The term “hero” is banded around a lot nowadays. Heroes could be anyone from someone who scored a goal in a football match, a person who gave another person some money so they could get home that night, someone who has done something fantastic for charity, anything really.
The dictionary describes a hero as:
A person, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities
For me, a hero is someone who you look up to, not necessarily for their obvious outstanding achievements, as to the person next door, they might not be visible. Someone you look up to as throughout their life, they have given everything they could to you, whenever you needed it. It might not have been enough at some points in time, however thats all they could give for those times, but equally there were a hell of a lot of times where they gave so so much more and maybe we, the recipients, didn’t realise, or weren’t appreciative at the time.
I’m lucky as I believe I have a few heroes in my life and I’d like to hope they know who they are but one hero I’m writing this about is my Dad.
Poppa F sadly passed away four years ago today. He had terminal cancer, mesothelioma, an asbestos cancer affecting the lining of the lungs. Its a cancer which stays silent in you until later in life before raising its ugly head and giving someone a shorter lifespan than themselves and anyone close to them ever imagined. It is caused by exposure to asbestos and typically stays silent until around 20-60 years later. Poppa F is believed to have contracted it whilst working away a lot when I were younger, something he did unselfishly so my mum was able to stay at home to look after us.
Dad was my best friend, even during my university years, where I moved away, we would talk on a daily basis, whether that be a brief chat about how poor our football team, Leicester City, were doing, about his favourite hobby, course fishing, and the pools we planned to visit together next or just general things. I could talk to him about anything and he would always listen and try to help in what ever way possible. There for me through think and thin, when I’d done wrong, when I’d messed up, anything.
I remember back to when he was diagnosed, people would say to me “stay strong” and if I’m honest, after the initial shock and devastation that at some point, (average next 12 months) I would be losing my best friend, thats exactly what I did do. I shut down my emotions as it was the easiest thing to do. That way I could show Dad exactly how grown up I’d become, how I would be a great protector and dad myself to H who, at the time Mrs F and I had found out we were expecting. I had made the decision I would continue our friendship on exactly the same course, trying to keep everything normal, enjoyable until that day came in the future.
That day did come, that awful day where I sat there, at his bedside when he took his last breath, a deep breath before slipping away, just two months before H was born. His first grandchild. My first child. I’ll never forget that day.
Four years on and it still hurts so bad, I still miss my best friend, particularly as our team still aren’t doing much better, and I haven’t been fishing since I don’t know when for fear it just won’t be the same. Thankfully I’m so lucky to have Mrs F as my soul mate, although she still doesn’t know the offside rule, understand the perils of trying to have a morning pee with morning glory or understand what its like to catch a bigger fish on the day.
In all seriousness though, looking back I wished I hadn’t shut down my emotions and been “strong”, whilst I know my Dad would have been proud of me (he saw the best in most people) I also wished I had continued our honest relationship until the end. Being scared, frightened, crying and talking things through was what our relationship was always based upon. Maybe its me being hard on myself on his anniversary but I would tell anyone in the same situation that “not being strong” is okay too, enjoy the good times and be there for each other in the bad times. I know my Dad was frightened (he was rubbish at hiding things) but he tried to do so for me… Thats what being a hero is about.
I hope I can be a hero to both H and D as they grow up and you can be sure I will continue to share all my memories of Dad to them as they get older. I also hope I can be as good a Dad to them as my Dad was to me.
I miss you Dad, my best friend, my “hero”.