My dad had the rather winning habit of spoiling me rotten – he’d had more than thirty years to perfect the art and he did it with great panache.
I learned not to let on when I liked the look of something since he would buy just for the pleasure of being able to treat me… regardless of whether I really needed it or not!
They say people show love in different ways and my dad loved to love through presents.
I was away for long stretches with work – sometimes months or years at a time – so I think he felt he had to get all his spoiling packed in when I was at home. My bag was often too small to take my presents with me when I left again!
Once we all knew he would not recover from cancer, I understood he wanted to express all of his love in the time that he had, to make the it count. When I tried to discourage him buying gifts, he would mention the years of birthdays and Christmases he wouldn’t be there for.
I guess he wanted to give me things to remember him by, to have a way of continuing to be present in my life after he had gone. As if I could ever forget him!
In the Middle East I’d developed a taste for bracelets. I loved their ringing and singing on my wrists. Once dad caught wind of this, he would trawl junk shops and antiques markets for suitable additions and I would regularly come home to 3 or 4 nestled in a box, waiting for my arrival.
My wrists were soon packed and groaning with the haul of silver sparklies – far more than I really needed. I told dad that I loved them, but I didn’t need any more. Trying to divert him, I explained that his words and his wisdom were the best gifts he could leave me and nothing else was necessary.
As dad got weaker, going overseas for work got increasingly excruciating. Every time I said goodbye I wondered if this would be final hugs, our final words. I took shorter contracts, asked for more flexibility and fretted over being so far away.
In April my mum called me in the dusty corner of the back end of Africa and said she thought I should come home as quickly as I could. Thankfully that crisis had passed by the time my flight got in thirty six anxious hours later. Dad got through almost 2 more months, but by then he seemed to be disappearing before our eyes.
He could no longer walk and moving at all was a struggle but one day he insisted on a trip out in the car and was very mysterious about the destination. We pulled up at a jewellers who he’d given a special commission.
As usual dad had found a way of spoiling me, a loop hole in my no gifts proviso. He handed me a silver bracelet, engraved with the words “its all a load of bollocks”, with a big sad smile. Loving but irreverent to the end.