Paul Bevan, by Karen

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On the 8th January, thousands of people were celebrating what would have been Elvis Presley’s 80th Birthday. A special day for many and one that has a special relevance for my family because it would also have been my Dad’s 60th Birthday. He too was a King of sorts, to us, anyway. Only his crown was a floppy canvas hat, or a pair of pants tied around his head when he needed to protect his bald spot down the beach.

To my shame, I’d forgotten that Dad shared his Birthday with Elvis. He’d always been very proud of that fact, because Elvis was his favourite singer. When I saw it  in the news I was completely mortified that I’d forgotten that little fact about him. But then I realised: it’s been a long time without him reminding us.

2015 marks the 15th year that he’s been gone, which means he’s been out of my life for as long as I ever knew him – and to be honest, that’s a thought that I struggle with. Sometimes, I worry that I never really knew him. I was still a kid when he passed, and so the role he played in my life was largely that of authoritarian. That’s not to say we weren’t close. We were very close, perhaps a little too alike in so many ways. But I don’t think you ever truly appreciate your parents as ‘people’, with lives and loves and experiences beyond you being the centre of their universe, until you’re much older. Until you can appreciate all the struggles and beauty of life. The sacrifices they made, and the joy that simple pleasures such as long walks and listening to music with loved ones can bring.

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Every Sunday, we would be at home and dad would play his favourite LPs. He loved 60s music, and so many of the songs from the era hold a special place in my heart. I guess it’s fitting in a way that I would go on to work on a specialist 60s music radio show. The same part of me that used to dread being asked to change dad’s records, for fear of scratching his precious collection with my fat clumsy fingers, now longs to be able to sit with him and go back through the countless sleeves and introduce him to the new songs I’ve heard.  Every day, I’m sad that I don’t get to talk to him about the music we’re playing, the things I’ve learned and talk to him about his memories of that time. Not just as Father and Daughter, but adult to adult; friend to friend. Every day, I wonder if he would be proud of me. I think about what an amazing grandfather he would have been to my niece and nephews. I wonder if my life would have turned out differently – and sometimes, I still worry if there’s a slim chance I’ll go bald like he did. (I’ve done a lot of research, and it’s more likely that straighteners will be the ones to steal my hairline from me, not genetics.)

Every time I’m at a wedding, I feel a pang of guilt when it comes to the speeches. This little flicker of jealousy and sadness rises up inside me when I realise that I’ll never have that. I’ll never know what it feels like to have your father walk you down the aisle and embarrass you with stories about what you were like as a baby.  I’ll never know how it feels to see his eyes swell with pride when it dawns on him that his scratty haired little girl has grown up to be a scratty haired woman.

I carry a tremendous amount of guilt around with me, and it manifests itself in the strangest ways. I feel guilty that at one stage, I used to be happy if he had to work overnight on a driving job and would call to say he wasn’t going to make it home that evening. If he’d been in one of his moods, I’d be relieved that he wouldn’t be in the house for at least another day.  It physically hurts me to think that there was ever a time when I looked forward to the days that he wasn’t around.

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I feel guilty that we didn’t force him to go to the doctors sooner, that we didn’t realise something more sinister than IBS was fueling his  noticeable weight loss and lethargy. I feel guilty that I didn’t spend that last New Year’s Eve with him, the Millennium,  just watching TV like we did every year, but instead went out to a house party and drank in the street with my friends, while he was sat at home, dying of cancer, fighting with every breath just to make it to a new day; let alone a New Year. I feel guilty that I didn’t realise that the only reason he let me stay out that night – way beyond my usual curfew –  was because he knew he didn’t have long left and he wanted me to go out, forget for a while, be a kid and have some fun.

Most of all, I feel guilty that I never realised he was going to die. Not for one second did I ever think that cancer would steal my Dad away from me. Even when that fateful day arrived and I was told to go upstairs and say my goodbyes at his bedside – I still didn’t believe it. Perhaps if I had, I would have held him for a little longer, said something a little more profound. Perhaps…

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As I’m sure many of you who have been through such loss know, the pain never really goes away, you just become numb to it and learn to muddle on through life with this empty little pocket in the corner of your heart. You cope.

