It has been a month since I lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer and I will forever wish that I had more time to say goodbye. There are so many regrets, feelings of guilt and even more words that will never be spoken that I wish I could have the chance to say. It has simultaneously been the shortest and longest month I have ever endured.
I am not recovered from this loss and I don’t believe I will ever be, but as I was not strong enough to say anything during his small and restricted funeral, I feel this will be a worthy way to honour his memory. He read every single post I have published on this page (and even had a hand in some of it!). I would always chuckle when he’d say “love the new Blog Post lovey” because I couldn’t think of anything less entertaining for him to read than some dribble on beauty and lifestyle- but he did read it and he loved it because he was proud that I had created it. My Dad always “encouraged” me to do things that I didn’t always want to do. And I understand now that it was because he believed I was capable of greater things than I thought myself
It’s hard to lose a parent at any age and I know that I am, perhaps, fortunate to have had 25 years with my Dad. He wanted me to have the world and worked hard all of his life to provide me with that. I am relieved, as I’m sure is he, that he lived to see Jack and I become homeowners but I will forever suffer the reality of knowing that he will never see us get married, enjoy his paternal right of walking me down the aisle or meet his future grandchildren. They will be told many tales of his ridiculous theories but also his solid life advice that I will carry with me always.
Even in his last days and hours his constant priority was to spare me of the heartbreak in watching him suffer so cruelly and unforgivably. His last words to me before his speech became too exhausting to manage were “I’m sorry lovey” and in that moment I realised that his biggest fear was for me and how I would recover from this. Anticipatory grief is without a doubt the worst pain I have ever suffered in my short time on this Earth and I do take small comfort knowing that he is free and released from his suffering. I know that he would want me to live my life to the very fullest and to be happy.
I am thankful that he spent so many hours with Jack teaching him everything he did, and often didn’t know, about gardening. They formed such a lovely relationship with one another (I was honestly pretty sure my Dad preferred Jack to me). Nothing will make me sob my heart out more than my Dad saying “if I ever had a son, I’d want him to be just like Jack”. They spent a lot of hours together and I’ve got no idea what the hell they would have talked about but whatever it was must have meant a lot to Dad.
I always thought he was so knowledgable in everything and in reality he was, but there were many occasions where his knowledge ran away with him and perhaps got a little out of hand… for example, he believed that using your indicators “too much” in your car could cause them to “run out of clicks”??? I’m sorry Dad but it makes me laugh every time! I didn’t ever apply that little nugget of advice to my own driving- don’t worry.
My Dad worked as a Fire Officer for the MOD and for the larger part of my life was based in the Plymouth Dockyard- a take your daughter to work day was always really fun!!! He’d try to give fire safety advice to anyone that would listen, often where it wasn’t asked for. But he would always feel very happy knowing that he had imparted some knowledge that people weren’t already aware of. He took his job incredibly seriously and took great pride in his wisdom and education on the topic. This did come in very useful when we were house-hunting last year. My Dad spotted an issue with a potential house that no one else would have ever realised and it was a pretty big fire-safety issue.
I want to keep this tribute to him as positive as possible but, like so many others, my Dad held many inner demons that he struggled to deal with or seek help for. It meant that friendships died and he tended to push people he loved the most away because he found emotions difficult to display. An addiction of any kind can cause unnecessary grief on all those that surround you but I believe I am stronger and wiser because of it.
I hate to admit it sometimes, but I inherited a lot of my Dads traits and Jack will always remind me of how similar we are. There are things that I do love about myself that I got from him. The fact that I am strong-willed, my loud voice, my confidence, my ability to be firm if the situation requires it but above all, my constant belief that I am always right- hah!!!! No one believed themselves to be more concrete than my Dad. As I grew older and turned to adult-hood, it sometimes felt difficult to get along with my Dad because of how much we clashed. But the mutual respect was never lost.
I take great comfort in knowing that he got to see some of the high points of my life so far. Jack said that one of his proudest days will always be the day I graduated. When I look back on my life with him, he showed so much enthusiasm for anything I would enjoy or want to be good at and although he was very direct in not wanting me to pursue a career in it, Musical Theatre has been with me since the very beginning. Some of my happiest memories I have of us are when I was at around 8 years old and we’d have our “Karaoke Saturday Nights”. This would involve whacking out the Pop Idol Karaoke machine he bought me one Christmas and singing (mostly Grease) songs. These evenings would often always end, on a very contrasting note, by blasting out the 1812 Overture (of which I created a wonderful interpretative dance to!!).
If any true Plymouthian is reading this then the “Music of the Night” might mean something to you. My Dad used to be on duty at all of these performances at the Royal Citadel ensuring the safety of the performers and crew. The perk of this for me and Mum meant that we got free tickets and an incredible evening of entertainment. At the age of 9 I had to learn “At the End of the Day” from Les Mis for a project we were working on at Stagecoach and I just remember my Dad making me sing that damn song over and over again until I sang it with a strong voice and conviction (I have always lacked quite a lot of confidence on stage- despite enjoying it so much). I feel that this moment came full circle when he came to see me as Judy Bernly in 9 to 5 the Musical and I sang “Get out and Stay Out” which was the most vocally demanding song I have ever performed. For weeks (literal weeks) after this show he kept reminding me of how much he enjoyed it and something that will stay with me forever is my Mum secretly spilling to me that during this particular song, he leaned over to her and said “she’s really good isn’t she” and was a bit teary. I am so thankful he got to see that.
We enjoyed so many holidays when I was younger and my Dad is one of the biggest reasons I will forever love Disneyworld because he worked so hard to take us on those trips and, secretly, he absolutely loved them himself. Seeing 8 year old me cry my heart out with happiness on my first trip to Disneyland was enough for him and Mum to decide “we’ve got to take her to Florida”. And so we went… THREE TIMES. I’ve since then been another two times with Jack and you better believe that won’t be the last. We made so many cherished memories on those holidays and I feel so eternally happy whenever I think about them. My Uncle David, who we lost nearly two years ago now, came on every single holiday we went on and is another reason I will hold so tightly on to these memories (he features several times in the pictures on this post!). I think for all of us, a lasting moment that I still can’t believe we did in Florida was to enter a cage with a Tiger, Leopard and a Lynx and get to have some hands-on action with them. Yes that’s right ladies and gentleman who have undoubtedly binged “Tiger King” on Netflix, we LIVED THAT DREAM. And then good old Carole fucking Baskin shut the place down despite the fact that it was actually a sanctuary- no breeding involved thank you.
I will have to bring this difficult post to an end now because my keyboard may not survive through the tears and I may not be able to proof-read it for another time- I will remain a grammar nazi until the bitter end.
I implore anyone who is lucky enough to still hold their nearest and dearest in their arms to tell them how much they mean to them and remind them of how grateful they are for everything and anything they have done that has made a difference to who you are today.
Dad, all I ever wanted was to make you proud and I hope that I did. Being your only child felt like a pretty hard burden to bare at times but I realise now that everything you did was out of love and because you wanted me to have the very best you could possibly give me. For the rest of my life I will always do what you taught me to do, to work bloody hard at everything and believe that I can do anything I set my mind to.