Why is it sometimes some things stick in our memory and not others.
I saw on Facebook the other day that a neighbour of ours that I remember fondly from Spencer Road was having a birthday as one of her daughter’s had posted. It was wonderful to see a recent photo of her as it was just how I remember her, she hasn’t changed at all, and to be able to pass on birthday wishes meant so much.
So what is this particular memory that popped up? Well. It was the day my dad died. Which I find strange as it was 45 years ago. So why now? Who knows but just maybe it needs talking about.
You see Dad had been in hospital for maybe, days, weeks, even months at this stage, and being a kid it all blurred in to one so I’m really not sure how long it was. All I know is he wasn’t at home and hadn’t been for what seemed like forever. That one particular morning we were all woken up by the phone ringing and mum dashed downstairs to answer it, it must have been early as we were all still asleep which wasn’t normal for me as I was usually awake from 6ish each day, to my mother’s dread, as still even today, my eyes open and I start talking! I will never forget the colour of that phone either for the rest of my days, it was a cream and beige brown one with the number dial on the front and the handle sat in the cradle at the top. Moments later she called my older brother downstairs and it all went quiet. It was only then us 2 girls were called down and you know, when you just know it’s not good, each step on the way down was in slow motion, so unreal in so many ways, it felt as though I floated down each and every step, already numb against the shock that was to come.
My mind has then gone blank. I don’t remember being told, I don’t remember who sat where and I don’t really remember what happened next. Until I know I was going to call for my best friend at the time, for school who just happened to be in the same class as me, and her mum answering the door instead of her. Somehow I knew her mum had to go sit with my mum as we were going to school and mum would be on her own until we came home at lunchtime, but I don’t know if I was told to ask her or not, I just knew I had to do it. So I asked her to go see mum as we set off down the road to school, as you do as an 8 year old with not a care in the world, or so it seemed. Luckily we only lived a few hundred yards away from our school and used to run up and down the snickets to get there so we didn’t have to walk near the busy road. That bit makes me chuckle as it was the early 1970s and not many people owned a car so you can just imagine how not busy the roads were compared to today’s. And yes I’m showing my age here but to an 8 year old, roads were dangerous and we couldn’t run near them but we could run free down the backs of the houses.
The school morning must have been the same as any other as again it is a blank. That is until lunchtime. You see, that year in junior school we had the nicest teacher ever. Miss Forward. I’ll never forget her as she was one of those teachers who really cared. She left a long lasting impression on me as to what a teacher should be like for the rest of my school days. Everyday as I left to come home for lunch, I would have to walk past her desk, as my seat was in the middle of the centre row, and she would quietly ask me ‘how is your dad today?’ Every day I would reply ‘fine thanks’, but not this day. I remember I stopped, looked her square in the face and replied, ‘he died this morning’ and just walked off, and headed home for my lunch. When I look back now, what a shock I must have given her. I know I said the words in such a matter of fact way it took all of my strength to say those dreaded words without crying and then I just tootled off. But i don’t know why I knew I hadn’t to cry. Instinct, who knows. I often wonder if she needed something stronger than a cup of tea that lunchtime.
And I’ll be totally honest. The rest of the day is in a blurr and I don’t remember anything. I guess even as a child we have coping mechanisms that kick in without even realising
Yes, looking back this was a devastating day for me, as my life changed dramatically from then on, but as they say out of ever sadness comes a joy and I strongly believe without the kindness of Miss Forward, the fabulous neighbours that we had then and the closeness of dad’s family I wouldn’t be who I am today. And that is what I am so thankful for.
One thing I would change if I could is that I wish death had been spoken about more openly in our house. I know I certainly didn’t understand the impact that day would have on me for the many years to come. And, as an 8 year old didn’t know what death meant.
I know it’s not an easy subject to discuss but it happens to us all at some point and it goes on around us every single day. It’s inevitable, it’s part of life. Please let’s start to be open about what it means to us and what ee believe happens, open up our emotions especially, with our kids, with our loved ones. I would hate to think any other child were going to spend years lost and searching for what was missing, as I did.
The day of dad’s funeral is another day entirely that sticks in my memory but that’s another tale for another day, when I’m feeling brave enough.