It's a long time since my dear old dad was with us - some twenty years - and the world has changed in so many ways - I just can't see him dealing with a mobile phone or a laptop. But he's been in my thoughts a lot recently and it is one of my wistful regrets that my lovely husband and children never knew him in his heyday. Of course, my beloved knew him but he was getting on a bit then and the older two children, knew him briefly but probably can't remember much about him.
In his sixties, which is the time I remember best, he and I were continually at loggerheads - he because he was always right, even when he was wrong - and me for exactly the same reason! He was not tall in stature but a huge character - an orator (so that's where number 1 daughter gets it from), ambitious (number 2 daughter obviously), charismatic, charming and stubborn. He was intensely physical - my strongest memory of this is when he held my hand, his grip would be so tight that the bones in my knuckles would grind together.
Sometimes I think he was probably rather disappointed in his children - no Olympic sportsmen, no England rugby players, no captains of industry or famous actors. You had the sense with dad that he could have been all of these things if he had so chosen - or perhaps that's just a child's simple worship of her father. He wasn't tactile or affectionate but we all strove to achieve his good opinion which, when received, you wore as a badge with pride.
He was ill for quite a long time in the last couple of years. It was heart-breaking to see him lose, first his ramrod-straight physical presence, and then his razor-sharp mind. The last holiday we went on together was to Ibiza where he and mum had been going since I was six. We were there with our two little girls and it was a special but very sad holiday. Dad's favourite place on earth was a tiny cove next to a much larger and more popular beach on the island. He loved this little cove which deterred all but the fittest as the route down to it from the cliff required the sure-footedness of a mountain goat. We drove the car as near to the cliff edge as was possible so that he would have the shortest walk. He struggled out of the car and wanted so, so much to clamber down the slope to the hot sand and the glinting blue of the Mediterranean. He stood and looked and then shook his head. He knew, and we knew, without words that he would never make it.
I hadn't thought about this for a long time, but now, I wonder how will I be when I have my moment on the cliffs which must come to everyone who makes it into old age? Will I be able to regather myself and find things that will make the continuation of the journey worthwhile? I don't know but I suppose we can only hope.