But it’s ok, because, despite my mixed emotions, I’m lucky that I know he loved me and would have done anything for me. I’m lucky that I had him for the time I did, and that he and my mom gave us the best start in life that they could. I’m lucky that I can see so many wonderful traits of his in myself and my relatives. So I know that although there may be the odd little memory of him I forget, he will never truly be far from my mind.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Love always, 

Kaz

Xx

Karen is a Radio producer based in London, a woman of few hidden talents, but quite obvious vices.

Don Utton, by Dominic

Dominic DadDads are full of advice. It’s what dads do, in a way, what they’re there for. Mums do the practical stuff, the actual business of bringing children up – and dads, in the main, get to dispense wisdom.

My dad was never shy about giving advice – from the obviously useful stuff (“always magnetise your screwdrivers”, “never scrimp on a date”), to the esoteric, such as this gem, on the subject of flirting as a married man: “It doesn’t matter where you get your appetite, so long as you always eat at home”.

He also had his fair share of ridiculous/possibly brilliant philosophies too – the early bird may catch the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese; “sorry” is not as hard a word as “goodbye”; and perhaps best of all: never play poker against someone with a missing finger, or wearing sunglasses, or named after a southern state of America.

But if I had to pinpoint the best bit of advice he ever gave me, it wouldn’t fall into any of these categories. It wasn’t very funny, it wasn’t obviously clever, and it certainly wasn’t at all practical. And yet I’ve tried to live by it every day since.

First, a bit of context. In 2007 my dad Don, always a fit, healthy, active man, started getting headaches. He shrugged them off initially, then as they became worse, took the occasional aspirin. And then one day in August, he fell over and blacked out in the bathroom. He woke in hospital, where he was told he may have suffered a stroke.

He hadn’t suffered a stroke. What he did have was a huge, aggressive, inoperable brain tumour. And short of making him comfortable and perhaps trying to delay things by a month or two, there was nothing the doctors could do.

When he left hospital again, just four months later, it was to come home to die. He was 69 years old.

I had just become a father for the first time myself. Eithne was born at about the time the headaches got bad; she was just 10 months old when he died.

Watching, helpless, as your father loses his fight against a brain tumour is not an easy thing to do – and doing so while your baby daughter bounces and crawls over his hospital bed still harder. If ever I was in need of advice about anything, that was the time. But of course there was none. What advice can you give in that situation? Nothing anyone can say could make something like that easier to deal with.

Until… one afternoon towards the end, when he was drifting in and out of sleep, my brother, who was reading the paper, expressed his disgust with the fact that a certain Premiership footballer was planning to run for Parliament. Like a footballer knows about the real world, he ranted. Like someone paid to kick a ball for a living has any qualifications for a political career!

My dad let him bluster on for a while, before opening his eyes and smiling.

“It doesn’t matter, you know,” he said. “All this stuff – footballers and politicians and celebrities. All this stuff people think is so important, that they get so worked up about…” and he looked at Eithne snoring softly in her car seat by his bed, “it doesn’t actually matter.”

We laughed it off at the time, but something about the way he said it stuck. And later, after he died, in those initial awful few months, when I struggled to understand why, I kept thinking about it. And about that odd smile he had as he said it.

Because the thing is – of all the advice he ever gave me, I firmly believe that final pearl of wisdom was the one that really hit the nail on the head. All this stuff people think is so important… it doesn’t actually matter.

We get so wrapped up in all the minor dramas of our lives – work stress, arguments at home, frustration with the kids; we find ourselves getting angry with the actions of venal politicians, greedy bankers, vain celebrities, moronic footballers; we worry so much about the trivial things (hair loss, an extra inch around the waist) that we forget what’s really important.

We forget, in fact, that none of those things matter. Not in the long run.

