A second chance to have the perfect Dad
Like everyone I was born with a Father, but in my case he was a much older parent, (56 when I was born), not to mention being in constant bad health, having had a clot on the brain, a serious heart condition that involved three heart attacks, later on Gout, Parkinson's disease etc.
As a young girl growing up, this whole situation was far from easy, and my Father was not an easy man to live with for either my Sister or me. His temper had been affected by his various illnesses, he was completely out of touch with what things cost and was therefore very "mean" with money, he was not very nice to our Mum or us, and we both begged her to divorce him.
Mum being the much younger half of the couple (a 22 year age gap), was still very energetic and a fantastic Mother. The problem she had was that she had not only given up her singing career to be with Dad, but she had also ended up being a full time carer, plus trying to bring up a family of two young children with little or no emotional support from Dad.
Mum was far too honourable for her own good, and refused to leave Dad on the basis that if anything happened to him she would never forgive herself. Dad was on many tablets for his heart etc, but due to the clot on the brain would have forgotten to take them if Mum hadn't been around to make sure that he did.
And so we all suffered a very difficult life for many years, with few outside of the family having any clue how hard it really was. Dad was very domineering, and believed totally in the "children should be seen and not heard" philosophy on life. Now to a degree this worked with my somewhat more introvert Sister, but it failed miserably with me, and Dad and I argued constantly from when I was very young. In the end I think he kind of respected me for it, as he saw a lot of himself in me, and realised I would not be verbally beaten down.
Now Dad and I clashed badly, and I remember on one occasion saying to him that I hated him. In fact I stated to a number of family members and friends that I would be relieved if he died. I doubt they believed me from their reactions at the time, but when in 1986 my Mum woke me up (following Dad being taken into hospital for the umpteenth time), and told me he had just died at the age of 71, my initial words were, "I think it was for the best", and I went back to sleep again. The following day I went into school, 16 years old, and took my Maths C.S.E. much to the shock of the teachers who felt I should be at home, but I had insisted on going to take the exam.
My wonderful Headmaster at the time, (a Welshman called Mr Knight), gave me a huge hug when I told him Dad had died, and asked me if I wanted to go home. When I told him I didn't, he made a point of going around all of my teachers that day and telling them my Father had died to ensure they made allowances for any lack of concentration I might show.
The only real tears I cried were at Dad's funeral, which due to the nature of his business, and the respect he held with the public, was packed out with people, including my Headmaster from school. The reason I cried was I felt pity for him, as it seemed really sad that all these people respected him, but his own family had struggled even to love him due to his illness, and the bad temper that largely resulted from it.
It was many years later before I truly cried for my Father, and this was when an ex-boyfriend of mine said to me that I had said I "hated my Father". I got very defensive, and said that this wasn't true, and that I did forgive him for how he had been in life. The floodgates opened and I cried my eyes out as if my Dad had only just died.
I felt I had never had a proper Father like other children did, and now felt I never would, but I was wrong...
Following Dad's death Mum was adamant she was not interested in a further marriage. She had been through a very tough time, and both of her Brothers had died, (one of whom lived in a wing on our house at the time), her Mother, (our Grandmother), who also lived with us for many years had died, Dad had died, and I had moved out of the house, all within the previous two years. Shortly after my Sister Hayley had moved out too, and so Mum was left on her own rattling around in a large farmhouse that had previously had six people living in it.
We really wanted her to be happy in a new relationship, but the guys that were now interested were not her type, and she was not keen on settling down again.
It took around ten years before she met "Mr Right", and he turned out to be the best thing that could ever have happened to her. James was the local "Fire Chief" in Guernsey, and as Mum was looking to rent out the wing on the house as a Self Catering Holiday Unit, he chose to come round to the house and do the fire safety inspection in person, (pretty unheard of for a Fire Chief, as usually they would send a lower ranking officer for such a task). James had always liked Mum, and this is why he chose to carry out the inspection himself.
