22nd October 2007. It’s a Monday. The day starts like any other Monday. I head to work. Still fueled with upset and anger over the England loss in the Rugby World Cup Final. Worried about Dad. He’s been up and down for a while now and his latest stint in A&E was on the Thursday previous. The hospital wanted to keep him in that day - some irregularities with his heart. He didn’t want that. There was the final to watch on the Saturday. He looked at me: “Jenny?” Ok let’s get you home. And the first sign of trouble, we’re straight back here. We made an emergency doctor’s appointment on the Friday to check him over. He was ok. Fine.
I saw dad all that weekend. I saw him on the Sunday to talk about the rugby final. We spoke about the upcoming week. I told him I’d get him some new clothes and sort his food out. I’ll buy these on my lunch break on Monday and see him later. He said he’d meet me at lunch.
Monday lunch came. He wasn’t in his usual spot to meet me - a bench outside the school in Church Square. I didn’t think much of it. Rang my brother to ask if he could check on him. I’d lent him my key. Just thought, I’ll see him later. I went and bought the clothes and waited for Dad to call me like he normally would. He didn’t.
Fast forward to evening. Mum gets a call from my brother. “Dad’s dead.” What? What? We jump in the car and head to the flat. The paramedics are just arriving. I rush in and go to his bedroom. There’s my dad. On the floor. He’s dead. My dad’s dead. He was 52.
Ten years on and I am still not used to those words. Still have the image of him on the floor. I would have nightmares at the time. These still happen every now and then. With him on the floor. My dad’s dead.
One of the worst dreams I had - not a nightmare. Dad was alive. We talked. We were just as we were. Talking, laughing, life was continuing. Then I woke up. For a split second, I thought Where’s Dad? And then it hit me all over again. My dad’s dead.
Dad was an alcoholic. I’ve always known this. As a child. My brothers and I grew up with an alcoholic father. His and mum’s relationship broke down. They separated and eventually divorced. Growing up wasn’t easy.
I saw dad on weekends. He would be drinking. He’d meet me and my little brother from school. I can still see him now walking on the road towards us as all the school children would be walking on the pavement in the opposite direction. He’d take us to the pub. We’d play pool, we’d play games. Sometimes Dad was yellow - it’s bad at the moment.
His drinking was known. Our friends all knew. Some made comments about it. They judged. You try to ignore this. They don’t understand. A lot of people don’t understand. We didn’t always understand. This was our life. Some people think drinking is easy and stopping is easy. That it’s easy to just stop. Well it isn’t. Dad tried to stop drinking so many times. He went to AA meetings, they weren’t for him. I remember a time we all went round the house pouring away every drop of alcohol in there.
There were many times like this as we grew up. And later. As the years went by, dad often said he wanted to stop drinking. We would never force it on him though. What we learnt is that you can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do. He would need to make the decision for himself. And we would need to support him in that decision. We all helped as much as we could. I still have a million regrets though. I should have tried harder. I should have helped more. Why didn’t I tell him to stay in hospital. Why didn’t I check on him sooner.
I don’t know what would have happened if he’d stayed in hospital over that weekend. He may have got better. He may have died. I will still regret it.
One thing I wish there was more of during his life was better awareness of alcoholism and addiction and the support available.. There are services out there to help and support and always have been. But people may not be aware of these. They may not be aware that addiction and alcoholism is a real problem and cannot just be turned off with a flick of a switch. Perhaps if there had been a better understanding earlier in dad’s life…. Let’s not go there. But it is an issue. And still is an issue. That’s why I am raising money for Addaction. I thought long and hard about which charity to choose. Addaction jumped out at me. They support people to make behavioural changes - this could be alcohol, drug use, mental health. Dad needed this. And this is what I am trying to achieve myself. I need to change my behaviours with my own drinking.
I miss my dad. Every day. And this day. 22nd October. Every year I dread the day. I used to love Autumn, going into Winter. The colours. The cold. I am now filled with an immense sadness as I walk through the crunchy leaves, feel the cold wind on my face. I break. More than usual.
If anyone who has suffered loss is looking for some words of wisdom on how to cope? I am sorry. I do not have these. I haven’t coped spectacularly well - I don’t know the best way. Ten years on and I still don’t know how to live in a world where my dad isn’t here. Leaving me notes on brown envelopes in his trademark writing - only ever capital letters. Talking through rugby. Talking about Chelsea. Telling me all his stories hundreds of times. All I know now is that I will miss him forever, I will remember him forever. He’s my dad.
I don’t know what he’d think of me running Snowdonia. He’d probably call me an idiot, to be honest. What do you want to do that for? It was terrible, I wanted to give up!
Dad completed the Snowdonia Marathon twice - 1989 and 1990. Hardest marathon he had ever completed, he said. He’d run a fair few! If it was hard for him - a seasoned runner - it will be absolute hell for me.
But I’m doing it anyway. For him. For me. And for anyone struggling with addiction. We can get through this together.
Six Days to Go.