As of today, I have passed a sad, and unwanted, milestone. At the age of 41 years, 9 months, and 26 days, I have become older than my father was when he died.
I was eleven when he passed away, just a month shy of my twelfth birthday. However, I was probably only ten when he was first diagnosed with cancer, a brain tumour. In many ways, I think we lost the person we knew and loved several months before he actually died. Brain tumours can cause so many different symptoms depending on their location. Increased headaches. Confusion. Memory loss. These were all symptoms which affected him in the early stages...but even then he was still our dad. He could still function on his own, he still knew who we were, and he could still hold conversations with us. This would all change.
In the summer before he passed away, it was decided that it would be better for me to spend some time away from everything. My two elder brothers — three and six years older than me — were better equipped to deal with what was happening, and remained at home. I spent that summer break from school — what seemed like an eternity when you are eleven — staying with two of my aunts. It was during this time that I was told that my father was not going to make it. I can't remember whether I had already reached this conclusion for myself. Probably not.
Returning home I was shocked to see how much his condition had deteriorated. He could no longer speak, but what hit me the hardest was that he no longer seemed to recognize anyone. I don't think there is anything that could have ever prepared me for that day. To an eleven year old boy, it made no sense at all. He was my dad but he no longer knew me. As summer drew to a close, so did my dad's fight against the cancer. Despite the immediate sadness at losing him, I think we were all glad that he was no longer suffering.
On the one hand, I am grateful that my memories of my father are all good ones. It's possible that I could be looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses, but I don't think so. I can't recall him ever being angry with us, or disappointing us in any way. What more could you ask for? But at the same time these memories are the memories of a child. I'm jealous of my brothers. Not just because they have more years of memories, but because those memories were from a time when they were able to not just talk with him, but converse and more fully interact with him.
As today's date has approached, I have been surprised by how many feelings it has stirred up from the deep. It has made me reevaluate many aspects of my life. I have only just become a father — of a wonderful 5 month old boy — yet my dad had already helped raise three kids by the time he was my age. It has made me think about the preciousness of life and about how we only have so much time on this planet to do the things we want to do.
I'm sad when I think that my dad never got to see how we all turned out — I like to think that he'd be happy with what we have all made of our lives. I'm sad that he never got to see his four grandchildren, and that they will only have passed on memories by which to know him. I'm sad that I never got to discuss 'grown up' things with him, such as talking about politics or even football (he was a huge Arsenal fan). But mostly I'm sad because I miss him.
Love you dad.