Tag Archives: Father’s Day

If You Were Still Here …

dadFather’s Day has always been difficult for me.

Dad died aged 35 a couple of months before my 5th birthday, from complications arising from his MS.

I don’t have clear memories of him, just a few snapshots in my mind, but I do remember the day he died.

I waved him off to heaven from a window, still wondering whether the bottle of medicine I had dropped by accident had anything to do with him leaving. I remember feeling desperate rage at whoever had taken him and wouldn’t give him back.

As I grew up, the concept of MS receded into the background; I simply regarded it as an illness  that could make people end up in wheelchairs, like my dad. I studied photographs of him, tracing his life from bright-eyed optimism to darker ones of him slumped in his chair. The difference was shocking and incomprehensible. I filed MS away in my mind.

Every year throughout primary school, the week leading up to Father’s Day was torturous. I would have to tell the teacher I couldn’t make the card, the gift. I was given other projects to do, seething with envy as my classmates spent hours chatting about their dads while they cut out bits of coloured paper.

One year, we had to draw a picture of our family. I don’t know why but I had a sense of overwhelming shame that I couldn’t put my dad at the beginning of the line of people. Instead, I drew my brother standing on a large rock, followed by my mum and then us, in the hope that as the teacher glanced at is, she would assume the figure was my dad.

Throughout my angst-ridden teenage years, my outrage against the whole world at the loss of my dad led me to backpack to Norway for six weeks after my GCSE’s in a bid to trace one line of my dad’s origins. It would take another six years before I accomplished this, but during that trip I felt more connected to my dad than ever before.

As I got older and life opened up, it was the major events that I missed him the most – my wedding day, when I gave birth to his grandchild. I couldn’t help but wonder what he would say, would he be proud of me, what would he look like.

And then, MS happened. I was 37. Suddenly, I needed him more than ever. He would be the only person who would completely understand the confusion, the anger and the fear. I hated him and I loved him. I hated him for not being here and I loved him more as I now had an inkling of what he had gone through.

I felt incredible, overpowering sadness that he was born a few decades too early to have access to the treatment I now have. There were no MS nurses, no DMT’s and no real understanding of this illness. It was termed ‘creeping paralysis’ when he was diagnosed back in 1970.

From the stories I hear, my dad was a determined and wilful person, with a vibrant and somewhat unconventional personality. If he was still here, I would love for him to be proud of me and how I live my life despite MS.

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My Life As A Half-Orphan

Father's DayDadExcuse the sensationalist title.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day, that one day in the year I dread/look forward to in equal measure.

My dad died a few months before my 5th birthday as a result of complications arising from his MS – the biggest complication being that he had MS in the 1970’s.

No MRI’s, no DMD’s. The first picture is of me at nursery before he died. That dress! And I still bite my lip.

Anyway, I first became aware of Father’s Day when the kindly folk at Social Services held a party for all us peeps who had lost a parent (careless). Being told at every juncture that this was for our benefit as we were poor, deprived children who couldn’t hope for much in life put paid to that and I left, humiliated and confused.

In primary school, I dreaded Father’s Day. We were told year in, year out, to draw our family. In Year 5, I drew my older brother standing on a rock, so he looked taller than the rest of us. If the teacher squinted, she could perhaps think he was my dad, as I placed him before my mum. I was embarrassed. Divorce was unusual, the death of a parent was non-existent.

In Year 6, I was called forward to the teacher’s desk on the first day of term and asked about my dad. Must have been a marked-point in the register. I replied (in front of the entire class) ‘Yes, he’s dead, can I go back to my seat now?’

Fast forward a good few years to my wedding day. A mixed blessing. I missed my dad. Fast forward some more years and I come to the whole MS palaver. I got his eyes, I got his MS. I hope I got his cheeky sense of humour too.

I’ve cobbled together tales I’ve learned about him – how he hung out tea-bags to dry on his sister’s washing line to wind her up in front of her neighbours, how he sat before a glass of water in a pub for so long, when people came up to him and asked him what he was doing, he told them he was waiting it to turn to wine. Gentle humour, but it makes me smile.

Now, I don’t feel so sad. He was 35 when he died, I’m now 40. He really does live on – in my son, with his cheeky grin and knowing look. I just wish he had the chance to meet his grandchild.

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