What does matter? Family. Home. Love. Life. The simple things. That’s the advice my dad was trying to give me. Not to get lost in all the nonsense and focus instead on the fundamentals. To try to remember, when the boss is being unreasonable and the papers are full of idiots and the mirror is unforgiving… that none of these things actually matter.

As philosophies go, I’ve yet to hear it bettered.

Dominic Utton is an author and journalist who lives in Oxford with his wife and two children. His novel Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Time is out now.

Alfred Downs, by Jackie.

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Tuesday 13 February 1979

So, this is how it would have gone down. He’d have been sitting in his armchair, the one directly facing the telly. I’d have sat my ten-year-old self on his lap, or maybe on the pouffé (that’s what we called it in the 1970s) in front of him. He’d have given me a 10 pence piece from his pocket, and I’d have told him about my day. I didn’t talk to him for the money; I talked to him because we both loved having a chat between the end of teatime and my bedtime. But the money came in handy.

I can’t remember what we spoke about that night. Maybe we discussed the excitement of the next day – his and my mum’s 20th wedding anniversary. I know I was excited about it. I’d been saving those ten pen pieces and had used ten of them to buy a china bell from the local market. It was wrapped and hidden in my wardrobe and the next day he was going to see it.

Except he didn’t.

Because on his way home from work he suffered two heart attacks. The ambulance crew brought him round after the first one, but his heart wore out. The second heart attack killed him.

Wednesday 14 February 1979

I remember a lot about this evening from so very long ago. I remember us having our tea without him. I remember standing the china bell on the table with the anniversary card around it. I remember what I watched on TV while I waited for him to come home. I remember my mum going to the front door at regular intervals. I remember opening the door to the police officers. I remember saying to my mum ‘He never saw the present I bought him.’

That china bell.

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Way back when

He was 59 when he died. I was ten. That’s quite an age gap. He was older than most of my friends’ dads, but there were reasons for that. We were his second family. He’d been through this before.

There are things about my dad that I never found out about until long after his death; things that made me think, quite simply: My poor dad.

This is how it went down….

When he was 13, he came home from school and found his mum, dead, in a pool of her own blood. My own mum told me this story when I was in my 30s. For obvious reasons it wasn’t something he ever spoke about to me. I was too young, and maybe even if he’d lived it wouldn’t have been something he wanted to dwell on. Somehow, somehow he managed to live with what happened, what he saw. He managed to go about his life, to form relationships.

One of those relationships was with the woman who became his first wife. They had a son. When their boy was a toddler she left, with my dad’s best friend. Somehow he managed to live with this, managed to go about his life, to form other relationships.

He met my mum, had another son, then me. And then he went to work one day and he never came back.

His life was one that was built around people not coming back. It could have made him closed and wary. But he found a way to make it not matter. Maybe those losses made him crave company and family. I’m glad they did, because it meant for ten years I had a dad who took me to the park, to the seaside, who built sandcastles with me, who watched me bounce and soar on trampolines embedded in south coast beaches, who read to me, who talked to me every night before I went to bed.

And so when I think about what he went through, how he suffered, what he lost, and what he was emotionally brave enough to look for again, I no longer think, ‘My poor dad.’ I think ‘My amazing, open, fantastic, optimistic dad.’

Jacqueline Downs lives in Crystal Palace where she is a writer of short stories, an editor of academics and a mixer of old-fashioneds.

Goodbye, by Lubi Barre

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The man staring at me through my iPhone screen is old. His hair is completely grey and close cropped. He’s lethargic, his eyes heavy, his voice slow. He used to know several languages but now can barely speak his native tongue. A tongue he had passed on to me but that I barely use in my new life.

I say “Father it’s your daughter, Lubna”.

He hardly responds, looking back with low lids at the iPad shoved in his face. My mother goads him to respond and like a good school boy he says a rehearsed “hello how are you doing.”

I say “Father, it’s Axado” and suddenly he bursts into a knowing smile, remembering the special nickname he gave me as a child: Sunday.

