When my Dad passed away in 2015, it pretty much broke me (as I’ve written about here on Bloom before, if you fancy a cry for the rest of the afternoon.) I feel as if I never really concluded that article, but 6 years on from the event, I can begin to look back on it with a little bit of perspective and think about the relationship we have with our parents long after they’re gone.
George Harrison’s son, Dhani, summed that relationship up well when he described a dream he had some years after the former’s death from cancer. Meeting him in the dream, Dhani asked his father “Where have you been?” only to be greeted with the reply “I’ve been here the whole time.”
That certainly sums up the way I feel about it. I get asked why I don’t cry more, why I’m not more emotional about it. Well, I am. I may not be externalising it at any given point, but a human being never wants to give up their parent. Even if they’ve lived a long and fulfilled life and are dying comfortably, without illness, surrounded by family. My Dad didn’t have that luxury and I will always regret the things we never got to do. I was too young to really take on any of his skills working on cars, we barely played any music together, we never got to do something as banal as go to the pub for a pint. It hurts when I interact with other families, however pleasant and welcoming they may be, because it reminds me of something I’ll never have again.
Of course, he wasn’t a perfect person. Sure, maybe the fact that he’s gone has made me a little blind to some of his faults. But however much I want to talk to him, to hear his voice again or for him to be in the passenger seat as I’m driving along, when I look back at things I’ve done I realise his influence has always been with me. And sure, it hurts that he isn’t here and you get emotional if you see something of his that’s been buried anonymously in a cupboard for years and he would never logically miss. But the more I think about it, the more I can feel him over my shoulder when I need it. Sorry Dad, I know you’d cringe if you were reading this.
A person doesn’t just leave behind their personal effects. Those objects, the way they look, the way they smell, are indicative of that person. Before my father died, his guitars were his guitars and I rarely went near them for fear of a characteristic (but fair!) bollocking. Yet, it feels like only days after he was gone that I picked them up and it was the single thing that motivated me to push my occasional hobby of playing the drums into something resembling a music career after I left school. Maybe I never achieved our collective dream of being a genre-defining rock star signed to EMI before we turned 18, but I made some of my best friends through that sequence of events in my life. And I just wanted to say thanks, Dad, because it felt like you gave me that push.
Even when he felt he didn’t have long left, he was driving me from Preston to Warwickshire just so we could look at the outside of a Jaguar factory and see the first Range Rover ever made. At 15, he was getting me up at 7 o’clock so we could go and drive his Ford Mondeo around Preston car parks in case he never got the opportunity to teach me to drive when I turned 17. And when he was gone, he left me his 1967 Volkswagen in case he thought there was any chance of me forgetting the commitments he made. Another special thankyou necessary here to my Mother who has graciously helped with the extensive cost of getting it roadworthy again.
As I said, things are never the same once you’ve lost a parent. Whether they’ve passed away or simply aren’t in your life anymore. I don’t believe the pain ever becomes any less visceral because there are times in your life where the only person or thing that could possibly solve your problem would be talking to your Mum or your Dad. So hold on to the happy memories you have with them, even when they seem far away and you’re at a great place in your life. There will always be subtle ways that they influence your life, even when they’re long gone.