When I talk about my childhood I really only mention about my mum – yeah okay great reason for that, he died when I was 4 years old so my life with him was very short and not when my memory was great (I had a plausible excuse – now it is just the wine that causes the memory loss!).
I do actually have 2 memories of him – one I definitely know is true the other is I think made up in my head to support the way I feel about him.
When a parent dies – it is quite common for a child to turn them into hero’s. My dad, as long as I can remember has been on a pedestal and when it came to the men in my life they were compared (unconsciously) to my hero. It was an impossible task for them to even come close as they could easily fall whereas my dad couldn’t. It is tricky competing with a ghost, so all of them of course failed. I mean don’t get me wrong – most of them were fuckwits, losers or completely unsuitable so they would have failed anyway, but….the ones that got away……..
Back to the memories – the one I do remember was our family went to our local woods and took a picnic. There was lots of eating, exploring, getting covered in mud, chatter and laughter then singing and silliness ensued. Us kids found a very large tree stump and dad lifted me up and I sang the song ‘I’m the king of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal’ to everyone (apologies if anyone can take offence to that song, you never know nowadays, what was innocent back then may have different implications now!). After singing it we would roar with laughter then my dad would sweep me off the stump and swing me to the ground. I also have a memory of the chocolate cake we had – handmade from the Sherwin kitchen – delicious! It is such a fond memory and one I am very glad I had and can treasure.
The other memory is of him walking down the steps to collect me from nursery in his pilot uniform – he was in almost silhouette and I was so excited as he was away a lot and very rarely collected me but today here he was, my handsome hero, my dad!
So, what was my dad actually like? From what I gather and letters I have read he wrote to my mum (this is clearly before email and texts) he was so kind, gentle, funny, sociable, intelligent, laid back, was an incredible artist and absolutely adored his family. He was a co-pilot training to be a pilot – fulfilling his dream. This was tough on my mum as he was away a lot on long haul flights and she was looking after 3 kids (the fourth came along just before he died) and a thriving business but she always said she did not mind as we had au pairs to help and when he did come back it was like a honeymoon over and over again – hence the amount of children :0.
I had discussed with my therapist at the time, this ‘daddy’ issue I thought I was having and that he was on a pedestal and no one could live up to him etc, etc so she said to get to know his ‘shadow side’.
So, I asked my mum one day to give me his bad points and she genuinely could not think of anything. All she could come up with at the time was that he hated being in traffic. If he saw more than 2 cars stopped ahead of him he would go another way around and usually it turned out to be the long way!!! I said to mum – is that it?????? Wow – how to take a dead guy off his pedestal! I am kidding it did not even dent his hero status – my heart melted and I loved him even more.
I do know that one of mums pain points with him that she told me years before was that before us kids came along he was pretty care free and did not apply himself much to his ambition. She had to push him a lot which I know frustrated her. As mum was so ambitious, adventurous, a doer and strong willed – quite the opposite of dad!
I have included a photograph of these postcards – this was one of the many romantic gestures he did. These postcards were painted by him and he then posted them to mum in time for Valentines day – he was a hopeless romantic…….
The biggest piece of advice which mum could give me about relationships which is oh so ironic, was never not say goodbye when walking out of the door. Even if you are so pissed off with the other person, always say goodbye – as you never know………..
They made a pact of this early on in their relationship. They had an argument and dad stormed out to go to work. Half an hour later, he turned up on the doorstep to say goodbye. He had turned around knowing he would then be late and may get into trouble. This to him was more important – from then on they never did not say goodbye!
I really wish I had known him more as he sounded like an amazing person and he would have been a fabulous dad to look up to, to turn to and protect me. I would also have different memories of mum – not her in grief or trying to hide the grief. I used to desperately hope that this was all a dream and that dad turned up randomly back in my life – I guess that only happens in Dreams or……Dallas!
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