Within twenty-four hours he sent her a huge bouquet of flowers, and to cut a very long story short, they ended up as a couple some months later. James sold his house and moved in with Mum, and she was at last blissfully happy.
Hayley and I immediately accepted James as he was so unlike the Dad we had known previously, plus he made Mum happy. I was living in England at the time, but when I finally met James I knew he was "the one".
There had been some complications with a former, somewhat stale relationship James had found necessary to break off to be with Mum, but when I had written to him at the Guernsey Fire Station with my concerns over this taking some time and how upset Mum was at the thought she might lose him, he had sent me a lovely and reassuring reply. All of his promises he kept, and I respected him totally for that, plus it was great to see Mum smile like she always should have been able to.
Over the years since they have been married, (15+ now), I have grown very close to James. I find we have so much in common, such as a great love of gardening, a wicked sense of humour and a kind heart.
He was there for me, along with my Mum, when my first Husband died of Bowel Cancer. They flew over to the UK twice within weeks, firstly to help look after our pets whilst I stayed at the hospital, and two weeks later when my Husband died they returned for the funeral and stayed on with me for a good two weeks afterwards to make sure I was okay. Their support was invaluable, and kept me from doing something stupid. Never once did they complain, even when their hire car was vandalised during the trip and they had to pay for the insurance excess to the car hire company.
James helped to pick up the pieces when the next relationship I had fell apart due to my ex being a complete control freak. Never once did James complain, but was always quietly supportive.
James was the one who helped my Husband Richard and I to restore our fishing lake from derelict to how it is today. He is fitter than most men half his age, and swims in the sea virtually every day throughout the summer here in Guernsey. He does 100 press ups every morning and yet he is over 74 years old now.
I always know James will be here if I need a lift, a favour doing, help with moving stuff etc. I visit both my Mum and James virtually every day, and the first thing he always does is to offer me a glass of wine and give me a big hug and a kiss hello. I am never ever made to feel unwelcome or in the way.
Recently I have had some health problems, and as James (who is very into sailing), was planning on going on a cruise around the Magellan Straits and Cape Horn etc, he offered to pay all of my fare so that I could go with him in February. Sadly my Mum has a lot of problems with her knees thesedays, and would not cope well with jumping off the ship onto small boats to visit Antarctica etc, so she is going to have a separate holiday with my Sister Hayley. I am truly looking forward to this cruise, as we will get to see Sea-Lions and Elephant Seals in the wild, Magellan Penguins, Albatross etc, plus the most amazing scenery in places such as Chile, Uruguay, the Falklands, the Norwegian Fjords etc. I can't imagine a better person to enjoy this experience with.
Having a person like James in my life has made me feel like I now have the Father I never had before. I would happily do all the things with James that a Father does with their child normally e.g. fishing, cycling, gardening etc. What breaks my heart is that I got this second chance at having a Dad so late into James life, and I only hope he is one of those people who live to a very ripe old age because they keep themselves fit. It already brings tears to my eyes at the thought of ever losing him, and he is so good to my Mum, looking after her when she is ill (plus most of the rest of the time), and carrying out most of the household chores to help her avoid further pain in her legs etc. I don't know how she would cope if anything happened to him before her, and I am guessing my Sister and I would immediately have to help out as much as we could, which of course we would do willingly.
James has helped make me a far less selfish person than I used to be, and I will happily help him out too whenever the opportunity arises. I now get a really good feeling if I do something kind for him and Mum that makes them smile, especially as I know I now have a special place in his heart too.
I frequently take them my home grown vegetables, or when recently Mum was ill I took them over a couple of meals I had made at home. This makes me feel a better person and therefore good about myself for the first time in my life.
Whilst I have now forgiven my real Father for the difficult man that he was, and understand why, I never thought afterwards I would be able to have a proper "Father/Daughter" relationship in my lifetime, but thankfully I have now been given a second chance to have a Dad, and I am loving every minute of it.