He passed quietly in his sleep with his wife by his side. I had kissed him goodnight and told him I loved him just a few hours before.
I did manage to have a lovely visit with Dad for a week before he had to go hospital. Although he couldn't get out of bed he was lucid and chatty and very happy to have me there.
I am glad his suffering is over, but oh how sad I am that he is no longer in my life.
I wrote this tribute for Dad a while ago, and I shared it with him during my visit. He was thrilled and very touched.
Every child starts off thinking their Dad knows everything and can do anything.
When I was little Dad made me a ride-on tortoise, and a bit later a scooter. He has built shelves and furniture, brewed beer, pickled olives, cured biltong and renovated houses. Dad has surfed, paddle-skied, windsurfed, kite surfed, hanglided, played tennis, cycled the Argus and run marathons, including the Comrades several times. He has serviced his own cars, and mine once I owned one. All this while carving an exemplary career as a naval officer. There is nothing Dad can’t do.
Dad always feels other people should be able to do anything too, and encourages us to attempt everything we want to do. Milord often says “Why didn’t you wait for me to come home to do it for you?”, when it never occurs to me that I couldn’t do it myself! My Dad taught me to do anything.
Anything I ask Dad he can usually answer, and if not then he’ll find out. “I don’t know” is never a good enough answer for him, and so there is nothing Dad doesn’t know.
Once I learned to read Dad’s answers tended to become “Look it up” as he steered me towards the 3 sets of encyclopedias we owned. At the time it was a bit frustrating, but knowing how to find things out for myself is an invaluable skill. “I don’t know” is not good enough for me either! One of the best professional compliments I have ever received was from a colleague who said he was always happy to explain something to me, because he knew I’d already looked everywhere else for the answer first. My Dad taught me to know everything.
Not many independent adults can say that their Dad has never fallen off the All-knowing All-doing pedestal!
I’ve been hearing stories about Dad from family recently. The recurring themes are “Hero”, “Mentor”, “Leader” and “Larger than Life”. Dad was just “Dad” to me, and I thought all his fabulous attributes were normal. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been so disappointed in the various boyfriends I tested over the years, and why it took me until my mid-thirties to finally find a man who measures up!
Family has always been very important to Dad, and he has been the centre of our enormous clan from the beginning. As the eldest and the first to settle down, Dad’s house was usually the venue for any family gatherings and I grew up surrounded by a swarm of aunties, uncles and cousins. I am really sad that Dad is not going to be able to be Grandad to my kids. Grace and James won’t remember their Grandad, or know what it’s like to be tickled and teased into a complete meltdown by him as a little kid, or be able to draw on his vast wisdom as confused teenagers, or be able to merrily share a few beers and tall tales as young adults.
Somewhere over the past few decades my Dad and I became friends rather than just father and daughter. He now trusts me to choose the right job, the right country and the right husband. Dad always says: “If you know what you want, you can achieve it. Believe in yourself. Be happy.”
I think Dad’s proud of me. I’m certainly proud of him!
Plus, of course, I love him to bits. I love my Dad like a flower follows the sun, like water flows downhill and like night follows day. He has always been there in the background no matter how far I roam or how rarely we make contact, and I can't imagine the void his absence is going to create.