I say “Father, it’s Axado, look at my baby son, we say hello”. His smile widens, his soul remembering his love for babies even if his brain can’t comprehend that this one belongs to me.

I do not know this old man. The father I knew and left four years ago was old only in years. His voice was strong, leaving me pleading messages to return his calls as I erased them.

And now, I find myself picking up my son like a prop and presenting him to his grandfather on a phone screen. They both look at each other, like strangers, unaware they share twenty-five percent genetically.

I am not sure if they will get the chance to meet. I know for sure that my father can no longer give me advice, does not have the strength to hold his grandson, to make the connections needed. I know that he will not be able to change my son’s diaper when his own needs changing.

I wish it did not take me this long to become responsible, to understand how fixable everything is. I wish I knew the fragility of life before the feel of my son’s new skin.

I say “Goodbye father” and wave my son’s hands for him while his own lays limp. My mother prompts him to answer and he says, like an old man, “Goodbye, have a nice day.”

 Lubi Barre is a writer living in Hamburg, Germany with her husband and two children, trying to perfect her German before they are old enough to hold a conversation.

Roy Rogers, by Jude

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I’ve had enough of writing about my dad’s death. It’s time to write about his life.

Dad was Roy, born to Vera and Theo on 17 February, 1950. He had a much older brother, Donald, although his parents weren’t married when he came along; Donald was brought up by his grandmother, and his surname was Sweeney. Dad lived in Craigcefnparc, and Gorseinon, but beyond that I don’t know very much. The details of that side of the family are sketchy. Time makes them sketchier.

Mam has a black-and-white picture of Dad as a toddler, though, wearing a cowboy costume. It’s not clear if Dad was named after Trigger’s owner, or if the family were just having fun. Dad has chubby cheeks, and dark eyes with a glint in them.

Dad loved Craigcefnparc. I know this from a secondary school friend of his, Myron. I found Myron online, or rather a poem Myron had written dedicated to Dad; it talked about “time’s torrents” and how casually they dealt with things. I e-mailed Myron a few years ago, and went round his house, where we talked about Dad over milky tea and thick rounds of sandwiches. Myron’s memory was patchy. He remembered Dad crashing his bike into a wall as a teenager, and going into hospital for treatment. Dad was good at science too, he said, but I knew that; he’d taught at the comprehensive school I’d go to years later. I was in the intermediate class and awful at physics. Sorry, Dad.

Dad was handsome as well. He had heavy, blue-black hair, as thick as strong wool, and proper Welsh melancholy swimming underneath his heavy brows. My mother first saw them, and him, at a bus stop in Fforestfach, as she set off for her first day at Swansea’s teacher training college with a friend. This boy got on the same bus. He got off at the same stop. He climbed the same hill as them, and turned off when they did. She told me this recently, her eyes still alive at the memory. He wore a red V-neck. They got talking in the common room, she said, just because everybody did.

The first time he came home to Borough Road, Grandma’s friend, Merle, went, bloody hell, he’s a bit of alright. Mam and Dad married four years later, on a hot July afternoon. I arrived five years later in 1978, seconds after Swansea got promoted to the third division under their new manager, John Toshack. My brother Jonathan arrived on Guy Fawkes’ Day four-and-half years after that, and fireworks were let off at the roundabout at the end of our cul-de-sac.

Dad nearly got roughed up once, at a Swansea-Cardiff derby with Uncle Huw (Uncle Huw’s not my real uncle, but he was my dad’s best friend, so he is). They were in the gents’, at the urinals, Huw told me, as deadpan as ever, on a Facebook thread out of the blue a few years ago. Dad had my mother’s school scarf on – I’ve always loved him even more for that. They were down Swansea’s end, Dad and Huw, and two Cardiff fans appeared out of nowhere, rough and ready for a fight. My mother’s school scarf was in Cardiff colours, so Dad fibbed about his allegiances. A clever bugger, my father. Just don’t tell John Toshack.

