You may have already noted that I didn’t give this post the title ‘Happy Father’s Day’; you’d be right in thinking that was deliberate. I didn’t have a good relationship with my Dad for most of my life, in all honesty.
I lost him in December 2014; he died after a painful battle with lung cancer that absolutely destroyed him, physically and mentally. He hid himself away for a while at the end, with very few people knowing the extent to which his illness had on him – when I saw him for the last time, a few days before he passed away, he weighed 4 stone (around 56lb, depending on which measurement you use). He was always pretty slight, but never before to that extreme. He was emaciated and frail; a shadow of his former self. It was heartbreaking.
The fact that he hid himself away and didn’t reach out to anyone was fairly typical; even during times when he wasn’t ill, he did the same thing – from around 1997-2007, I didn’t see him once. A whole decade passed without him trying to get in touch with me at all.
There are numerous reasons why he was a hard man to like, let alone love, but today – maybe just for today, of all days – I’d rather share a story of a really happy memory I have of him. This memory is an incredibly vivid one, despite the fact that I was only 5 years old at the time.
So, this is one of the happiest memories of my childhood – and perhaps the happiest memory I have of my Dad; it relates to a magazine that I had my heart set on as a kid. In 1982, a new magazine had been advertised on TV called ‘Storyteller’; it was a fortnightly collection of stories with an audio tape attached, which featured that issue’s stories being read. This type of magazine was a relatively new thing back then and the cost remained relatively stable (not like now, with the first issue being ridiculously cheap and subsequent issues upping the price spectacularly).
The day the first issue came out, it was a lovely, bright morning. I recall Dad waking me and saying “Good Morning, Sunbeam!” – until I was an adult, it hadn’t dawned on me that this was a very sweet thing to call your child, and he called me Sunbeam even into adulthood – then sitting on the edge of my bed. He smiled and reached into his pocket, pulling out a one pound note. He spoke to me about the magazine that he knew I was so excited about, and he placed the one pound note in the pocket of my pyjama top. It was an incredibly happy moment tempered only by the fact that the magazine cost £1.95 when we got to the newsagents!
My heart sank. Thankfully, perhaps sensing my disappointment (and knowing how much it meant to me), I did get the extra 95p from him – right then and there – to cover the cost and went home totally ecstatic. I collected the entire run of the magazine – my love of reading has endured to this day and part of the credit should go to my fortnightly dose of new stories to read and listen to.
Perhaps that’s one of the earliest influences on me as a writer, too. Who knows – perhaps without it, I wouldn’t be here writing this now; nor would you, of course, be reading it.
I’ve written an awful lot more about the relationship I had with my Dad; about his life and the way he impacted mine, either through being around or not being around at all and perhaps, one day – like the extra chapters of my fiction that I’ve said may well come when I’m comfortable to share them – I’ll be ok to share these, to open up and let everyone read about my life. All 30,000 words of it that I’ve managed to write so far.
Today, however, is not that day. Today is a day to remember that bright morning, being woken up by a then-doting father who addressed me as his Sunbeam. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
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