April is here again. Nothing special about that I suppose. April comes and April goes just like every month in the year. Certain months of the year evoke particular memories, people and special occasions and times past spring to mind with the passing of the year. It was in December that I became an aunt for the very first time. It is also in December that my husband and my youngest niece celebrate their birthdays. October heralded the birth of my one and only nephew. I moved into my first home in September, June saw me become a bride and it is also the month when my mum and dad celebrate their wedding anniversary. November and August brought me two very precious gifts, my gorgeous daughter and son. Being from a large extended family a month does not pass without a birthday or two. May seems to have become the official month of communions and confirmations. In my mind I seem to catalogue my year by birthdays, wedding anniversaries and various milestones in my life.
Yet every year when April swings by I still catch myself pausing briefly and counting up the years in amazement. This year was no exception. It’s been twenty seven years. Twenty seven long short years since my Dad passed away. After a very short illness he slipped away into the night. I was eleven when my Dad died. For some reason when I think of the eleven year old me, I always think of me as a big girl, sensible even. It is only now I have children of my own that I realise how small I was. My own little girl turned ten at the end of last year and she is exactly that, little! While I can see her changing every day, she still has a beautiful childlike innocence and a love of life that’s a joy to behold. Lately, I have found myself watching her as she loses herself in the delight of childhood. I sit quietly and beg whoever watches over me and my lovely family to leave her this air of innocence forever. My one wish for my two lovely children is that they live a charmed life and never experience the loss of a loved one. Impossible, I know. But I wish it all the same.
So yeah, it’s been twenty seven years. I don’t think a day has passed that I haven’t talked to my Dad. I probably drive him nuts with my constant babble. Whenever I bake or cook I think of him and the fun we had in our kitchen making cakes, apple tarts and pancakes. I can remember watching in awe as he would put the finishing touches to a wedding cake. Hoping that he wouldn’t notice how many of the silver decorations I had eaten! When we moved into our home it was a two room cottage with a tiny kitchen. We made some great meals in it but I longed for the day when I would have a kitchen where I could cook up a storm and have big family dinners round a table. I got my wish a few years ago when we extended our home. I love sitting in the kitchen having a coffee while the smell of baking floats about. My kids have inherited a love of baking and cooking and I like to think that my Dad looks on with a smile when we get creative in the kitchen.
Don’t get me wrong, my days aren’t filled with sorrow! My journey so far in life has been fun filled and happy. When I think about my Dad I remember happy times, family camping holidays, a fun trip to Scotland, days out and nights in by the fire. I remember lovely Christmases and family birthdays. Memories that put a smile on my face, a smile that reaches my eyes. Yet, there are days when the feeling of loss is like a physical pain and I stop for a while. On these days I can feel the immense loneliness that my eleven year old self felt all those years ago. I can feel the hurt and the anger. And yes, I cry. You see, there are so many if onlys. Most of the time I can avoid them or pretend they don’t matter. But every now and then when I least expect it they pop up and take me by surprise.
When I look at my Mum my heart swells with pride. In her I have the greatest role model I could ever hope for. She has shown us that through hard work and determination anything is possible. Twenty seven years ago she lost her husband, soul mate and best friend. Being the gutsy, strong, determined lady that she is she kept on going. It is only now with two children of my own that I truly appreciate just what she did for us and still does. No matter how she was feeling she got up and got herself to work to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. She kept her wicked sense of humour through it all.
April rolls up every year, and every year I stop and think. I think of my Mum and Dad and all the memories they never got time to make. I look at the five lovely grandchildren that he has and know how proud he would be of each and every one of them. I look to the sky and smile, for although he is not physically here I can feel him around me telling me to enjoy every moment I have and that yes he’s very proud of all those gorgeous grandkids but he’s equally as proud of his three girls.