Dad kept getting mistaken for people who weren’t as Welsh as him, too. Once, for some reason, George Best at another Swans’ match, with my mother. Another time, in Sidoli’s ice cream parlour in town, someone Italian. Swansea was full of Italians, so that wasn’t unusual. Senor Sidoli himself came up to Dad, rabbiting away in full lingua madre; Dad shook his head softly and answered in lilting Swansea English. I still remember Dad’s voice, because I have a tape with him on it from 1983; he’s encouraging my baby brother and I to talk into the microphone on it. His voice sounds deep, rich, soupy, like so many voices I know, but stiller somehow, and stronger. It remains as familiar to me as water.

My own memories of Dad are captured in round-cornered photographs in faded browns, oranges and greens. It’s hard to know if I invented memories to fit those frames, or if those recollections lingered properly in my mind. Him reading to me – I’m not sure if that’s from my own head. Him teaching me how to write programs on his Spectrum 48K computer – that has to be. I remember being a bit older, 8 or 9, making a tune on the rubber keys in that way on my own, then writing a one-armed bandit game from one of Dad’s ZX magazines. God knows what he’d make of the world now. 10 PRINT “JUDE”. 20 GO TO 10. RUN.

I also remember going to Dad’s last school, a primary, just before he stopped teaching, and meeting his infant class, who were around the same age as me. Dad told me to get his keys from the staff room from a white box, so I did, and there was a chocolate bar next to his keys with my name on it. The sweetness, the fun, in that gesture, is what breaks my heart, really. But it shouldn’t break it, should it? It should make it swoop and sing.

Six months ago, I gave birth to my first child, a son. He arrived in an operating theatre, the same environment as the one where Dad died. After I numbly felt the doctor’s tug, pull and wrench, there were a few minutes when mine and Dan’s baby didn’t cry. They were the longest minutes of my life. And then Evan did.

My son has chubby cheeks, and dark eyes with a glint in them. He also carries the surname of his mother, and her father. When things get hard, I must remember that I was given life, and that I have given life. Life passes on through us. It has to. It always will.

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Jude Rogers is a writer and broadcaster for The Guardian, The Observer, Q, Marie Claire, In-Style and Radio 4.

Stuart Wilson, by Leah

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I used to think the first memory I had of my Dad was when he took me and my brother to the park and told us that he and my mother were going to live apart, that they were getting divorced. We were sat on a bench in Debdale Park in Manchester, right next to the enclosure where they kept all the rabbits and the birds, my favourite place. For most of my life I thought that was the first time I remembered my Dad. But it wasn’t.

There’s fleeting images of him returning home from a work trip laden with gifts – American Airlines teddies, gumballs, t-shirts with wolves on them, carved Elephants from India. There’s the memory of gleefully trying to help him fix his rally car, wearing my red overalls (they matched his,) him rubbing swarfiga on my tiny hands. His moustache. The trips to the woods, standing by the muddy track to watch him race. The blurred glimpse of his car flying past. They’re barely there memories, almost like I heard someone recount them one day, imagined them in my head and think they belong to me. Because most of my memories of my Dad are from the Wednesday evenings or the weekends that he was allowed to look after us.

Growing up, I lived between two homes. I had two bedrooms. Two wardrobes. Two Christmases and two summer holidays. Two Dads and two mums – but only one Dad I loved. These two lives barely touched. My Dad would pull up outside my mother’s house, beep the horn. Or he’d call ahead while he was two streets away so I’d be at the door by the time he arrived. On my 8th birthday he knocked on my mother’s door and handed me my birthday present: my first Manchester City football shirt. I remember being disappointed because I’d wanted the full kit. I asked him to come inside to the party but he kissed me on the cheek and he left.

Without fail he would be outside her house every Wednesday at 6pm, and every Saturday at 6pm. Without fail he would always turn up, always want to see his kids.

