I never did get to tell you about my trip to see you dad. About the 6am start. About the foggy, misty day. About how the roads were quiet as we drove to the airport. I never did get to tell you about how big and busy Stansted airport is now. Barely recognisable from your visits dad. I never did get to tell you about the long winding queues of people waiting to get through the security checks. You would have laughed when I told you about how I picked the wrong queue, as usual. I never did get to tell you about the girls going on the hen weekend; happily drinking bottles of beer at 7am. We would have laughed at that. I never did get to tell you about the family in front of me who had forgotten to pack their liquids into the little plastic bags despite the notices and the reminders every few metres. About how they held the queue up for everyone and how annoyed some of the other passengers were becoming. I never did get to tell you how I had to take my shoes of and how the beeper sounded as I went through the gates, like it always did. You would have laughed at that and made some silly joke. I never did get to tell you about going to gate 85 like I have done many times before. I didn’t get to tell you about how the queue had started to form for boarding the plane. We would have laughed about the human capacity to stand in line and wait. I didn’t stand in line. I didn’t much want to talk to people. To strangers. You know how I don’t much care for small talk.
I never did get to tell you about the plane journey. You would have asked me how busy the plane was; no spaces, as always. I would have told you about the group of lads all wearing their Father’s For Justice t-shirts and talking relentlessly about the Three Peaks Challenge. I wonder if they were as enthusiastic about it on their homeward trip. I never did get to tell you about the beautiful blue sky and the fluffy marshmallow clouds. It was so peaceful and felt like the plane was barely moving. You would have laughed when I told you how I panicked when we were landing because I couldn’t see the sea. I had forgotten that the plane was landing in Glasgow airport and not Prestwick. You would have made a joke about me forgetting things, about getting old. Silly me.
You would have enjoyed hearing about me taking the little bus to Paisley Gilmour Street to catch the train to Ayr. I would have told you how different is all seemed to my university days; how I only knew where I was when the Abbey came into view. We would have talked about my graduation day perhaps. Do you remember it dad? We had a lovely day and one heck of a party in the pub afterwards. We all wore the gown – you were bursting with pride about my shiny Engineering degree.
I never did get to tell you about the long train journey with the endless stops at stations that nobody ever got on or off at. I never did get to tell you about the kind man sitting near me who gave me some tissues because I was crying. You would have told me off for crying. But you know what I’m like dad. Always the emotional one.
Doubtless you would have listened to all my talking. You loved me to tell you about my daily life. You would have told me all about your old friends and all their news. You would have had tales for me for sure. You would have told me about the weather. How you could wax lyrically about this. The old familiar phrases would have rolled off your tongue. I would have giggled to myself because I know the routine. You would have told me off for still having my silly cold; for not taking any medicine. You would have told me I should get a flu jab like you’ve been telling me for years. We both would have giggled to ourselves in the knowledge that I would never get round to making the appointment or whatever has to be done. I expect we would have laughed at my inappropriate clothing for my visit. At least I’ve got a warm coat this time although my trainers are less useful.
You would have asked me about my new job. You know I’m enjoying it so very much – you would have loved to hear about my new workmates and how great they all are. I would have told you all about the politics in FE at the moment. We would have talked about that for ages. You loved current affairs so much. I would have told you about some of my students and the challenges we face. You would have reminded me, gently that not every child has a loving or supportive family such as me. Once again, your endless compassion, warmth and affinity for the underdog shining through.
When we finished with all our catching up, we would get down to the important conversations; the hard stuff. I know all the small talk is just our elaborate code; our way of expressing our love and devotion. I would have asked you how you were – you would have said you were fine. You would have brushed off your eye sight problems and how hard it was becoming for you to get out. You wouldn’t have dwelled on this for long. You never much liked this kind of talk. You would have skilfully got the conversation back to other matters – how the girls are growing so fast, about their news, about their lives. You were so good at this manoeuvre dad. You would have laughed so much when I told you about their latest exploits. And you would have reminded me of how I was just the same. Maybe you would have told me a funny story about me when I was younger. You had plenty of those at your disposal.
I never did get to ask you why you had laid out your new suit on your bed. I can’t remember you ever having a blue suit before. Were you planning on going somewhere dad? Or was it for your final journey? You would have told me off for over thinking, for over analysing again.
Mostly I never did get to tell you how much I loved you dad. My constant companion, my best friend, my role model. You have always inspired me by your resilience, your brilliant mind and your endless ability to see the positive in every situation.
Rest in peace my wonderful dad. My superdad. My hero.
W. H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.