It’s been just a day over a whole month since we parted. If I’m honest, I’ve not done too badly so far; a few wobbles here and there; I’ve been there for Mum. My sisters and I have talked a lot and of course we’ve kept the Welsh side very engaged. It really just feels like I’ve not spoken to you in a while and that at any point you’ll email me or send me a WhatsApp message about the rugby. Then you don’t and I feel confused. We always talk after the rugby. Always, Dad. To be fair, it’s been pretty torrid. New Zealand are predictably dancing a merry dance over us despite our best efforts; and they are good efforts but they’re just not good enough, as usual. Obviously, the thousand and one forward passes that NZ seem to get away with has helped and I’m sure you’d have something to say about some dubious high tackling and challenges in the air too. The thing is, Dad, I can hear you saying them and that’s …..kind of alright, apparently….except it isn’t. I want to challenge you, to pick your brains and to hear your thoughts. But all I have are reflections, ‘recordings’ of you in my head that I can’t interact with. I know what you would say about things we’ve shared together but what about all the stuff we won’t share, Dad? I think I know how you would react, feel, frown, smile…..but what would you say? You were a man of carefully chosen words and I appreciated that so much; I tried to learn the same skill from you but I don’t feel like I got it all; how can I know what you would say about Bethany’s first boyfriend or Freya and Chloe ganging up on the school bully to protect someone?. How are they going to know their Pops’ words?? There was more to come and I’m missing out now. How am I supposed to complete my learning as a man and a father without you here? I’m going to get lost, surely? Help me, Dad?!
Except that, Dad, you know what? As I’ve gone through Fathers’ Day today and gulped down the tears at every card, advert, restaurant menu special, I’ve realised that when once you were my teacher, then my coach, you since became my mentor. I’ve reflected on the last few years and seen that where once there might have been telling, direction, coercion, coaxing, now there was merely suggestion and a gentle word. Where we might still have disagreed, there has been acceptance that I’ve made my decisions based on the sound direction and guidance you’ve given me in the past. Where we’ve agreed, it’s been as 2 best friends; 2 friends who shared some hidden secret for 37 years, a bond that was utterly unique and golden. Even the silences we shared on long car journeys or in the house or pottering in the garden were the silence of comfortable companions, happy that the space didn’t have to simply be filled with anything. You’d have been pleased yesterday, Dad; I got my shed to the point where I was about to label everything and ban anyone from going in there. I think I just stepped back from the brink there though.
It is this understanding of where we were as friends that has given me comfort today, Dad. When I look up at the photos of you above my desk, I see the happiest, strongest, most caring father a man could wish for. In each of the photos, I can see what you are thinking in your eyes, I can see the joy in you and I immediately hear the words I need to hear. And because I can hear you, I don’t feel lost. I know you taught me all you needed to teach me and the words you wrote in my birthday card were true, “All that need be said between us has been said. So Proud Of You Son”. You had reached that point where you could just take a step back and smile. You looked on me with pride, I know, I feel it every day. That pride, from someone as loved and respected as you, gives me the confidence I need to be the father I know you saw in me.
It doesn’t make it easy though, Dad. This feeling of our communications just being ‘cut off’ still confuses me greatly. I want to phone EE and tell them to give me your new number. I can’t believe you’re not there. This is still so unfair. I miss you so much all the time. But you’re still there. You’re still there when I need to hear you laugh, I can picture your upset at another Welsh loss, I can imagine your pride at Bethany’s sports day, or the Twins’ gymnastics. I can imagine your love for them as they grow up and begin to lead lives of their own, even one day having their own families. And I know what you would say for each scenario that presents itself.
How can I picture all of this and know this with such confidence? Because you taught me well as a child, Dad. You coached me through some pretty mental times as a petulant and trying young adult, and you mentored me in to the husband of a wonderful, loving wife and father to 3 warrior princesses. I know that I see the world through the eyes that you and Mum gave me and that had you thought there was anything more for me to learn, you’d have let me know. As our girls grow up, they will hear your thoughts and words through me; you will live on in that way, Dad, and they will know you.
I miss you, Dad, that is true. I’ll miss you every day, forever.
“Thank you for Everything” seems too short; for that I am sorry, you would have thought of something better. But I mean it. I mean it with my whole heart.
I miss you, buddy. xx