My dad is a workaholic. I guess that’s where I get it from. Along with the rallying, his job in aerospace engineering really took off. He travelled for work a lot, and I regularly spent a few hours at weekends in his office, playing with his staplers and drawing unicorns and drinking hot chocolate from the vending machine while he wrapped up some urgent work. I spent summers abroad with him while he worked in America, me and my brother and my step-mum would live in the hotel while he worked, we’d watch Lamb Chop’s Play-Along in our pyjamas and swim the pool until he came back. I remember staying with work friends of his, eating cookies and watching Indiana Jones. I used to get sent Christmas presents from them and the staff in the hotel.

Teenage years. Uncommunicative. I left home at 17. We didn’t speak very often after that. I wanted to forget I had a family. Too much unspoken emotion. Pain. Depression. Anger. He came to visit me once, when I was 17, living in Newcastle with a bunch of 25 year old BMXers. He came to visit me and he gave me money. He bought me lunch and let me make my own mistakes, even though at the time he didn’t know why I was making them. Even though every bone in his body was telling him to throw me in the car and drive me home. He didn’t. Maybe he should have.

For years, my Dad had a teddy doberman in his car. It was from my beanie baby collection. He took a shine to it. I asked him why he kept it in his car. “For protection,” he said.

November 2009. 7am. Morning. Bright, cold. Today’s the day. Out of bed. Cold floor. Mum’s spare room in the house you grew up in. Formal clothes. Downstairs, and your brother and your mother are sitting and looking at you. You look at them and you realise you can’t do this without your Dad there. You only told him yesterday. You didn’t even want to tell him because he would beat himself up about it. It would hurt him immeasurably, knowing that he had failed to protect his daughter. But you can’t do this alone, without his help. The strongest man you’ve ever known, the one you judge all other men against, and they are always found wanting. That morning, stood in the kitchen, feeling powerless and pathetic again, you call your Dad. You call him and you tell him you need him. For the first time since you could remember him, you absolutely need him there beside you. You need to see him, hold his hand, you need his steady eyes and his hugs that makes all insecurities disappear for a split second. He asks which court. You tell him Crown. He says I’ll meet you at the doors in an hour.

I wear my Dad’s watch every day. My Dad’s 1990’s Gucci watch, the first expensive watch he ever bought. He gave it to me – had it repaired, the strap shortened.

I wear my Dad’s sunglasses every day. They’re Ray Ban aviators. Proper Top Gun style sunnies. Top Gun is the reason he bought them. I remember them from holidays with him in Portugal, Spain, America with him on his work trips. Those glasses, and that moustache.

On the wall in the bathroom of my apartment is a photo of a rally car. The car is mid-air, flying over some dirt track. It’s not my Dad driving. It’s his hero Herni Toivonen. When you look closely, the picture has a crease down the middle. It’s been pulled out of a magazine. Years ago, he used to have it on the wall of his office. We found it in his shed last weekend. He wondered what to do with it. I told him I’d have it on my wall at home.

Leah Wilson: music publicist, DxH CEO and international big dog.

Tony Kay, by Jez

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I’ve never written anything about someone I love longer than a Tweet or Status Update. Certainly not a blog.

But when I think that it might, just might, help those who are trying to understand or come to terms with something, either regarding themselves or those around them, I give it a little extra thought. And in this case I’m driven to write about something I do happen to have some direct experience of. The subject of mental illness.

My Dad used to call them quacks: doctors in general, but in particular psychiatrists. I don’t think he had a particularly high regard of them. His science was a particularly exacting one. I remember him saying that, in all his time as an electronics engineer, he’d never actually got anything wrong. That’s presumably because he made damned sure he always got it right.

Then again, he wasn’t quite so confident when it came to matters not quite so definite or definitive. Like ambition. Or the prospect of managing others. Or his own mind.

He believed in meritocracy. He was on the side who believed that those that know probably should be in charge of those that don’t.

The trouble was, his was the losing side. Because usually the ignorant egoists were put in charge of him. And he hated that. And it drove him mad.

