Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Love Doesn't End With Dying

"Love doesn’t end with dying
Or leave with the last breath
For someone you’ve loved deeply
Love doesn’t end with death"

"…Bill always seemed to be someone who would go the extra mile. He is going to be enormously missed by so many people and I am proud to have known him…"

Four years ago today my beloved Dad died. The quote about him above was just one of many messages we received from friends in the weeks that followed, and it really sums him up.

From the very start I was a Daddy's Girl. Dad worked as a truck driver up until my mid-teens and was often away for days or weeks at a time on long trips. I always missed him terribly and was ecstatic to see him home. So much so that one year it was my downfall - literally! I remember hearing his air horn sound and hear the truck pulling into the lay by opposite our house. I ran out the back door to look over the fence, and promptly slipped over on some ice, fracturing my coccyx - I couldn't sit down without a rubber ring for months afterwards (not a Good Thing when you are 13, already being bullied, and now have to take a rubber ring into school to sit on....).

It was worth it :-)

Even now, four years on from his death, I find it hard to conjure up memories of Dad. Not because they aren't there, but because they hurt so very much. Yet at the same time I'm scared that if I don't think about them, they will fade.

I have lots of lovely childhood memories, of home, of family holidays, of cuddles with Dad. I remember him feeling I had got too old to come in bed for cuddles - Dad was a very "proper" man and always concerned about what was right - so he insisted that I stayed above the covers in future if I went in for a morning cuddle.

We clashed, like all families, during my teen years. Looking back now - as an adult and more imporantly as a PARENT - I can see why! I wasn't an outrageously rebellious child, and to be frank, most of my escapades were kept well away from my parents who didn't know the half of it ;-) But I tested Dad to the limit with some of my late nights, unsavoury boyfriends, playing heavy metal loudly, and all the other stuff you would expect from a teenage girl!

(so glad I've got boys...)

One shining memory is of Dad's face the day I got married. The grin on his face made the Cheshire Cat look like the Mona Lisa. The pride he felt in me was so obvious, so humbling, so warming, so loving.

When the minister asked "and who gives this woman away?" Dad stepped forward and said in a loud, cheerful voice "I DO!" and all the guests laughed at his enthusiasm.

But I know that when I moved out, he missed me terribly, despite his show of being glad to see the back of me.

I know he enjoyed helping us set up our first home. Over the years he helped with gardens, flat roofs, numerous broken down cars... nothing was ever too much trouble.

My joy was complete when I saw Dad holding his first grandson, Josh, for the first time, in hospital in 1993. His face was indescribable.

Oh this hurts so much to write..

I was so blessed to see how much joy his grandsons brought him over the years. He never lost his special awe over his first grandson, and was incredibly proud of how Josh was growing up (Josh was 10 when Dad died). As Samuel grew though, there was a special bond between them as they shared a love of trains. Dad used to take Samuel to train fairs and shows, and it was lovely to see them have something special, something private to share in (as he shared with Josh over a love of birds and nature).

When William was born however, whether it was because we named him after Dad, or some other reason, but there was a strong connection. William would stick to him like glue whenever they were together, and they played endlessly.

With hindsight, I think Dad would have found it unbearable to see how William's personality is affected at times by his ASD, and there is no way Dad could have coped with his violence.

Of course it pains me every single time I look at Jonathan that he never knew his Grandad. Jonathan is such an amazing child, with all the best bits of his brothers rolled into one cute package with his own bits mixed in. I know Dad would have been fascinated with him and, having retired, would have enjoyed spending lots of time with him.

[good grief - knock on the door at 7.30am by a timber merchant, who had got the wrong address. Good job I had put a jumper on over my pyjamas... but not good to open the door like that when you are in the middle of crying so hard... goodness knows what the guy thought...]

It is painfully ironic that the only reason we are back in this area, having lived in the Medway once we got married, is because of Dad dying (and us selling up to first live with Mum, and now renting). If he had lived we wouldn't be this close to him - something he would have enjoyed so much.

Dad never counted himself as significant in any way. I grew up knowing that he felt a failure for not having been "educated" and not having had a "proper job". He compared himself to those around us with fathers working in the City, "something in banking", to those who had at least two holidays abroad each year, and two cars on the drive. We struggled to have a holiday each year, we grew our own veg, and Mum made our clothes - by today's benchmark we were pretty close to the breadline at times.

Dad had been thrown out of home aged 14 and signed up - illegally - to the Royal Navy by his father who lied about Dad's age in order to get rid of him. Dad loved his years in the Navy, and said to me - in a rare confidence shortly before he died - that it was the first time in his life he'd felt loved. Just before Mum and Dad married he left the Navy to join the police force - another job that he enjoyed.

By the time I came along the shift pattern and hours of the police wasn't working out with a young family so he left for trucking. He stayed with that until just a few years before he retired, when he switched to being a parking meter attendant - a job that got him out and about (he could never have worked in an office).

Through the years he first ran a local British Sub Aqua Club branch, then volunteered for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution local branch, and then the Royal British Legion.

I was proud to be able to share this with him, as we both served as Standard Bearers, taking part in competitions and having the privilege of marching on hundreds of remembrance parades as well as taking part in the Lord Mayor's Show and the Royal Tournament. Dad also took part in the Cenetaph parade on a number of occasions.

Everytime I hear a bird sing, every time I look at a flower, every Remembrance Day, every time I see an image of the Royal Navy, every time a truck goes by, every time I go into my garden, every time the car needs fixing, I miss him.

Every time I see an elderly couple walking by, and know Mum is alone (they'd known each other since Mum was about 7), I miss him.

Every time I see a lady out with her Dad, I miss him.

Every time I see a grandad out with his grandchildren - in the streets or at a park - I miss him.

Every time I look at my children - I miss him.

Every tough moment I face, I wish I could still call him up for a hug.

Every happy experience, I wish he was there to share.

Every time I have something to be proud of, I think how much more proud he would have been.

Every time I bake something gluten free - I regret not having had the chance to show Dad that, despite being coeliac, he could still have had all his favourite cakes and pastries - because I would have put every effort into trying to make the most amazing foods for him so he didn't miss out.

Every year, from Mum and Dad's anniversary at the start of February, through to the anniversary of his funeral in the middle of May, I spend every day missing him and mourning him so much more.

I wanted to write something that somehow conveyed, and honoured, my Dad. I was inspired by this post by a friend which moved me with its expression of love and loss.

But I can't do him justice. Maybe it's my writing skills that have let me down.

Maybe it just hurts too much.

Dad - I miss you more than I can express - You will never, ever be forgotten.


Jan (Ingrid Maclean) Mendez said...

Anne, that's beautiful! But, you know, as you say, love DOESN'T end with dying. And that goes both ways... You miss him, yes. You can't see him, that may be - but that doesn't mean he isn't there with you, or that he hasn't been sharing all those things you worry he has missed since he moved on up. He merely vibrates at a different rate. And he still loves you and is proud of you all. Me too - I think you're great!
Love Jan

Lizzie Grayson said...

That is a beautiful, touching tribute to a very special Dad who was obviously loved so much! xxxxx

Lizzie Grayson

Elizabeth said...

Now I've started the day in tears! But not painful ones--we were both very lucky to have such special men as our Dads!