This is a post for everyone who’s ever had a Dad. And lost one. Mine passed away 18 months ago. I still miss him and think about him a lot.
But something strange has been happening lately. He’s been popping up in the most unexpected places. At the oddest of times. No don’t worry - this isn’t some kind of weird ‘I see dead Dads’ post. But he’s become present through the guise and body of people and things.
First time around was when i was working recently in Victoria. I was having one of those ‘never been this busy in my life’ moments and chose to extricate myself from pitch madness for a moment of calm.
Normally this involves taking my clothes off and thrashing up and down in a body of water. But I only had 15 mins that day so the pool was out. Luckily Westminster Cathedral is just round the corner and seemed an appropriate place to sit and be still.
It worked. I returned calmer. But more revelatory was when I opened my eyes I saw a mosaic of Cardinal Newman next to the pew I was sitting in. Who? Yes I’d ask the same.
My Dad was a deeply religious man who had a bookshop for most of his life in Oxford called The Newman Bookshop. And Cardinal Newman was the ’Newman’. Admittedly I knew very little about the Cardinal, but Dad was obviously a huge fan (he’d hate me saying that!) and identified with Newman’s controversial conversion to Catholicism. So there he was, kind of looking over me.
The next visit was in the garden after I'd dug the soil, unearthing a small planet of wriggling worms and bugs. For a moment a robin landed next to me, keen to snack. I remained still. And so did he. We just eye-balled each other. And I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that robins are a sign of someone who’s passed away checking in on you.
A year or two ago I’d think that was a load of bollocks. But after the church incident, I was prepared to believe it. Dad was a keen gardener and at weekends he was always digging, planting, mowing and more. So there he was. Red breast puffed out checking in on me. Probably not that impressed at the lack of veg produced this year.
Next he popped up on a Tuesday night. I was looking for something to read. Scanning the shelves nothing jumped out. Then Rach said 'here try this - looks right for you - short chapters, large type’. She knows me so well. Donna Leon ‘Death at La Fenice’.
I settled down to it. A kind of crappy 'who done it'. It was a cracking and unchallenging read. And turns out belonged to Dad. After he’d died we’d taken on several boxes of his books. Mostly Cardinal Neman stuff ;-) But obviously he also liked the odd thriller as he got older.
And now I was reading it too.
Where will he turn up next?
Maybe the lesson is if we don’t look too hard our loved ones will turn up.