That’s “mad” in old speak of course. Now we say “mentally ill”, don’t we.

I’ve read quite a few articles by those who seem to know what they’re talking about in the last few days. Each attempts to give a cast-iron explanation for why people become depressed or unhinged, excessively moody or morose.

I used to have a very clear view myself, when Dad was ill. I used to think he’d be driven to it. Years of various forms of mistreatment, misunderstanding, lack of communication. Years of intense frustration, pain, disappointment.

Not only was Dad extremely intelligent. He was also charming and extremely funny, the kind of man who could quite frequently make people hurt with laughter. He was a magical mimic and could create a caricature of just about anyone, from Mum’s relatives – “Ey-oop, here’s Ann and Arthur!” – to pompous schoolmasters who’d taught him at Oundle. Germans and the French were particular favourites of his.

He was very kind too. He’d always be on call to pick up a stray teenage daughter or son from parties miles away or be there with a comforting wise word, most usually with reference to the difference between Northerners (good) and Southerners (bad). He was, naturally, a blue-blooded Southerner.

He’d sometimes lose it – that was a bit of a sign I suppose. I remember him kicking me when we were on a beach in France. I’m sure I was being annoying but I’m also sure he was, even then, quite a troubled man.

Troubled became out of control. Again, my clear, young mind thought it was all work-related. A succession of depressing workplaces, with even more wearisome bosses, had eaten away at him to such an extent that he started to take it out on himself, then Mum. When it all became too difficult for anyone to handle he checked himself into a clinic in Northampton, funded as it was by our Uncle Peter, Dad’s cousin. Another ounce of shame for Dad to endure.

Dad had Electric Shock Treatment more than once. It used to frighten me. He’d make friends with the psychiatric nurses – they seemed particularly caring if not particularly effective. The consultants, though, all seemed either useless, rarely available or both.

He went to another hospital – this one seemed no more than a way to keep him out of the house or at the very least to keep him relatively safe from himself.

He stabilised in the last couple of years of his life. But then, as far as I remember, he began to suffer from the early stages of Parkinson’s. In any case, he’d completely lost the vigour, charm and beautiful humour that he’d once had, barely a decade before. In 10 years he’d degenerated steadily but nonetheless shockingly.

He died of an aerobic embolism at the age of 67. He almost certainly wouldn’t have made it past his mid seventies with the heart he had but it’s still my view that his depression and severe anxiety (I think they called it schizophrenia back then – this was the mid-eighties) cut his life short by nearly a decade.

Familiar, eh? A man bordering genius, extremely funny, extremely troubled. Oh – and he could improvise Bach too. So, I remember Dad’s illness well. Something like that is difficult to forget. But I’m no clearer as to what might have been done to help the situation.

When Dad was ill I got to speak to him more than I’d ever spoken to him in my life. I was able to be the grown-up now, chivvying him on and giving him a bit of advice, most of which probably seemed no more than cold comfort. I’m pretty sure it brought me closer. It certainly coincided with a stable and happy time in my own life, so I think there’s just a chance it helped him, on the whole. It seems to me now that just talking and listening were the best things I could have done, no matter how powerless I felt or how pointless I remember it being.

The fact is, the more I think about it now, depressed people need love. They need selfless, unstinting love. It’s a love that makes the tea, that tidies up, that listens and doesn’t talk too much. It’s a love that sympathises and empathises, as appropriate. It’s a love that believes that it’s all going to get better, even if it doesn’t.

I wish I could have got on with Dad more, could have helped him more. Maybe he could have saved himself a little. Maybe he could have opened up more. Whatever.

What I do know now is that it’s a better thing for you to do what’s best when people are around – that’s share the love – than diagnose, pass judgement, feel bad, guilty or proselytise when they’re gone. Because all that stuff, whether it’s regarding a celebrity or a relative, all that stuff is truly pointless.

Jez Kay is a videographer and sound designer who lives in Greenwich, South East London with his wife and daughter.