Dad – in memory only

As Father’s Day approaches, everyone is posting on social media about their father’s.

My dad died, unexpectedly on the 1st March 1971, which also happened to be a week before my nineteenth birthday. I was away at music college and the night he died, I was enjoying listening to a concert, although now I can’t remember what the concert was.

I felt guilty for a while, that on the night he died, I was having fun with friends, listening to some beautiful music. Typically for a nineteen-year-old to make his death about myself, but I’ve come to recognise, that when someone dies, grief is about the person or people left behind.

I certainly haven’t forgotten Dad, but I don’t spend my time grieving for him every day. I lost him fifty-one years ago, and as far and our family is concerned, life goes on. You don’t look back and regret. Whenever we heard that someone my parents knew had died, Dad would say, ‘The bullet had his name on it’. Basically, he thought when your time came that was that!

Because he died so young, at the age of fifty-six, I still remember him as Dad, and I didn’t really ever know him in his own right, as a man, separate from the person who cared for me as a child.

I was a daddies-girl when I was little. Dad played cricket with me in the garden, taught me to ride a bike, holding onto the seat – until he let go, proving I could ride. He played drawing games with me, and taught me how to look at things in detail, so I could draw. And he introduced me to Art in the bigger sense.  We shared a love of Western films, and would regularly sit and watch a black and white Cowboys’ and Indians’ movie on Sunday afternoons after lunch.

My dad had a rich bass singing voice, and when we sang in the church choir together as a family, he usually stood opposite me in the choir pews. I could hear his voice, strongly supporting the choir from the bass upwards.  He would sit and draw the other members of the choir on the back of the small hymn sheets we had for each service, and after he died, they all asked for the images he had drawn, which were tucked into the front of his hymn book.

Dad walked everywhere, as Mum and I did too, because we didn’t have a car. In good weather, he often walked the 2 miles to and from work, also walking to his mum’s for lunch. On paper, dad was fit. He wasn’t overweight, he didn’t drink – however, he smoked – far more than my mum had realised, and that was his downfall. He died of a heart-attack due to hardened arteries.

My mum also died several years ago, and sadly, it’s my dad I miss most. As a family we didn’t hold onto death. We didn’t visit graves, and in fact both my parents were cremated, so there is nowhere to visit.

My dad didn’t really give me advice, he was more of the Victorian father, where he believed that I should do what he said, not what he did. Children should be seen and not heard.

As a teenager, we did begin to fall-out more than we had previously, mainly because I don’t think he could cope with his ‘little girl’ growing up, and we had similar characters. He was over-protective about boys, and it was mum who had to persuade him I could go to the cinema on my first date. Dad walked the dog around the time the film finished, in case my date didn’t walk me home.

In many ways, had he lived, I think we would have argued about many different things, particularly about some of my life choices, but sadly, we didn’t get that opportunity.

Fathers’ Day often passes me by (as I also don’t have children), but this year, I will be remembering a dad who loved, laughed with me, cared for me, held and tended me when I was hurt. He is forever, imbedded in my heart.

Have a wonderful day celebrating your dads, or whoever has been a father-figure to you.

A poem to my Dad:

Looking back, my memories are fond,

Of my Dad, to whom I had a special bond.

I was a complete ‘daddies girl,

Standing on his feet, as around we’d twirl.

“I’m dancing with daddy,” I’d scream giggling with glee,

 A little girl, happy and carefree.

In golden sands he would carve out a boat,

That surely, any huge wave would float;

As I sailed across pirate infested seas,

Just my friend, Bill and me.

He taught me to draw,

Crayon in hand, to capture, exactly what I saw.

And this growing love and awe of art,

Still exists today in my heart.

In my teenage years, our similarities often caused a flash

Of annoyance as our personalities started to clash.

He seemed sad to see his little girl grow;

More so when I came home with a young beau!

Only a memory now,

He remains in my heart as clear as day

Despite the human flaws and things others may say.

I was robbed of my chance to know him as a man,

And look back with the rose-coloured perception

As only a child can.

He was stolen of his lifeblood,

Before I reached womanhood

Suddenly, and unforeseen,

A week before I turned nineteen.

So he didn’t walk me down the aisle,

And missed my maturing life; Meanwhile

I inherited parts of his physical attributes

And continue, a living tribute to

My Dad

©Lis McDermott 2020