At 10:34am, it will be the 14th anniversary of my Dad passing away.
Over the last 7 years of this blog, I’ve written many posts about how much my Dad dying affected me and – to a large extent – screwed me up, but today it’s time to change that.
That doesn’t mean I have stopped thinking it’s immensley important to talk openly about death way before death is a possibility, it’s just that I know my Dad – and my Mum for that matter – would like my memories to be filled with the wonderful times together, not just the ones of pain and loss.
With that in mind, I want to take you back to a day in 1980, at around 3am.
I don’t know why I woke up, but I did.
At 10 years of age, I was old enough to know I could go back to sleep but young enough to still find being awake at that time, utterly amazing.
I honestly believed I might be the only person awake at that time.
The only person who would experience what a World asleep looked like.
What a street in hibernation sounded like.
What a home in absolute darkness felt like.
But then I heard a sound.
Not the sort of sound that would make you hide under the covers … but the distant, muffled sounds of a television.
How could this be?
So with the sort of courage I didn’t even know I had, I pushed back the covers of my safe, warm bed and slowly got up.
I could see from my slightly ajar bedroom door, that Mum & Dad’s slightly ajar bedroom door wasn’t emitting any light.
That meant they had to be asleep.
Had to be.
I know they would talk for hours and hours each night, but 3am was ridiculous – no one was awake at 3am.
So with a sense of wonder and inquisitiveness, I took one step … then another … and tip-toed past my bedroom door, past my parents bedroom door and then – before I knew it – I started heading down the stairs.
The noise of the television was getting louder.
I couldn’t make out what was going on, but it was definitely broadcasting something.
What on earth could it be?
As I got to the bottom of the stairs, I could see through a crack in the curtains that linked our kitchen to our lounge, the unmistakeable flickering glow of life.
Life from the television.
I should have been scared, but I wasn’t.
I was curious.
The door to our lounge would always stick a little, it still does, so as I slowly approached it – and then placed my 2 small hands on the handle – I knew I would need to summon all my strength to be able to push it down hard enough to ensure I could open it without making too much noise.
With all my might I pressed down and then, ever-so-gently, I used my shoulder to push the door while somehow pulling the handle towards me so that the door would not burst open with dramatic force.
I was in.
As I peered around the door … way down the other end of the room … I could see the television glowing.
It wasn’t just glowing, it was showing something.
It was showing ice skating.
It was showing the Winter Olympics ice skating.
It was showing the Winter Olympics ice skating live from Lake Placid in New York.
At 3 o’clock in the morning!!!
But rather than be confused, it was at that very moment, I knew everything was OK.
As I walked slowly into the lounge and tiptoed past the dining table towards the television, I saw my Dad sitting on the sofa.
In his dressing gown.
Engrossed with what was going on the screen.
Slowly he turned his head and saw me.
In front of my eyes, his face transformed from one of total concentration into one that emitted the warmest, most welcoming, loving smile you’ve ever seen.
“What are you doing up?” he asked.
I’ll always remember how he said it because it wasn’t just a voice of curiosity, it was mixed with the sound of total happiness.
It might be the nicest way I’ve ever been asked a question in my life.
“I can’t sleep”, I replied.
And then, without any more words spoken, he simply patted the seat next to him and I trotted over to join him … placing my head on his chest, curling my legs up beside me and holding his hand.
Father and son together.
United in silence.
Transfixed by what was on the screen.
After a few minutes, it dawned on me that I hadn’t asked him why he was awake at this impossible time.
As I looked up, I was met by his wonderful, kind blue eyes staring back at me.
It was if he knew what was on my mind, because he simply said, “Robin Cousins is skating soon”.
Robin Cousins was a British ice skater.
He was incredibly talented and was expected to perform very well at the Olympics.
My parents loved ice-skating.
They loved the grace, the skill, the intricacy, the flow.
It also helped that my Dad vaguely knew Jane Torville, one half of the World famous – Nottingham born – ice skating duo, Torville and Dean.
Personally, I never really cared for ice skating.
I only liked seeing the scores or if anyone fell down during their routine.
But at that moment, I loved it.
I loved every single moment of it.
The sound of the skates.
The flamboyance of the outfits.
The wild applause that followed every routine.
The way they could spin around so fast it looked like they weren’t moving at all.
Seemingly satisfied by his response, I placed my head back on his chest and we got back to watching the drama unfold on the screen while my Mum slept soundly in her bed upstairs, totally unaware that her beloved husband and son were sharing a moment that one of them would recount 33 years later … a moment where Robin Cousins would skate so magnificently, it was if he wanted to win the Olympic Gold just for the Father and son sitting quietly on the couch in West Bridgford at 3 o’clock in the morning.
To make it more memorable. To make it more special.
And the next morning, I proudly and excitedly recounted the whole story to my Mum.
And she smiled a smile that I’ll remember forever.
A smile of pure joy.
Which is why, after all these years, I’ll always treasure that night, because it still lets me feel close to my Dad.
And that’s why I’ll always be grateful to Robin Cousins.
Because he sort-of helped make it happen.
A night I’ll never forget.
A night I’ll always love.
A night I’ll always feel comforted by.
Dad was everything to me.
He still is.
He always will be.
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