I can remember the evening he died. He was leaning against the full draining board in the kitchen. I was watching him, his back to me clearing away the meal we had prepared together. I watched him shuffling about on his diabetic legs, captivated. I followed him about and dried, I think, about one plate. My heart was rushing with love for this man, this white haired rotund man steadying himself on the kitchen sideboards. Tears pinched my eyes as he told me about his day “A good day actually, managed to have a good hour or so snooze”. I couldn’t stop looking at him, worried for him with all my might. I was in danger of becoming the parent to this man, of reversing our roles and keeping my own troubles from him in order to make the load of his days even lighter. That selfless love consumed me with every wince that whipped across his face. I regret, that in all that emotion I did not say what I was thinking – “I love you”.
Nearly four years have passed since that night. The night I switched groups. I no longer existed in the realm with those who buy cards in June. My sister, brother and I were handed membership to another group – Those Who Don’t Send Cards in June.
It can be a bitter, jealous group. Just last year I spent Father’s day in a pit, clinging to my boyfriend’s bed not wanting to acknowledge the day. The weeks build up, cards and gift ideas start flooding the stores. You see something that would have been perfect – a card that sums him up brilliantly or a new book about the Lancaster Bomber and you chastise the manufacturer for bringing it out too late - sure that no other father would appreciate it as much as your dad would have. This year I am working in a shop and have myself lavished shelves and ordered in items to decorate The World’s Greatest Dad, fully aware that the holder of this title has long gone and the stock will remain unsold. And this year, I see them, my fellow People Who Don’t Send Cards in June. Some linger, stony faced as if the words on the signs no longer mean anything to them. Others allow a smile, brief and sweet – a tentative nod to a party they cannot attend.
The world can be brutal when it throws others lives you covet in your face. But this Sunday will allow me and my fellows a third unadulterated day this year where we can think wholeheartedly about Him. Sandwiched neatly between his two other defining dates I will swim gloriously in my dad’s memory. Dads can be excruciating, embarrassing, ignorant, shallow and insensitive. My dad could be all these things and more. But they are also true wonders for those of us lucky enough to have felt their love. My main memory of my dad is his hands. No-one had bigger hands than my dad. They fought, lit fireworks, stroked away tears and fixed my school bag a million times (I only needed one bag throughout my time at secondary school). In his 60s his hands told all he needed to tell, split knuckles and shaded by car oil my dads hands were a mans hands. Even when they were fumbling to tidy dishes on their last day on this earth, they could still slay a dragon if I insisted one lurked under my bed. As the man attached to those hands slipped away that night they still remained one of the greatest things about him.
Cherish every card you place in your dad’s hands. And if you feel the urge to say something he might find “daft” just say it.