Biscuits and cake

Dad would have been 79 today. Some of you will be thinking ‘that’s a good age’. Compared to some, it absolutely is. Dad lived long enough to see his six children married and meet his eleven grandchildren.

Of course, it’s not long enough for me. I wish no one ill-will but it has crossed my mind on more than one occasion, when looking at other healthy – and admittedly – elderly people, that it’s just not fair. I’m 38 and I have lost my Dad. My youngest son, who is still trying to understand death, said the other day that he misses his grandad. “He gave me biscuits.” My dad would have laughed at that – he often laughed at things my son said and did, even when he was poorly, but it’s sad that that will be the enduring memory my son will have. He’s only four, I know.

Thoughts of my Dad have been all encompassing this week, probably in anticipation for today. I’ve searched through photo albums for pictures of him. I could only find birthday pictures of him from 2015 which was really upsetting until I realised that it was because I had usually made his birthday cake so I would be the one holding it as he blew out the candles.

Dad looks well in the picture. Four years ago, in 2015, he had been diagnosed with cancer but had already had his operation to remove part of his lung. His COPD was being controlled, he was still relatively active and he hadn’t yet been diagnosed with prostrate cancer.

Looking at those birthday photos and then of the last photos I took of him before he died, I’m glad he didn’t reach 79. My Dad was a very poorly, frail man in the end. He was unhappy and frustrated. Part of him gave up and I don’t blame him for that. He had no choice – his body was giving up on him.

Tonight, just as he would have wanted, my sisters were here. We had food and I bought chocolate cake, just like Dad would always ask for. Then in the dark and snow, by torch light, my sisters and I walked to Dad’s garden. This is what we made after Dad’s death and we feel close to him there, in the place where he has lived for over 50 years; on the land he had ploughed and sowed and loved; in the flower garden we planted in love and grief. By torch light we toasted him with champagne. We said Happy Birthday and told him we love him. We cried and laughed at memories of things he always said on his birthday.

I still can’t believe that my Dad is gone. I can’t accept that I won’t see him again – a part of me still thinks that this will all end.

Cherish the ones you love. Appreciate them when they are well. Take lots of photos. Make memories and traditions. Because when they’re gone, this is what they leave behind.

I’m lucky to have had such an amazing Dad for 38 years. I’m lucky to have so many happy memories and treasured traditions from my life with him. This is why I love, and miss, him so much.

Happy Birthday Dad. Xxx

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