24 years ago today I had my last (2 way) conversation with my Dad. I remember it still as if it was yesterday. I remember he had on jeans with paint splatters and holes in (his favourite kind of clothes when he was at home and not having to wear a work uniform). I can't remember what top he had on but do remember my Mum being mortified he wasn't better dressed when the funeral directors came to take him away (the random things she worries about) and then I remember the socks. Thick dark blue thermal things (his body was being eaten alive by cancer so he felt the cold a lot more than he had done when he was fit and healthy). Those socks I can still see out of the corner of my eye, resting on the coffee table in front of him. The way they twitched after he'd asked me which horse I had chosen for the next race we were about to watch (we didn't gamble on them but had chosen the ones we would have put money on had we had any to waste on such things). As I was answering him, that's when I saw those feet twitch and the first thought to enter my head was "apparently people's bodies twitch at the moment they die". I then turned round to speak to him and he had in fact already left his mortal body and begun the next journey in his spiritual existence (if you believe in such things, that is - I like to think he's still around somewhere so I guess I must believe in such a thing). Most people I know who have lost a loved one will tell you that their last words were how much they were loved or something equally loving/slushy; not my Dad. His last words were "what horse have you got in this race?" and I am glad, so very glad it wasn't something slushy or lovey because we just weren't like that. Don't get me wrong, I loved him so very much, and I know he loved me too (he did in fact tell me so that very day which is when I knew for definite that he wasn't for our earth much longer for in the 22 years 363 days he had been my Daddio (he'll always be my Dad but he was only my 'Alive Dad' for those short years) he'd never once told me he loved me until that day - not spoken words at least for there was never any doubt how much he loved me. I was so very much a "Daddies girl").
Maybe that's why I don't need to hear the words as an adult or when I'm in a relationship. Maybe that's why I am one of those people who believes that actions speak far louder than words ever could. That makes it sound as though I am a material girl who wants big gestures; that could not be further from the truth. It's the little things. I knew my Dad loved me because he was willing to spend time with me, to teach me things, to do things he didn't want to do (he hated roller coasters and thrill rides but would go on them because he knew I wanted to ride on them). When I left school and went to college I had to travel to a town I'd never been to before, catch several trains so he came with me to make sure I knew where I was going. I could have easily done it myself but having him there with me was his way of showing that I was important. He stayed in the background of course; he would never deliberately try to embarrass me on the first day of college by letting everyone else know I'd had my Dad take me. 😂😂 That doesn't mean he never embarrassed me, sometimes deliberately for fun but when it came to the important stuff that would sway other's opinions of me, he knew what had to be done and how to behave.
He taught me so much about life and I'm not sure he ever realised just how much - same as my Mum but whereas she's taught me more practical things, my Dad taught me the more useless things (which at times have surely come in handy). He was good at that though. As a coach driver (a very good one at that) he knew more useless information than most people but it's all things that were interesting and that I have myself used at different times when out with people. Stuff you don't need to know but which can make a really long journey far more enjoyable.
At 16 I was desperate to reach 17 so I could learn to drive, at which point my Dad told me I was never getting behind the wheel of a car unless I knew how to look after one, so he went through how to change spark plugs, and tyres with me. Showed me how to check my battery and oil. He taught me the right spot to use a hammer on a starting motor to ensure the engine fired up - all of these things are pretty moot these days with cars being all gadgets and electronics, but the basics are still the same when it comes to tyres, oil and batteries.
Our shared love of football meant that we always had something to chat about and when the Pompey results come in on a Saturday afternoon I can still hear him cheer or groan (depending on how well (or not) they have played). Getting the opportunity to drive the first team to away matches was like a dream come true for him and had it not been for Gavin Maguire and Neil Sillett (a player and physio at the club at the time) we would have lost Dad 2 years earlier for he had a heart attack while away with the team up at Leicester. For his sake I sometimes wish he'd gone that day because he'd then not have had to go through the 2 years of pain he had, but for my sake and that of my family I am so glad we got to keep him for those next 24 months. I hated seeing him in pain but loved that he was still around.
For those of you still lucky enough to have your Dad's, if they are kind, funny and only occasionally a grumpy old sod (my Dad was more than occasionally but we loved him for it anyway) make the most of them, spend time with them, take loads of photo's and make as many memories as you can for you only get one Dad in life. Cherish him every second you can. For those of you (like my little old Mumsicle) who have never been blessed to know your Dad go and find one you can adopt for yourself; just because a man isn't biologically your father doesn't mean he can't make a fantastic Dad.
I don't do regrets in life but I do wish I'd spent less on cigarettes when I was younger and more on photo film so that I had more images to remember him by and I dearly wish he'd been around when I was being shafted by my exes; they would never have got away with their treatment of me had he been, but alas he wasn't and like many things since that day 24 years ago, I've had to deal with them and accept that he's not here to look out for me any more (which is what I moan at him for even now on an almost daily basis - I'm sure wherever he may be, he can hear me going on at him 😂😂
To anyone reading this today, raise a glass to him for me this evening (I can't due to being on antibiotics).