Like Father, Like Daughter
I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl. I remember how he used to say “You’ll always be my little girl, even when you're in your 30s and married!”. Well here I am in my 30s, married with two beautiful little boys of my own – sadly though dad isn’t.
My dad, Keith, was many things: he was competitive, stubborn – words my husband, Sam, would probably use to describe me! In fact, I have more similarities to him than I care to admit. We shared many common interests especially sports. He was heavily involved in sport throughout his life, working on Euro 96 and as the Secretary of the English Golf Union (EGU).
My parents separated when I was 12. At weekends, whilst my friends were off shopping and going to the cinema, I would go and spend time with my dad and, as soon as I finished my GCSEs, I moved to Sheffield to live with him. When the time came for me to fly the nest and go to university, he was in bits. It was only the second time I’d seen him cry.
It was a difficult time for my dad. Whilst he was clearly proud of my achievements, he was on his own again, and had limited contact with anyone other than colleagues. Then, wonderfully, an old flame came back into his life and his life started again. He got remarried and moved to the States. Everything was fantastic; I went out for a holiday and it was such a relief to see him so happy.
Then in 2009 I got a phone call. He had lung cancer.
It was strange talking to him. He had a tendency to play the victim when bad things happened but when he was talking about this, arguably the worst thing to happen to him, he was so positive, so determined to beat it. But despite a reasonably positive initial prognosis, he went downhill rapidly and his wife, Stephanie, suggested I go over as soon as I could.
I will never forget the first moment I saw him. Stephanie had tried to prepare me but no words could have. He was just a shadow of his former self, his face, arms and chest so gaunt and his legs so swollen. It just didn’t look like him.
I spent the week with him. He continued to go downhill. At one point the doctors said they would not resuscitate him and the fear I saw in his eyes still haunts me. One day he forgot who I was, something I never thought would happen.
And then the moment came to say goodbye. He begged me not to go – we both knew it would be the last time we ever saw each other. That was the third and final time I’d seen him cry. It was one of the worst moments of my life. Four days later I received the call that he was gone. As hard as it was to say goodbye, as well as enduring a 10-hour flight alone immediately afterwards, I am so relieved I had that opportunity, to tell him how much I loved him and hear how proud he was of me; I know many aren’t as fortunate.
Two days before Father’s Day this year will mark the seven-year anniversary of dad’s death. It’s strange I never remember the date (I had to search though my emails to find it – dad’s old best friend always emails me on the day to say he’s thinking of us). Apparently, when he died, I said to Sam that I didn’t want to remember this date, I’d much rather remember, and celebrate, his birthday. Ironically, since writing this, the date is now well and truly lodged in my memory.
In the years that have passed I’ve tended to forget Father’s Day even existed. However, now I have my boys, Father’s Day can be a celebration again, I can focus on making it a special day for Sam and then, in the evening, raise a glass of red for dad.