The middle of October marked fifteen years since my lovely Dad died. He died very suddenly, which in many ways was easier for my ten year old’s mind to understand than it is now – he was there in the morning, I went to school, and he was gone when I came home. It was a matter of fact that I would tell people as soon as I met new friends in school, an explanation to avoid questions later.
While it has taught me the expected, that life is too short and that you need to do all that you can to make it worthwhile, it’s also brought with it other lessons. I have learned that a child of ten goes through the same stages of grief as an adult of forty, and that the two can find ways to help each other if they’re left to. I have learned that kids are more resilient than we think. I have learned that people can come through huge amounts of pain and loss, and still manage to find happiness. My mum has shown me that they can do it gracefully. My sisters have shown me that it’s possible to do it without killing each other during your teenage years. And I’d like to think I have shown my friends that while there are hard days and dark days, there are also normal days, and you still want to laugh and dance and sing your heart out at karaoke like everyone else.
I miss him in different ways now to when I was younger. I don’t find myself imagining a whole other life for us anymore, playing make believe under the covers with a torch. But I do find myself wondering what he would look like had he had the chance to keep going grey, what he would make of my life now, and how he would get on with S and his family. I think he would be completely grey by now, and probably a little rounder too. I think he’d be slightly bewildered at the way my life has turned out, but delighted to come and visit London, and proud that he passed on his love of politics and all that goes with it. I know he would joke that I was never allowed to get married and that he would send all his English friends to keep guard outside the flat to make sure there were no boys inside, even with S living here.
I don’t know how the ins and outs of the last fifteen years would have unfolded, though I have a feeling they would have had as much laughter, Sunday walks on the beach and good food eaten as a family as those that came before. Regardless of how things would have been, or how they will be, grief as a child has shown me that happiness isn’t dependent on having your entire family beside you, your hopes and dreams wrapped up in their lives. It’s taught me that you walk the line every day between grief and joy. Some days you’re closer to one, and some days you’re closer to the other. It’s taught me that that’s ok.