A decade. The way it rounds up in my mouth as I say it, seems far too clean a manner with which to describe the sheer void that it implies. Ten whole years without you, that have seemed to flit right by, like some sort of exuberant insect with wings.
When I think about it, you’ve missed some really good stuff. The best stuff, perhaps. Not to belittle the childhood of me, but the adulthood, I’m finding… is where I think you would’ve enjoyed the most. All the parts that have been hard work and tremendous…and the sections that have been simple and sweet.
Then there’s also been the stuff that has made me mutter ‘I’m glad you’re not here to see this’. The little parts or news stories that made me burrow my chin into my chest and go ‘nobody should have to deal with this, and I’m glad you’re not here to.’
But that’s not about this. This is about what it feels like to not have had my dad for a full decade.
No annoying phone calls, no fights, no disagreements over me pushing the boundaries. No foot-stomping at each other. Nobody to fight with me over my work – and demand to edit me before I hit ‘send’. Nobody to tell me in simple terms over tea at 3am, that I’m totally full of rubbish and need to wind my neck in. I need that sometimes, and you were the best person to lay it all out for me. I have needed that level of perspective that swarmed out of love for me, so very often. It is a cruel relief that I have had to learn to do it for myself. But it wasn’t without a bunch of learning that you and I both never wanted me to have to do.
This is about how it feels to not have you to whine to, or worry with. That’s the thing about our family – we don’t worry alone. We eat, we plan and then we worry. It’s something so delicately imbued into the very nature of our life operations that… the moment there’s something to worry about, I instantly think “what should we eat?”
You’ve not met my dog. As pathetic as that sounds, you would’ve loved his exuberant yet gentle (at his convenience) nature. You would’ve had him paced in five minutes, and he’d have curled up next to you like a fluffy puppy, just waiting to be preened. You always had that way with animals, and I wonder if Pingo and all the others are with you now.
You’ve not been here to see me living in my dream homes, nor in the not so dream homes. I’ve done my tax returns without you. I’ve navigated relationships with my bank manager without you (although, to be fair, someone once helped me at the bank, because I mentioned your name and she remembered you with fondness… possibly the only time I’ve ever been able to play the ‘my dad’ card… you’d never have let me get away with it were you alive). I have drawn up and negotiated contracts and signed forms and done all these adult things… to the point where people come to me to help them with all these adult things. That used to be your job, Dad. But where does the shoemaker send her shoes to be fixed? I am that shoemaker now, and sometimes, I do just want you to fix my shoes.
Your grandchildren have grown up. To them, you are a picture on a wall, or shared over the wires. You are an actor in our storylines (and oh my word how much I just know you love that), a page in their books. You’re a listing on their family tree school projects. But the legacy of you is so much more than the Pritt-Sticked-Bio we put together. They do know that, I promise you. They know of the texture of you, and I’ve shown them where they look like you, or how your resemblance shines in an expression that passes over their faces.
But it is in my parenting that I find you, just like how I discover my mother within my own voice. The first time my kid tells a joke she thought up herself, or blurts out a rhyme…I hope you can hear that. I hope so much that you can see. She has your toes, and that funny little gap in her teeth like you too.
You left at the precipice of what I like to think was the explosion of the Internet. Almost every time I log on, think up some pithy status update, or click ‘like’ on some hilarious meme, I wonder how you would’ve responded to this gigantic online world. I’m almost certain you’d have immersed yourself in it like I have. Like you’d be there with me, and we’d tag each other in tweets. Oh my god I wish I could tag you in my tweets.
But you are no longer here. For a decade, you have not been here. I find myself yelling at people in my head to love their parents, and soak up the times where they drive them round the bend. To love every second, even the hard ones. But I know that not everyone had my Dadadadad, so it’s difficult for me to reconcile my longing for you, with his or her legitimate incapability to love the moments that will be gone too soon.
I am forever a part of you, but for ten years now, I have been apart from you. And somewhere, in the recesses of my memories, you’re stoking a winter fire in our fireplace, and doing the word puzzle with mom. You’re doing what was called pulling the drain in our house (something I just learnt how to do, yesterday, myself, on my own. Thanks to Google. I’d rather have called you, Dadadadad). You’re writing and bashing the keyboard just like I do (I learnt this from you. I cannot unlearn it). You’re asking if the kettle is broken, and you’re walking down the passageway singing.
You are still strong and building things that work, but you have to fiddle with them – Jenkin jobs (they say that women end up choosing men who are similar to their fathers. Oh how I wish you’d met P. In this respect, he is so like you, it’s frightening. There are other characteristics. Sometimes I think you sent him. I’ll never really know).
You are a light that never goes out, Dadadadad, even though you’re ten years away.
I miss you forever.