When my dad passed away I did my level best to keep things together and this meant never outwardly showing any emotion about the situation. In short, I maintained the great British stiff upper lip and saved my feelings for when I was alone on the bike, riding along the 269 having bade farewell to Andy.
It was a strange time and was made worse by the fact that I knew dad was on the way out – it wasn't a sudden death, but equally it wasn't a long and drawn out affair either. I remember taking him to the hospital on a Sunday, hopeful that things would be sorted out, and a week later he was gone – I missed his actual passing away by minutes and to this day I'll always remember the sensation of rubbing his forearm, his body still warm, and not seeing him again until the heartbreaking moment in a local chapel of rest when my mum, on seeing the man she had shared her life with lying there, peacefully, but nevertheless not of this world, broke down.
In all honesty I didn't know what to think. Either way the most dreadful thing imaginable had happened and there was no going back. Everybody would simply have to deal with it and, in retrospect, I think we all dealt with it in a perfectly respectable manner.
When somebody passes away – I mean when somebody close like your dad passes away – all is not really lost. I am firmly of the opinion that in some way we all do carry on; something gets transferred and I often find myself feeling that, for some reason, I'm talking like dad, using one of his expressions, or in some way looking like him. I've seen many a photograph on this blog where, when I see myself, I see my dad and even now, writing this, I feel as if a part of him has transferred to me – that urge to write something down. Had dad been of the generation that embraces technology he too would have had a blog and he, like me, would have recorded silly things like hotel bedrooms and views from hotel room windows. In that sense I've taken on his tenacity.
There are so many things in which to find solace, be it a book or a piece of music, or simply mowing the lawn. Dad loved his garden and I think it's something he's magically transferred to me as I now enjoy being 'out there' tidying things up and moving away from my age old argument that puts forward the notion of 'the futility of gardening'. Dad used to tell me that my garden was my gym, I didn't need anything else and while I would still disagree about not needing anything else (I couldn't give up the cycling) I know what he means about gardening and exercise and I feel duty bound to keep my garden under control.
In the weeks leading up to my dad's demise, I had a small bonfire at the top of the garden. Like dad might have done, I made a kiln of sorts out of some spare bricks and then set about burning a few twigs of an evening. There's something primeval about fire. I could sit in front of glowing embers forever and a day and would make do with a candle if need be. The other day I noticed that the parched patch of ground where the kiln had once blazed was still visible – just – and those memories of taking dad to the GP a week prior to that final ride to the hospital flooded back to me. Despite the dire nature of his predicament – of which he was blissfully unaware – he still managed to joke with those waiting to see the doctor about something or other, I can't remember exactly what.
I try not to think about my own mortality. I prefer to rely upon the phrase 'I am me and this is now' in direct appeal to the magical 'here and now' and the fact – the reality – that we all live in the moment, in the immediate present, always on the edge of the future, the edge of time no less, but never, ever getting there, a bit like that scene in The Wrong Trousers when Gromit, sitting on the locomotive, throws down the track ahead of the train, thereby creating reality as he goes along, or like Jory Miller, the 12-year-old boy in Philip K Dick's UBIK who, living in a state of 'chill half life' creates reality for other people by imagining what they might expect to see as they walk along a street or drive along the freeway. Perhaps that's how it is – we're all creating our reality as we go along and none of it really exists until we get there.
The other day I was trying to work out what might be the best album and the best album track in the world. I came to the conclusion that it had to be Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and the track Time, which, in my opinion, sums it all up to a tee. Here's the lyrics in full:-
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over
Thought I'd something more to say...