Everyone is advertising their fathers day promotions and stuff at the moment and it made me realise that I should have probably done this post on Sunday just gone, June 10th.
I haven't had to buy anything for fathers day in 19 years because in the early hours of June 10th 1999 my dad suffered a fatale heart attack. It was his third in as many years. He had kind of made them an annual tradition. The first one was misdiagnosed at the time as indigestion. The second, from my very basic knowledge and what I was told at the time, knocked out one side of his heart so it pretty much only worked at 50% and the final one finished him off.
After that second cardiac arrest, the first one he had been admitted to hospital and treated for, he made an effort to start getting into better shape. He quit smoking full stop, cut way back on alcohol but didn't go t-total, tried to eat healthier, avoided intense rollercoasters despite loving them and started to exercise regularly. He started swimming a few times a week and Wednesdays, at least, he would pick me up from school and we would go swimming together at the local pool. It was really nice. I always saw plenty of my dad after my parents divorced in 1993 and would spend most weekends with him but in the couple of years before his death my dad and I actually spent a lot more time together than ever before I think. My brother was away DJing at sea and my sister was becoming an adult and doing her own thing so it just left little old me to hang out with my dad.
I would often walk to his house after school instead of getting the bus home, I'd hang out in his office (converted garage) while he was doing bits and bobs until it got a bit later and he needed to get ready for whatever gig he was doing that night at which point he would drive me home.
Wednesday June 9th 1999 was pretty unspectacular if I recall correctly. Dad picked me up from school, we might have popped back to his first or we might have gone straight to the pool I'm not sure, but we went for a swim at Bitterne Leisure Centre, I was starting to get to the age where I wasn't just interested in fucking around in a pool I would swim lengths with my dad, it was good for both of us, he didn't need to push himself too much as the little dude next to him wasn't going to be going fast. I think back to when I started putting on weight and it was only a few years after my dad died. I should have kept swimming.
I do remember leaning against the edge of the pool with my dad and talking though I couldn't tell you what about. There is a good bet that it was Star Wars (nothing ever really changes, huh?) as it was the summer of '99 and we were both very excited about seeing The Phantom Menace. It is crazy to me that the movie had been out for a couple of weeks in the US when my dad died. We weren't getting it in the UK until September and because we only had very rudimentary internet access and certainly weren't perusing AintItCoolNews or other film sites the movie was still largely a mystery to us. For us, we were still in that amazing period of anticipation. Maybe my dad read a review later that night and that's what killed him?!
After our swim we drove up the road to a local pizza place our family had always liked just to get some garlic sticks. Real nice, doughy ones that we both enjoyed. I think he had one and let me have the rest. None of this was far from my house so he dropped me off home. I gave him a hug and told him I would see him tomorrow and went to the front door, my mum was already home from work and opened it before I got there, she was with Paul already by this point and was finally in a good place after years of anguish and hardship, her and my dad were on good and friendly terms too so she gave him a wave from the door as I headed in. At that point I remembered I hadn't thanked him for the garlic sticks so I quickly turned around and, while holding up the bag shouted "Thanks for the garlic sticks!" to him before he drove off, exiting stage right and rounding the corner of Millbury Crescent. That was the last thing I ever said to him and the last time I saw him alive.
It's a dumb last thing to say to someone you love, to anyone really, but to be honest I'm good with it. I was thanking him for something kind he had done for me. Sure in the moment I was thanking him for some dough but I look back on it now and think that really I was thanking him for everything.
This post is coming out on a random day just shy of a month after what would have been his 68th birthday, three days after the 19th anniversary of his death and a few days before fathers day. But it's a Wednesday. I love my dad and miss him. Do me a favour and tell your parents thanks next time you see them.
Oh yeah this is a silly picture of me in my new gaming headset to lighten the tone after a pretty serious post! Oh and I had a twitter thread with some observations I made about that first photo. They're pretty fun, go follow me @jhewlett to see!