizabeth's age, as he died nine days before she was born. I don't like that her birthday marks out the years as it's an annual reminder that he never got to see her. He saw the pictures of the ultrasound scans, he tried hard to feel her kick in my tummy but she'd always go still when I said, 'Dad, now! Here's a kick!' 

Dad had bought a cigar to give to Bryan when the baby came as a joyful Father-in-law/son thing. He bought me a CD of classical music suitable for babies that I used to play to my bump in the days when I had a chance to lie around in the daytime and play music. He and Mum bought us the cot and a host of sweet baby outfits, but he didn't get to say hello or hold her in his arms. I was always a daughter to Dad; I didn't get to show him I could be a Mummy. 

Tomorrow is Bryan's birthday. On the day Dad died it was a Saturday too, and Bryan's birthday a Sunday. It's the first time it's been the same days of the week; I suppose that's no surprise - six years and a leap year. Six years ago Bryan and I celebrated his birthday on the Saturday as he was due to go back to London on the Sunday and he unwrapped his presents and phoned Mum and Dad to say thankyou, so we got to talk to Dad about three hours before his death. We made arrangements to meet for lunch the following day. 

We had a nice day that Saturday and so did Mum and Dad. They went to an art show where Dad represented the Photographic Society that was such a big part of his life. He talked about his photographs, looked round and bought a painting that Mum has on the wall now. They went home, had his favourite meal for dinner and he watched one of his favourite films. He was in his armchair, with a glass of fine malt whisky at his side, his hand on the TV remote control as he checked the cricket scores on the TV. He died. Nothing the paramedics could do could help him, but they tried and tried. Mum was sending me an email at the moment he died. I still read that mail and look at the time stamp. Mum phoned us and we drove over in record time. Bryan took the call and witheld the information that Dad was already dead as he needed me to be able to drive, as he hadn't passed his test at that point. 

The ambulance was still here when we arrived because Mum had asked them to stay in case I was so upset that the baby came unexpectedly. I said goodbye to my Dad and the image of him lying on the floor in the sitting room where the paramedics had been working is with me still. He didn't look as if he was sleeping; he looked dead. If I am ever again in the position of deciding whether or not to go and see someone I love who is dead, I will decline. I like the image of him in his chair better. 

Dad died quickly and after a lovely day. All that could be done was done - there was never any doubt that he might have lived had things been different. He didn't suffer. 

The rest of us did. It was such a shock. We were reeling. It turned out as we spoke to the doctors who had looked after Dad that he had been aware for some years that he was 'on borrowed time'. He knew that he might die at any time, but he didn't want us to know. I'm sure that he didn't want us to worry, but perhaps he didn't want us to try to take special care of him, to wrap him in cotton wool. Maybe he enjoyed life more that way. 

Today I remember all that. I remember the last things we said, the film he watched on telly, the cigar that he'd put away for Bryan. The suit that we chose for him to wear in his coffin had papers in the inside pocket - souvenirs that he had kept. One of them was the programme from my graduation. Another was a sheet of notes for the speech he made at our wedding. I'm so glad he was there for those things. He was proud of me and he loved Bryan. He would have loved his granddaughters if he'd only been able to see them.

Today it all comes back. I remember the weather, where we were, the exact time the phone call came through and the drive over to Mum. I remember saying anxiously to Bryan, 'The paramedics will look after Dad, won't they? They won't let him die if there's anything they can do, will they?' He was already dead. 

We've marked this day in past years; we bought another painting by the same artist that Mum and Dad had liked that day but didn't buy and put it on the wall. We planted roses of the same type that Mum had in her wedding bouquet and they are in bloom today. Family members and neighbours have sent messages to say that we are in their thoughts today.

Today we knew all this and we decided to celebrate Bryan's birthday a day early again. We had a barbecue that started and ended bathed in warm sunshine, but the heavens opened in the middle. We rushed to put up an awning and wheel the barbie under cover and we laughed and giggled and ate our food huddled underneath it with the ran dripping down our necks. We toasted marshmallows, laughed at Bryan in his new Man's Barbecuing Apron brandishing his new Barbecue Tools and we sang happy birthday and shared his chocolate hedgehog birthday cake after he'd blown out the candles. 

This afternoon it was Messy Church and the children were beside themselves with excitement as usual. We spent time with our lovely church family and so many people asked after Katy and her surgery and let us know that we were in their thoughts and prayers. The girls made things, sang, danced, prayed, ate and chased around with balloons. As I write this Bryan and I are waiting for a Chinese takeaway to arrive and there's a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge for when the girls settle down. 

I loved my Dad and I miss him every day. I still think of things I want to tell him, things I'd ask him if he were here. At Christmas I see the perfect present for him. I'd love him to see how Katy loves her soft toy that plays Mozart, and I'd love him to know that she can name a few of the tunes. I'd love him to meet my Elizabeth who was just a bump when he died, who arrived three days after his funeral. 

There's still a gap when we're all together. He and Mum would have been married for more than fifty years by now. He would have liked that we now live in this house and that Mum and I take care of each other. I can still hear his voice. 

So it's a sad day, but it's been a happy one. After the tumult of the last few weeks today was a day when Kate didn't need a dressing change, where we didn't have to do anything except be all together and have some fun. Even the pelting rain didn't spoil our barbecue - we were in the right frame of mind; we dashed to get out of the wet. It was funny. We got the awning up in record time, the children were rescued from their little tent where they were panicking as the rain was coming in on them, bread rolls dried off, toys hung up to dry and the sausages didn't suffer a bit. 

I love my family, Lord. I love that we are all together and that we can have fun spontaneously in daft circumstances like rain on a barbecue. It's been a good day. I love my church family too; that we can have fun, that they care about us enough to pray and keep praying, to ask and hug and be a comfort when things are hard. 

Life is good. How blessed I am in so many ways. Today has been a good day. June 11 2005 was one of the worst days of my life. Today I'm just happy that we had some laughs and the rain didn't stop play in so many ways. It doesn't mean that I'm missing my Dad any less, but I love my Mum and my husband and my children. The sun was out today, my brothers and sisters at Church welcomed us for an afternoon celebrating the Good Shepherd and tonight I am sitting on the sofa with my husband watching a film with a glass of bubbly and finding reasons to celebrate. 

You give and take away. I can't get my head round it. I miss my Dad. I hate that my Mum is sad. Maybe one day I'll understand.

But for now, thankyou that we had a good day.



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