20 years on…

I’ve been pondering what to write in this blog post all day. It’s 20 years today since my dad died, and one of the first years where I’ve remembered the occasion on the day. I usually forget.

One of the main reasons I remembered is that I’ve been chatting to a counsellor about dad, among some other things. I had some concerns about not having many positive memories of my dad, partly tied up with the mess surrounding his death. I think this is also somewhat tied up with watching S with E, and seeing them interact, which is a very different relationship to how I remember being with my dad. S is patient, and does things like make playdough shapes, or drawings of dinosaurs. S wanted a girl precisely because he thought little girls adore their dads more. It’s an odd perspective to me, partly because I can see how much he respects and admires his own dad.

Anyway, I didn’t want this to be a miserable post. So here are the positive things I remember:

  • Lying on the floor in the front room, leaning against the seat cushion from his chair which was propped up against the chair, with one of Dad’s arms round me, his eyes fixed on the western on TV
  • Getting lost in the library on campus as we looked round the university I went to and getting the giggles together as we stumbled through the “silent study” section, provoking furious looks from students
  • Singing along to his music tapes in the car, with him banging his hand between the steering wheel and the window in time to the song
  • His efforts to encourage me to be a journalist, helping find work experience in a newspaper office and buying a word processor

Here’s what I also remember, after his death:

  • Standing at the leaving ceremony from school with my mum, both of us thinking that he was also there somewhere, feeling proud of me
  • Standing on the shore at Seahouses, Northumberland, where his ashes were eventually scattered, and realising how lovely it was there
  • Standing in front of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury watching one of his favourites Kenny Rogers and crying through The Gambler, conflicted yet glad that I was alive to see him

It’s an odd thing, trying to live up to the expectations of someone who’s no longer there. It’s an odd thing, to realise that your memories are incomplete and ill formed. It’s an odd thing to have no idea how to explain to your daughter (in a few years’ time perhaps) what her grandfather was like, when you’ve no clear idea yourself. I don’t know how we would have interacted as adults. I hated his politics. I don’t have a glittering career. On the other hand, I have a book soon to be published. I have pieces published in journals and magazines. I have a lovely daughter.

I have marked today by sending my sister a cd of music that reminds us of him, and sitting and listening to it this evening while I write reviews and blogs, sipping a glass of red wine and raising it to toast the old bastard.

Rest in peace old man.

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