H is for Happy Birthday Da


I’m a bit out of it today. I had my first Covid vaccine on Wednesday and I have all the expected symptoms. I am very grateful for it tho, and impressed at the efficient organisation at the local vaccine centre.

Today I’m thinking about my dad (in between snoozes). He would have been 91 today. Lockdown would not have suited him AT ALL. He loved company and would have wanted to celebrate his birthday with as many as possible. I wish I had the brain power to tell a story. Instead I’m going to share a letter I wrote to him, a couple of years after he died.

I don’t think I’ve shared this before. Sorry if you’ve read it already.

Dear Dad,

I want to ask you something. Don’t worry, I don’t need money (this time).

It feels a bit weird to be writing to you, but of course I’ve left it too late to talk you about this. You’re not surprised though, are you? I know, I’m usually late. You must have come to expect it by now.

The last time I wrote you a letter (a proper one, not a post card or a note), do you remember Da? It was when I went to New Zealand for three months. We’d said goodbye with a silent tight hug. Tight lipped, nodding quickly and blinking. I wrote a letter to you before the plane landed in Auckland. You replied telling me that you’d waited until I left the house before you cried. 

So, I have finally gotten around to writing to you again—because I have to write to you. I can’t talk to you now, but to be honest it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to really talk to you.

Awh Da, your poor head. For almost 30 years you struggled to reach past the dent in your skull and make sense of the world. Sometimes you managed to do it. Every so often you’d start to talk or start to sing and there you’d be. Our Da. You’d be back—just for a few minutes. But by the time we’d acknowledged you were back, you’d be gone again.

I know you don’t remember that day. But I remember it well. I was thirteen and headed off on the bus to go stay with Aunty May. I just missed seeing you being flung into the air by a car. Next day I was told you had a broken leg. Did I know it was worse? How could I have known? Maybe it’s hindsight that makes me think I felt it was more serious. Either way—life was never the same and neither were you.

Sorry Da, I’m waffling and have gone off the point. What I wanted to ask was…do you know what you did for us?

There are so many things. The lesson in covering books stands out. You sat with us, showing how to measure the amount of paper needed. Using the least amount of sellotape. The difference between a stapled book and a book with a thick solid spine. Da! I’m an expert now. I could do it with my eyes closed.

And Christmas—your love and enthusiasm for Christmas was matchless. And of course, the covering books lesson was closely aligned to the wrapping presents lesson. Using paper to the most efficient level and again—less is more with the sellotape.

Music…Da, do you realise what you gave us in music? The love of singing a song. The delight in singing together. You loved nothing more than a room full of people who just wanted to hear each other sing, so we would sing and clap along. We still have it. The love of being a family. You did that. You gave us that.

I hope you know what you left us. I hope you loved how we said goodbye to you. We did it in the best way we knew how. With singing and laughing and crying and just being together.

We will always miss you.

From the shakin’s of the bag as you called me,

The baby, Annmarie xx

2 thoughts on “H is for Happy Birthday Da

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