Sunday, 18 December 2011

Age - Appropriate

Age.  Funny old thing.  I read somewhere recently (probably on Twitter) that 'old age' gets older the older one gets.  I get that.  Last week, I turned 56, which is the same age that my father was when he passed away - a few days after his birthday - from liver failure brought on by cancer.  I was 27.

When he and I were younger, I thought of Dad as a much more mature - OK, older - man than I think of myself now at the same age.  His generation seemed to have had age imposed on them - he was a child during the Second World War - and from my earliest recollections, he and my mother seemed permanently middle-aged.

When he died, it was relatively quick. A previously dealt-with bowel cancer had returned and unbeknown to us, had migrated to and knackered his liver.  When he went in for investigative surgery, they took one look, closed him back up again and advised my mother that he only had a few weeks left.  Because the liver was shot, he never truly came back out of the anaesthesia and over a couple of weeks, gradually drifted away from us in a relatively pain-free, opium-fuelled dream state.  If I'd thought he was older before, he certainly was an old man when he eventually slipped away between visits, a few days after his 56th birthday.

Now that it's my own 56th birthday, I have been giving a lot of thought to my Dad. On reflection, it seems that when he died, whilst I was concerned for my Mum and my Brother, I was mostly preoccupied with  how unfair it was for me to be left fatherless at 27; that I wasn't yet ready to step up and be the man he was. I had lost my 'final arbiter', the one person I still had to impress. It was as if he had said to me "Right, you're on your own now Son; time to be a man."  Poor me!

What I failed to realise then - and why I am writing this piece - is how much life he should have had ahead of him, with my Mum, whilst my brother and I forged ahead in our lives, married our wives, raised our children - his Grandchildren - started to succeed in our respective careers, etc. And what times he and my Mum would have had to share for many more years together.  He had worked so hard to get to where he was, to  provide a home and support for Mum, my brother and me.  He deserved to get to his well-earned retirement and enjoy his family and Grandchildren, who I know would have given him so much pleasure.  But cancer took that away from him when he was still a young man.

I can say 'young man' now, because I'm now that age, and I consider myself to be a young man still, with all of that good stuff still ahead of me.  My children are now nearly 20 and 16 (even younger again than I was when Dad reached 56).

But I have also recognised that my clock is ticking and I have much still to do.  So, in my 57th year, and as we approach 2012, my New Year - and every new new year's - resolution is to have more fun, travel, learn more and look after myself - for me, for Mandy, for Tash and Sam and maybe one day, my own Grandchildren.  

Thanks Dad.