PARENTS

Father's Day: 'My Dad Died When I Was 11; I Relish Every Day I Have With My Children'

28/05/2012 11:01 | Updated 22 May 2015
Father's Day: 'My dad died when I was 11; I relish every day I have with my children'Josie Golden (in red) with her dad and sisters

My life changed irrevocably one dark November morning in the seventies. I was woken at 6am by the sound of my mother on the telephone, calmly asking for an ambulance, but telling the operator that she thought her husband was dead.

He was. My father had died in his sleep following a heart attack. And that was it. I had gone to bed the previous night with two parents – I awoke with one. I was 11.

And so in the click of a finger life as I had known it, changed. And whilst there is still hardly a day goes by that the thought of him doesn't pop into my head, as Father's Day approaches (whether you love or loathe it) a person bereaved of a parent cannot help but think of them a bit more.

Father's Day: 'My dad died when I was 11; I relish every day I have with my children'Josie (the youngest) and her family before her father's death

I'm sure losing my dad at such an early age has changed me as a person and that perhaps I grew up a different character to the one I might have been.

This is neither "good" nor "bad" – just the way it is.

Certainly I know I had to grow up rather more quickly and take on more responsibility.

Certainly I know I worry often about my children losing a parent early, and always try and make sure we part on good terms whenever they are going to be away – many is the time I have run back for one more kiss or cuddle, one more ruffle of the hair (usually to their annoyance and embarrassment). I tell my children often that I love them. I know my dad loved me – as he loved all his children. But we were never a family back then for telling each other we loved them. If my dear Mum popped her clogs tomorrow, she - and I – know we love each other. End of.

But it's not all doom and gloom – far from it. Every year, near the anniversary of his death, we have a family party to celebrate his life – anyone who can: daughters, husbands, children, go back to the family home for wine and laughter. We sing the songs our dad loved to hear as we set off for our annual holiday to Ireland at four in the morning. We gently chide our mother that he was good because "only the good die young" and she is clearly bad – still here at 86 and widowed longer than she was married – that's some record. And every single year we raise his pedestal higher, much to Mum's mock anger, and we bore all our children rigid with stories of their Granddad.

"Not again," they will plead, as we fall about laughing helplessly over the time he did an Elvis Presley impersonation as we holidayed by the sea and heard the shocking news that "the King" was dead. Or the time he stopped to ask a hitchhiker the way to the town both the hopeful traveller, and us, were heading for. Directions gained, Dad wound up his window and drove off.

Pictures of Dad adorn all our homes – not in a mawkish way, after all you can't take the Adams family, as we all seem to look back then, in any way other than with a huge pinch of salt. And we talk about him often – especially on all those occasions he has missed out on – passing important exams and driving tests, graduations, first jobs, weddings, the birth of numerous grandchildren. The list is endless.

But there you have it. Some things you can't change. All I do know is that I relish every day with my children and in some small way that is homage enough to my Dad – who was, of course, the best in the world.

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