It’s half term. Half the family are packed off to Germany to see relatives. It’s just me and the toddler. I’ve got the week off, and I’ve got plans. I’m going to watch lots of movies, eat lots of ice cream and I’m going to sort out all the stuff that’s bothering me about King of the Crags. And I’m going to play Assassin’s Creed at last. And I’m going to play with my little one, just the two of us, which isn’t something I get to do all that often.
On Saturday morning, my dad went into hospital. For a little while, before the doctors came, that was pretty scary. By the time the ambulance took him away, I think we were pretty sure he’d be coming back again, but there were some moments early on when we just didn’t know what was happening. Scary indeed.
The good news is that it looks like he’s going to be OK. He’s still in hospital and under observation, but he seems more himself again (I have to take the word of others for this, since I have flu and would be a very unwelcome guest. Which sucks). It got me thinking, though, about life and death and mortality. We had a couple of cats die this summer. I know it’s a trivial comparison, but so far the parts of my family that I’m closet to have been stubbornly healthy and so it’s the only one I can make. I gave my cats a little bit or immortality in the book that I’m writing because that’s one of the cool things about being a writer – you can do that. So it got me thinking – how could I do that for my dad? He’s very much been a role model for me over the years and he was the one, once upon a time, who threw some money at this whole writing project thing I was doing just when I was about to give up. So I couldn’t. And then, slowly, it all worked.
So I started thinking about I might say about him. He’s kind and loyal and clever. Pretty conservative on the outside but a little more liberal when you dig underneath. He worked hard all his life and did pretty well for us. He doesn’t say much and he doesn’t need to. I don’t think he has any strong beliefs except maybe that we should all just live and let live. He wasn’t domineering, just quietly strong. I didn’t have lots of touchy feely high-energy high-involvement dad-parenting because that sort of thing hadn’t been invented then. He was (and is) still a brilliant dad. Once I got to know him as an adult, I’ve always had the impression of someone who is quietly very content. Who worked hard, didn’t ask for all that much and mostly got what they wanted.
Which, for a writer, is rubbish. I mean, there is nothing there, nothing. There’s no drama, no tragedy, no endless great challenges. The story of a quiet man who quietly got on with life, was good to everyone around him, did his best and was actually reasonably well rewarded by life for his efforts. I can’t write that! There’s no material here!
And of course, thinking about this sort of thing puts everything else into perspective. So all of you with quietly brilliant dads (or mums for that matter) who are getting on a bit, go tell them how great they are and so will I. There might be far better writers than I who could turn a life like his into the story of the decade, but not me. So, dad, if you happen read this, get used to the fact that you just have to live forever. We’ll all appreciate it if you did.