Anniversaries. I’ve never really paid attention to anniversaries. Ask me when I got engaged and the only reason I’ll be able to tell you is because it was on Valentine’s Day (yes, I know it’s clichéd but that’s his doing). Ask me when our first date was and I’ll draw a blank. I’ve never organised a birthday party (for myself or anyone else) and don’t even bother asking me when any of my siblings or friends got married.
There is one anniversary, however, that I can’t forget – the first anniversary of my father’s death. My father passed away in the early hours of Sunday 29th April 2007 and as the 29th draws closer this year, I find myself affected by it more than I expected.
You see, I never got to really say goodbye. In some ways, I never even got to say hello; I had seen my father only once in the six months preceding his death. I remember my family prompting me to visit him in the week leading up to it and I put it off and put it off. I had seen him in a hospital bed many a time before and didn’t want to do it again. On Saturday 28th April at exactly 7pm, my sister called me and told me I really should visit him as he was in a bad way. She told me that visiting hours ended at 8pm so I could see him the next day after 3pm, which I decided to do.
Having agreed to visit him the next day, I still called up one of my friends and asked if he could get me to the Royal London in an hour. I remember that conversation and I remember both of us deciding that we’d miss visiting hours and that we would go the next day.
At 1.30am on Sunday morning, I got the call telling me “he’s gone”. I rushed to the Royal London, not really knowing why I was rushing. My five sisters were in various stages of breakdown but the most unnerving of all was my mother. You see, my mother has always been the steely, dispassionate and formidable matriarch of the family, but in that hospital room, she broke down exposing a vulnerability I had wanted to see all my life but never want to see again.
As I look back, a part of me thinks I handled it ok – I went back to work after one day off and yes, I did break down in tears on one occasion when a colleague asked if I was ok but in general, I managed to hide my state of disarray.
Another part of me knows that I’ll never get over it. This part tears up every time I think about what my father did for us, how hard he worked and how little he got from us in return.
This 29th April will be hard but hopefully it’ll be a little easier than the last one. And hopefully the next one will be a little easier than this one. And hopefully it’ll keep getting easier until, eventually, I can get to May without falling apart.