One from the vaults: Bitter sweet

This is from June 2014 and it feels appropriate to revisit as it’s Father’s Day this Sunday in UK and France.

I feel as if I’ve been bombarded for the last few weeks with suggestions for this weekend’s, Father’s Day? I can’t say that I’d ever really noticed the saturation before but perhaps it’s because this year, for the first time ever, I have no need of anything for Father’s Day.

In a family of three Daddy’s girls, Father’s Day was always more special than Mother’s Day. Sorry Mum! We’d always meet up en famille for Father’s Day lunch at one of our favourite restaurants. There’s nothing my Dad liked better than spending the day with his girls – all four of us. The tradition lapsed somewhat once we’d moved to France and it progressively became more difficult to eat out with my mother as her Alzheimers advanced.

Then, this time last year, we had an unexpected treat. My brother-in-law, as a surprise, organised for my youngest sister and my father to fly out and visit my younger sister and me. Purely, coincidentally, the same week-end as Father’s Day. Like most women, we don’t really enjoy surprises. I’d have liked my Father to stay with us largely because our flat is all on one level and the walk-in shower is easier to for him to use, but I’d already got guests for the week-end. So he stayed at my sister’s holiday apartment. In truth, I think my brother-in-law had flown my Dad out so that he’d have company once his wife, (my sister) had gone back home mid-week. In any event, it meant that I cooked and all three Daddy’s girls spent a very enjoyable Father’s Day luncheon together for the first time in many years.

In truth I was pleased that my Dad had come to visit. His last visit had been back in 2010 and the trip with my mother had been something of a nightmare for him. One he wasn’t keen to repeat even after her death. I’d been over in the UK in the Spring and we’d spoken about him coming to visit but he’d wanted to get my mother’s affairs settled, the garden sorted and her memorial organised before doing any travelling. First up was a much longed for trip to St Petersberg with friends in August. We’d tentatively arranged that he would come visit us in October and my beloved would travel with him, both ways.

Faced with the unexpected prospect of spending time with him, I hastily shuffled my agenda and we spent a couple of lovely days together. It was a bit like the old days when Mum would get lumbered with my two younger sisters and Dad and I would spend the day exploring, watching sport together and investigating new restaurants. We went for a road trip on the Friday and I drove along the coast to visit the location of our very first family holiday abroad. The one and only time my parents had ever camped. They’d travelled with friends who enjoyed sleeping under canvas – we hadn’t. We all regard TENT as a four-letter word!

I found a delightful hotel, overlooking the sea, where we ate lunch to the sound of lapping waves. A light, unhurried lunch where we chatted about Dad’s plans. He was obviously keen to make best use of whatever time he had left and we spoke at length about some of the things he wanted to see and do. My beloved and I also took him out for lunch on Sunday to one of our favourite restaurants. Again, we spent time enjoying a delightful meal, with great views and a lovely ambience. My Dad told me that the three meals he’d eaten with me had been the highlight of his trip.

At the time none of us appreciated the toll that looking after my mother had taken on his health. When I visited him in the UK in late October, he was clearly very unwell but the doctors, despite a battery of tests, had been unable to identify the problem. Bizarrely, when we described his symptoms to a friend who’s a leading dental professor, he immediately told us what was wrong and, sure enough, he was right. The symptoms were unpleasant, the treatment even more so and the outlook had a very short time horizon.

Mum Statues

My father’s now reunited with my mother in the plinth of the statue he bought in her memory, placed within easy sight of the family home. There they’ll remain because my middle-sister and brother-in-law have bought and remodelled the house. With any luck, they might even have another 66 years together!

39 Comments on “One from the vaults: Bitter sweet

  1. That’s a lovely story, written without over-sentimentalising and over-anguishing. Very practical and lovely. Glad your family home will stay in the family.

    Liked by 3 people

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