7,300 and counting
It came as a bit of a surprise when I heard, the man I last met 16 years ago, for an hour, and I spoke to on the phone for five minutes, once a month, was dead.
I never really had a great relationship with my dad. He never beat us, didn’t drink or smoke, worked hard, put money on the table, and aside from his hobby gambling, he was okay. His philandering was the family issue, living it home, then leaving, then coming back and leaving again. I think it inspired many house moves.
The thing to understand is, even when he was home, he wasn’t. Imagine meeting a person at a party, you are chatting and they are making all the right noises to show they are listening but actually, they are just looking for someone more interesting so they can get away. That’s what it felt like with my dad. Other people, other places always seemed to be more interesting, and he always seemed to want to be somewhere else, not here, not with me or my brother.
I remember one time, it was a Sunday morning and I was getting ready for football, and so was my dad. I was unreasonably excited, my dad, was coming to watch me play football, he hardly ever did that. Except, he wasn’t. He was going to watch the son of a work colleague play football. Here but not here.
I had no real “feelings” for this cardboard cut out so what was it I was feeling? Other people thought they knew, messages of condolence, encouragement, and the proverbial “thoughts and prayers” but they all missed the mark.
It took me a couple of weeks but I got there.
I think people imagine life is like a conveyor belt, the people who get on before you fall off first. I thought life and death was a bit like one of the old Napoleonic era armies. The ones in the front, old people, take the first volley and fall. I think we can all accept this. Maybe an occasional musket ball makes it way into the rear ranks, and this unfair. Those at the back should not die before those at the front.
My grandparents in the first rank fell about 20 years ago. My dad, in the second rank, fell last month and that means … oh dear, I realised … I am on the front line.
My dad lived to nearly 83, my mum just turned 81, if I leave aside the shrapnel of life, I might be another 20 years before I take the hit.
Twenty years, 240 months, 1,043 weeks, or 7300 days. Seven Thousand Three Hundred days, that’s not-a-lot.
Last year, such thoughts might be considered morbid but COVID-19 was like cannon fire ploughing a huge 65,000 excess deaths (UK, 8th Aug. 2020). That is 65,000 people who didn’t know 2019 was their last Christmas.
Thank you, dad, after a lifetime of indifference you finally came through for me, . You reminded me that “in this box, one day you will lie”.
If I have 7,300 days, what will I do with this knowledge?
What would you do?