My Dad wasn't easy to tell. He hated attention. Not because he didn't want to be loved but because outward expressions of emotion embarrassed him. He used to say, "I know, you don't need to tell me". Among his last words to me as he lay dying in a hospice bed were, "Don't talk about that, it's boring." I had just walked in and asked him how he was.
So, I sat beside him and held his hand; no words came to me, so I simply sat there quietly with him. He closed his eyes and drifted in and out of consciousness; whether that was the morphine or the illness, I will never really know. His hand felt cold and hard; almost as if he were already dead. I knew the end was near, but never seriously thought this would be the last time I'd see him alive. What would I have said if I'd known? I really don't know. At that moment, I could only have said things I knew he didn't want me to say. Anything else would have seemed utterly inappropriate and trivial.
Instead as I sat there holding his hand, I reflected on my memories of Dad. I remembered how excited I, along with my brother and sister were every Friday evening as he always brought home little treats for us. Usually a chocolate bar or something similar. I remembered if we were naughty, Mum would utter the ultimate threat: 'Just you wait till your Father gets home!' That one always worked on us, even though he would always come in and be lovely to us all.
One day in 1963, he promised to buy each of us a record and said we could choose which one we wanted. He must have been feeling flush just then, as I believe 45 rpm singles cost around five shillings at the time. Dad was working seven days a week to make ends meet, so he didn't have spare money. Anyway, he asked which record I wanted and I asked for Del Shannon's 'Runaway'. Not bad taste for a 5 year old!
When Dad came home that night, he gravely told me he was very sorry but the record I wanted was sold out. To make up for the disappointment, he had bought me two records instead; a different Del Shannon song called 'Two Kinds of Teardrops' and another one by a new English group called The Beatles. The song was 'She Loves You' and he'd been informed by the shop assistant that it was the No1 song on what we used to call the Hit Parade that week. I remember it had a black label with the Parlophone name curled around the outside. Under the song title, the then almost unknown names of the songwriters appeared in silver italics: "Lennon-McCartney". And so began my lifelong love of The Beatles; to this day I still listen to their recordings. Thanks for that, Dad.
So, I just want to say, 'Happy Father's Day and thanks for being such a great Dad. I love you and I miss you every day. Too bad if that's embarrassing - you can't stop me now!'
I'm pretty sure he knew anyway, but it feels good to say it just in case.