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That Time of Year – Again!

That Time of Year – Again!

It’s that time of year again, that time when I’ll find myself in Poundland at 5.25 on the 24th. Dec wondering “What would my nearest and dearest like for Christmas?” closely followed by “Why have I left it so late, again?” which brings on the beating-up about all the things I’ve left undone in the year, (like this column for example) and proceeds catastrophically to get in the way of productive present buying.


But this year, as I’m writing this with a good 4 weeks to go, it might be different. I might make amends and source the perfect present, a small way of showing true care and love because I’ve brutally stared in the face of real catastrophe of leaving things undone and not being able, ever, to make amends.


Whenever I spoke to my dad we’d always say “I love you”, but we didn’t speak that often. He split up from my mum when I was small and through a slightly catastrophic career with various women ended up living in Cornwall, a place that was dear to his heart. I knew he was ill, but not how ill and so when he’d ask “When are you coming to see me?” some time in the future always seemed fine. Until one day the hospital rang and there was no future.


I went to see him and said goodbye and “I love you, Dad” and he said..”blugh rrrel blgreorul blwerer”


I said “Oh Dad I’m sorry I don’t understand.” He looked a bit annoyed, behind the oxygen mask and tubes. It was a huge effort for him to speak at all. He pulled himself up a bit, and said emphatically: “blgrhw grvll ughrw blwere.”


“Oh, God, Sorry Dad. I still don’t get what you’re saying’.


“blgrhw grvll ughrw blwere.”  He repeated loud and clearly as he could, before lying back down exhausted by the huge effort.


“ Erm, OK”.


I understood on the long drive home, that of course he was saying what he always replied: “I love you too’. It wasn’t quite the last thing he said to me as he rallied the next week and I thought he’d be leaving the hospital upright. And I’d thankfully have the chance to make amends for my oh so busy life and excuses for not making the trip to see him.


But his respite was brief and he left feet first. I fell into a vortex of shock and sorrow that knocked me for six.


And then for one reason and another with just a day to clear out his flat, an antiques man came and brought a load of stuff cheaply that I really hadn’t meant to sell.  I’d wanted to find out more about the things that my dad had collected, the coins, the books, the gold, the fob watches, the books, the military memorabilia to feel close to my dad, to know about the things that he had known about because his collecting wasn’t something we’d talked about much. I’d envisaged a sort of mini personal Antiques Roadshow scenario, through which I could build a 3’d image of my dad, colour in the gaps of the childish drawing that was him and his life in my mind.


I rang Chris the antiques man and asked him not to sell my dad’s things. Could we just go back on our deal?  Then I had to go away and he sold them. And I’m left with the horrible gnawing feeling that I have dishonoured my father and that Chris has somehow run off with him. He’s been stolen from me again. (The first time was when he left home when I was a child).


Irrational, I know. But hard to get over. And as always with these things, it’s a wake up call to get on and over yourself, to communicate with the living, with friends and family who are still at the end of a phone: who can still be met for lunch or dinner, a day out or a weekend away. Because at the end of the day, it’s not how much or what we own that really, really matters, but how much we have loved and been able to show it.


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