A decade later.
I don’t know what the aim of this piece is, I think it’s more therapeutic to me rather than having a purpose as a written blog piece, but at the same time I’d like it to be relatable. So here goes, if you want to take a little interest in my life, or if you’re just really nosy, or if you’re reading this hoping that there is something in it that will make you feel not alone, then enjoy it.
I’ve always focused on March 5th for the past 9 years as being the date my dad passed away. I’d never really thought that much about the week leading up to it until it recently dawned on me that, the date he was taken into hospital, the evening of February 26th, holds more significance to me as that would be the last time, unbeknown to little 12-year-old me, that I’d see him conscious and have a conversation with my dad.
I came into 2018 knowing it was likely to be a tough year, but at the same time, I had no idea what I would feel, if at all. I can say now that I’m pretty sure I’ve felt more grief and anger in the last couple of months leading up to the dreaded anniversary date than I felt at the time. Maybe I’ve just numbed and locked up what I felt back then, but the older I get, the hobbies, passions and work path that I head down, I can’t help but feel a mixture of anger, resentment, sadness and bitter sweetness that he is not here to enjoy it with my mum and I.
A little background about the silly hero that was my dad, he was a professional pianist, playing with a number of big bands back in the 80s and 90s and managing to get himself recorded in a song or two. He was a drama, music and English teacher. Many a night were spent in the kitchen with my mum and dad doing drama “improv nights” and being silly, all sharing a love for comedy such as Monty Python and even better yet Tommy Cooper, or rather my dads impression of Tommy. He was a lover of literature. A lover of music, who like myself, was partial to everything from Mozart to Marilyn Manson, where I would spend countless evenings jumping on my mums bed (sorry mum) to Marilyn Mansons “Beautiful People” whilst screaming along to the lyrics with my dad, or twirling around singing “Man, I feel like a woman.”
He loved animals, and was an avid dog lover (if anyone has seen my Instagram story they will know that I too, have a borderline obsession with doggos.) I remember him teaching to me to ride a bike, which as it turns out has been foundational for my love of mountain biking. I don’t think either of us could have foreseen how much of an influence those days around Singleton park taking the stabilisers off would have been, and that I’d end up hiking up mountains to take photos of bikes. My earliest memories on two wheels would be on the back of my mums bike going along Mumbles Promenade, as both my mum and dad were also lovers of bikes (albeit roadie wheels, sssshhh).
These thoughts have been swirling around for a fair few months in the lead up to this anniversary, but today they came to a forefront as I was driving back home. After having an incredible weekend photographing the Winters End Festival for Planet Rock, I think to how much, how fucking much he would have loved to have been there. How much my mum would have loved to have shared another live music experience with him again, and how much (I’d like to think anyway) he’d be stoked that his daughter had not only followed in his musical footsteps, but had a job photographing bands he loved and would have loved if he was here to hear them.
It absolutely pains me to think that he doesn’t and will never know the person I’ve become, both from his and my mums influence.
My first proper use of describing something as bittersweet was when I had my first proper physical writing piece published (massive shout out here to Olly at Sender Magazine for the opportunity). I got the magazine through the door, flicked through to see my piece in real life, infront of me in my hands. I was absolutely thrilled, yet one of my first thoughts was how i’d never be able to share this with my english teacher and literature loving dad. How I’d love nothing more than to head over to a house with my mum and dad there and show them.
As a lover of rock music, listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and hearing him spend countless evenings attempting to play the riff from Deep Purples “Smoke on the Water”, I can’t help but feel that he’s missing out on so much music, and more specifically Rival Sons. As people who know me would (and should) know, I’m incredibly passionate (yes, passionate is just a nicer way to put obsessed) with Rival Sons, something about them and their music just resonates with me. I can’t help but think how much he would have fricking loved them, or at least love how much I love them. It makes me so frustrated to think how he wasn’t here to head out on Deep Purples recent tour where Rival Sons supported them, and how much of an amazing gig that would have been for him, my mum and myself to go to and experience.
On my drive home, my thoughts got a little out of control and carried away with reminiscing and nostalgia, thinking back to 10 years ago and how in that time my entire family dynamic has changed. Since my dad passed, soon followed my Nan just a month later (who was like a 2nd mother to me), then followed by my grandmother in 2014 (dads side) and grandfather 2016 (dads side). In the midst of all this, let’s be honest, absolute shit storm that went down since I was 12, the real hero and idol for me has been my Mum. Some of you may have met her (god help you), or heard of her through funny stories about how her life should be made into a comedy sketch that should be called “it would only happen to me”, and some of you may have no idea who she is at all, but regardless of what you know of her, she’s a legend. 2 years after the shitstorm began in 2008 (where from her perspective she lost a partner and mother in the space of a month), my mum was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, went through chemo and eye watering bone marrow tests, she re-found her love for wind street and re-lived her 20s like an absolute legend whilst battling lymphoma and even more amazing yet, she looked after me as a single mum and was always there for me.
What I’ve learnt
It doesn’t get any easier, you just get waves of emotions. You’ll smirk a little when you see something that reminds you of them because you’ve know, as cliché as it sounds, they would not want you to be sad, they’d want you to push and go further than they ever did.
I’ve learnt that I’m not always ok with what has happened in the past decade, and that is ok.
I’ve learnt that it’s an incredibly odd feeling when you can feel completely lonely and isolated, but also not at the same time. By that I mean emotionally lonely. When you feel you’ve got no one to turn to, no one to confide in, and no one to relate to. But it is in moments like these, if you’ve ever lost someone you can always turn to their memory and try and imagine what they’d be saying if they were there with you. You’ll always have their little voice in the back of your mind, sometimes it cheers you up, and sometimes that voice is a heart-breaking reminder that they are no longer there for real.
I’ve got plenty of memories that can make me feel sad about all this shit, but at the same time, I’ve got plenty more of the happy little moments and memories that I will cherish forever.
“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” Banksy