Last week it was the fourth anniversary of when my fabulous father died and we all miss his calm, kind presence in our lives. Time plays tricks on us as it is hard to believe that it was really four years ago that my Mum, sister and I camped out in his hospital room, surrounding his bed, all wanting to be there when the end came. It was a very special time for our family as we each supported each other and oddly enough, we laughed together there as much as we cried. It was the longest time in his life that I have been apart from Joshua but there was nowhere else that I wanted to be at that time.
Joshua was born on my Dad’s 64th birthday and so they always shared a special link and we enjoyed many shared brilliant birthday parties together. On the day that Joshua was born, my parents appeared to support us and stayed at home with my husband, while I stayed in Special Care with baby Joshua. Once we were discharged, My Dad went back home, leaving Mum to help out with our new arrival for a few more days. They both put thier own lives on hold to care for our new family. Dad was always in the background, often lending practical help and his love for his only grandson was never in doubt and there was nothing that he would not have done for Joshua.
Sadly, when Joshua was just five years old, Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia and gradually we began to lose the man that we knew and loved. The disease began slowly at first and at one stage, Joshua and Dad were similar in their care needs. Throughout his illness Dad was fortunate enough to live at home and to be well cared for by my Mum, even when he was no longer mobile and so the front room downstairs was converted into his bedroom and she got equipment to make him comfortable and to make caring for him more manageable. Caring is a demanding and relentless role and Mum was incredible with how well she managed , for as long as she did. They developed a rigid regular routine to daily life that worked for them both.
I enjoyed the few rare occasions when we persuaded Mum to go away for a break and between us we covered Mum’s role as I wanted to repay the care and support that Dad had given me for so many years. Early on in his disease he came and stayed at our house, while Mum went to the Lake District with her sisters. I tried to engage him in gardening tasks as that is what the old Dad would have enjoyed, but that interest and skill left him early on and he would dig up plants, rather than planting. In the end, I resorted to feeding him as eating made him happiest. Once he was housebound, I remember staying with him, alternating with my sister and my Aunts, and we covered a few days between us, for Mum to enjoy a rare break and it was a special time when I talked to my father a lot, I read to him and shared family photo albums with him. Dad ate a bowl of oats every morning for breakfast and I decided that he might be bored of the same breakfast every day and so I thought that I would mix it up a bit, so I converted the same ingredients into porridge, but he was clearly not impressed.
There is a dad-shaped hole in our family although, of course, we are all carrying on without him in our lives. I am sad to think that he did not get to see how his two gorgeous grandchildren are turning out , but they were both very lucky to have him around when they were younger and to spend quality time with them, so I am grateful for that.