One

One.  It's exactly one year since my Dad died.  The weekend was hard; getting through Father's Day.  Made more difficult as that was the last day I saw him last year.  In some ways it feels poignant.  But with the advertising blitz and people posting photos of their Dads on social media it actually was a lot harder than I'd anticipated.  I thought today would be the hard day.

It's interesting to take stock, and god knows this blog is full of my self reflections.  You see (previous mention of god, aside), I'm an atheist.  I don't have a sense of Dad being 'somewhere better' or of him 'looking down at me'.  I just have a sense of him being gone.  I was talking to Mum a few months ago about how I've almost finished my uni degree.  She said that Dad would be proud.  That's nice to hear, but quite frankly when I enrolled in uni he called me a smart arse.  Yep.  That's my Dad for you.

I guess that's the thing with complicated relationships.  I'm not looking back through rose coloured glasses, but in some ways since his death I think I've seen more of who Dad was.  On my visits to Mum's place I've helped her go through some of his things.  We even found a love letter Mum had written to him in their first year of marriage.  He'd kept it all these years. After each visit I usually come home with a handful of his stuff.  I now have his watch and a great metal moneybox filled with old coins from around the world.  I also have some WW II spotter cards (which are playing cards with aeroplanes on them - so you can spot a Luftwaffe from the ground), his Union booklet from when he joined the railway as a teenager and a well worn map of the U.K.  In his 20s he cycled with friends around the U.K. and Europe, and this map plots part of his path.  I also now have old black and white photos from this trip.  Dad in baggy shorts and a cloth cap being silly with his mates in front of town signs with their bicycles through the Swiss Alps.

It was really nice to see Dad as a young man.  He got married to Mum and they had me when he was in his forties.  So in all our family pictures he's always looked older.  And for the last few years his health had deteriorated.  Every time I saw him he looked frailer, was a bit more forgetful and then grew a silver beard as Mum and the health care nurses had trouble shaving him.  It was nice to see photos of a young fit man, rather than the person who faded in front of me.  In reality HE was the smart arse.  The cheeky bugger who always made jokes.  But towards the end he could hardly communicate at all.  I guess that's the thing with death...you don't have to watch the person you know disappearing any more.  You can remember other things rather than the illness.

In Western culture we don't talk about death much.  We hardly see it at all.  Even our news broadcasts are somewhat sheltered.  But I've seen a few shows on telly lately that are set in hospitals.  English shows about new doctors and nurses, and they have showed elderly patients who die.  I find myself in floods of tears before I know what hits me.  I listen to these lovely caring people talk about what an honour it is to be with someone as they die.  I'm so grateful that Dad had caring people around him in the nursing home.  And just writing this has me in tears again.

I guess the thing I've realised most in the last year is that I don't believe in a heaven or hell.  I don't have a 'sense' of Dad at all.  But I look at his things, and his life and think that he is still around...in me...and the other people he knew.  So, on the first anniversary of his death, I'm off to spend the day with my Mum.  We'll probably have a cry and a laugh and then perhaps we'll drink champagne.  A toast to Dad.  It's what he would have wanted.





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