Like anyone who has lost their father, today is always rather bittersweet for me.
My Dad was my best friend growing up – as I grow older, I realise just how similar we are. He always had some crazy project on the go which he would throw his heart and soul into. And as my sister and I grew up, and came up with our own adventures, Dad would support them whole-heartedly.
When I was nine, I saw the England cricket team playing in the Ashes on TV. I was hooked. I spent the entire summer glued to the television, and demanding my Dad throw a ball around in the garden with me, practicing slip catches. It was 1993 and girls’ teams didn’t exist. My Dad tried to approach the local women’s team, but they didn’t have time to teach a kid how to play. And so rather than giving up, my Dad set up a girls’ team himself. Over the next six years my Dad was pivotal in local, county and national-level women’s cricket – a sport he hadn’t even played until I decided I loved it.
In 2006 I captained the Cambridge University Women’s cricket team at Lord’s. One of my proudest achievements to date. My Dad had died three years beforehand. I remember standing on the square, about to open the batting, and looking out into the crowd and trying not to tear up, knowing he would have been there if he could have been.
And to be honest that’s how I still live my life these days. With every success, no matter how big or small, I know he would have been there, and I have to trust myself that I know how he would have responded to the questions I want to ask him.
When you lose a parent, you don’t necessarily appreciate how much of them lives on in you. Not just in your facial features, or in odd random features of your body (I have the same shape fingers and finger nails as my Mum did, my sister’s hands remind me of my Dad’s). But in your values, and character, and in the way you react to things.
My Dad travelled the world. He was a writer, a linguist, and an entrepreneur, and he seized every single one of his 56 years with passion and enthusiasm, and hope. And whilst he’s not around to do those things, I try to live my life in a way where I’m doing that for him – so that my Dad to some degree lives on in my actions.
Scrolling through Facebook this morning I couldn’t help but smile. All my friends are posting lovely photos – themselves as children, or in their wedding dresses posing with their Dads. I have male friends celebrating their first Father’s Day, and others who are Dads-to-Be. And rather than be sad, it makes me smile. Because I know what it is to have a great father, and I would rather have had 19 years of that, than a lifetime of never knowing that feeling.
My next post is on a very different topic – which is why I thought it best to separate the two out! When it comes to Dads, and the idea of their daughters ever having sex, I know from my male friends that the thought all but kills them! Shortly before he died, I remember my Dad randomly commenting on what a ‘good decision’ I’d made not to lose my virginity until the age of 23. To this day I have no idea where he got that from! I was 19 having that conversation with Dad, and I’d lost my virginity three years previous. But that was the one and only time I didn’t share everything with my Dad. I fixed a grin, and nodded, rather bemused, but knowing that was one truth Dad didn’t need to hear.
What makes me smile is he knew me so well in every other way – I guess that comment was just wishful thinking! A few weeks after I got my place at Cambridge, my college – St Catharine’s – made national headlines when the college female drinking society were caught running naked through the streets, dressed as cats, but having lost their bin bag costumes.
‘You’ll fit in well there!’ my Dad had laughed.
Three years later I was President of the College Drinking Society!
Happy Father’s Day Dad.
I love and miss you every day, not just on Father’s Day.