Friday, 15 October 2010

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

This week marked my Dad’s birthday.  He’s no longer with us, but I like to remember him on his birthday even though he wasn’t a fan of the day himself.   

We clashed a lot, my Dad and me, especially when I was younger.  I complained about him, argued with him, scoffed at his ideas, ignored his orders and regularly used my all time weapon against him - contradiction.  There were months at a time when if he said black, I said white. 

I wish I hadn’t.  He was a good man, his heart was in the right place and right to the end, he tried his best.  Which is the most any of us can do.

It’s much nicer to remember the good stuff.  Like how he could create a gastronomic masterpiece without a recipe.  His laugh.  His collection of hobbies from fishing to brewing beer so strong, one bottle left me a dribbling incoherent mess.  His loyalty to RTE Radio 1.  His kindness to anything with four legs.  How he gave me a bag of twenty one pound coins for emergencies the day I left home.  How he would make up a reason to drive to Dublin on Monday mornings so I didn’t have to go back to my flat on Sunday night.  How the first time I brought a boy home he was cooking dinner wearing diving fins.  His large collection of things that came free with the Sunday newspapers.  His absolute belief that you should always try better yourself with education and hard work.  The fact that on the day of his funeral, my husband drove my Dad’s car to the church and when he turned on the engine Wet Wet Wet blasted out of the stereo.

My Dad had his ups and downs with everything in life, just like everyone else.

What he did do, was leave a family behind who love him.  Who still cry for him and grapple with the pain of his loss.  Our lives are better for having known him and we all have tried harder to live our lives better since.  I wish he had known that would happen.

I miss him and I’m still trying to figure out how to live my life without him.  So far birthdays and anniversaries have been hard.  I’ve dreaded them and spent each one on automatic pilot.  This one was shaping up to be just like the rest.

On the day, I took my children to my Dad’s grave.  I don’t often take them, it feels unsettling for the kids to be there.  It had been a truly stressful and rotten day for all sorts of reasons that there’s no point remembering now, so I was highly emotional and dreading the feeling I get every time I see his name on the cold stone.

However, my youngest sat on the grave like it was the most natural thing in the world flinging stones around and trying to dismember the beautiful flowers my mother had left earlier.  My eldest wanted to give grandpa a present of a sticker; it’s now stuck to his headstone.  The latest new things learned at school were recited.  Then we all sang him Happy Birthday at the top of our lungs in the October twilight, kissed his name and said “See you later Grandpa”.  It felt so nice and light hearted to just say see you, don’t know why I never thought of it before.

So you see, on the Brightside, it’s the first time I’ve left his grave without a pain in my chest.

Maybe it can get a little easier after all.


  1. I think that I learned more about your Dad in this one blog than in all the years I knew him. Well written. Keep it up.