When you read this i’ll be on a journey, sounds a bit mystical but this is a real one. Does it sound intriguing? I hope so, but only because as a writer I like to play a little with the reader. I’m not trying to be dramatic because the journey I am on is an actual journey, on a train, and the destination is my Dad’s funeral.
Did you just do that face? You know that one I mean, the one that lately makes everything change around me. Facial expressions change from joking to serious. Laughter, waiting expectant on lips transforms into words of condolence. Changes I haven’t made or asked for but ones I’m dealing with as best I can, because sympathy when you’re trying to be ‘normal’ is un-nerving and I don’t really know how to play it, if I’m honest. I know without a doubt it’s been a horrendous few months dealing with a parent dying of cancer who wasn’t dealing with the fact he was dying. He was told he would not recover yet he still wouldn’t give up hope, that was my Dad all over. There’s posts here on this site about his ‘never give up-ness’ . My Dad was awesome. Not perfect, but still awesome and he taught me that you never give up, yes you will get set backs but you will learn, and grow and move on to better things. Always. Except sometimes, life has it’s own caveats.
My Dad was a Salesman first and foremost, worked as a London cabbie and then ran a Pub. (can you imagine how popular a girl I was? ) When he walked into a room people looked at him and listened when he spoke, he had the gift of the gab. A six foot plus tall Londoner, who sang Frank Sinatra all the time and always wore a shirt and tie. He taught all of us SO many lessons about life and the types of people we might meet along the way. The biggest lesson he taught us was to keep on learning, ‘never be an educated idiot’ he would say. In fact he had so many catchphrases – ‘you can’t kid a kidder’, ‘bbb – bullshit baffles brains’, ‘you can’t be a little bit pregnant’, ‘be lucky’ and ‘if my aunt was a man, she’d be my uncle’. There’s so many others I could write a book, but it’s best I finish the ones I’m currently working on. I’m sure you’d all agree on that.
My Dad was and is without a doubt the biggest influence in my life so far. I was his only daughter. I made my Dad proud so many times, I know that without a doubt. When I was at acting school he carried around my contacts sheets around in his cab just in case any agents got in his taxi. ( I didn’t actually know that until years later, funny!) When I traveled the world and went to places he had travelled to, he told me honestly he was amazed I had done that, “Of all my sons (7) Kaz*, you, a girl, are the one who went where I went”. My Dad was so honest with me, things were going to be different for me because I was a girl, but don’t let that stop you trying, he said and so far I haven’t!
Because I could always rely on him to tell the truth I thought all guys would be like that (lol) but I soon learnt that some were and some were not. No-one, sorry no guy I mean, not outing myself as gay here, no guy I ever brought home was good enough for me , typical Dad thing that I think though? My Mum would have happily married me off to the local butcher for an extra pound of mince a week but it had to be someone special to please my Dad.
I have so many memories of my Dad, he was a natural story teller and I loved listening to him talk, both traits I picked up. But the most vivid memory is of a year when I was about 12 he bought me a Christmas present all wrapped up in Golden paper and labeled to his Golden Girl, (the hair wasn’t so *coughs* helped back then). It caused a bit of a stir because it was so big and everyone wanted to know what it was. I didn’t even really mind what was inside, it was all just so exciting! (It was a TV for my room, which was a crazy present because all my parents did was moan that we spent all our time in our bedrooms, ‘and this house is not a hotel you know’ ) Despite being larger than life he wasn’t flash, so it was such a big gesture.
When he had to go into a hospice he drove all the nurses and carers mad with his ways, he didn’t need any help, he was fine he would say. I don’t know at what point he realised he wasn’t going to win, he never spoke to any of us about that, he withdrew into himself, which for such a chatty man was a strange thing to behold. I think we had even started to believe he was going to get better. Then he began to make it his main concern to get out of the hospice and go home. He didn’t want to die there.
I got the call last week that he wasn’t going to last the weekend. It was a shock to say the least as I had believed him when he said he was getting better and that him going into the hospice was only to give my Mum a break from caring for him. I had that agonizing few hours where I had to decide, go and be there or stay in Edinburgh and wait for the call. The clock was ticking. I had said all I needed to say, we had no un-said words. Any of you who know me, know I can talk the back legs off of a donkey, and tend to be honest and as logical as I can, so it’s no surprise there really. In my mind, you only go if you need to say something and I didn’t have anything to say.
Up until two hours before I got on the train to go, I really wasn’t going. The only swivering thought in my head was the thought of getting ‘that’ call while I was so far away. After clearing my morning emails and texts, I made a pact in my head that if one more person asked me if I was going, I would go. The next text on my phone, from someone I will be eternally grateful to for that very reason, said just that and so my reply was yes, I am going.
And so I went, not knowing what to expect. when I got there surrounded by my family, not expecting him to last more than a few hours, I went and sat with my Dad. He knew you were there but was very weak. He could only squeeze your hand and all that time I had thought there was nothing more to say, it turned out there was. ‘You’ve always been my hero Dad’ I said, and he squeezed my hand. Three days later, yep you now know where I get my determination from, he left us, peacefully.
My Dad always said death was the big secret, a new journey, ‘None of us know, Kaz, none of us, the ones who do can’t tell us, it’s the biggest secret of life’ My Dad used to dance about the house alot singing, (another trait I have!) and he had this funny little dance he did when he was about to announce some important family news, or make a statement about something, and as soon as he died, that’s what I could see him doing. I don’t know why but it made it seem okay and things haven’t been too sad. He now knows the big secret and he’s on his next journey.
And so we come back to my Journey, this train ride to the family folds and the funeral, where I will stand side by side with my brothers to say a final goodbye. I have been asked to read out something I wrote for my Dad, my story telling nature coming back. As any writer knows, sitting and trying to create something it’s not always easy and then I got my thread, and out it came. It’s not sad or depressing because that wasn’t my Dad at all and he’d think we were all daft if that’s what we stood around doing. It’s a little poem of sorts about tomorrow being yours to do what you wish, and wish hard and enjoy every day as he did his. I might post it here depends if it feels right, I don’t want to gross anyone out or put them off being normal around me, my Dad had a good life, he was a lucky man, he wasn’t cut down in his prime, he was even lucky enough to have beaten cancer once before years ago, not many get to do that.
So while I wrote this little blog about a really sad time, and believe me I did question it, i’d like you to act normal around me, still tell me off for spending too much time on my phone, that kind of thing. Because i’ve never done this before and the more normal you are, the more normal I can be. My life is having a few other changes at the moment, and as well as I know how, I am rolling with them. ‘Be lucky’ was one of my Dad’s phrases and I consider myself really lucky to have known him and had him as my Dad, my hero.
ps Hugs and gingerbread lattes also willing excepted and, for some of you, returned 🙂
*only he called me it, any of you try, well…let’s just say I know a guy who keeps a pig farm……