I’ve never really had a head for numbers, but I know all the important ones.
7 is lucky, 13 not-so-much and 3 is, apparently, magic.
Then there’s 10.
10 is tops; 10 is the real deal; 10 is the Big One. 10 is, apparently, the only number that humans can truly understand. Everything is broken into groups of 10 and it’s 10 that marks so many of our milestones.
Next month will mark 10 years since my dad died and I use the word ‘mark’ predominantly because it’s an Actual Phrase, but also because it’s a phrase that fits. The whole thing feels like a mark; a smudge, a scar, a burn, a stain, a reminder in a way that it didn’t three years ago when I wrote this.
I’ve run out of steam on the jokes and the happy-go-lucky spin, and the life lessons that I learned from losing a parent at 15 seem stale. In a few years I will have only had my dad around for half of my life, and the year after that it will be less and I think that is all due to the fact that this year is 10 YEARS.
The 10 year anniversary of something so painful feels exacerbating in the sense that I’ve done ten years of this now, how much longer does this have to go on for?
Grief, alongside break ups and muscle soreness, is supposed to get better with time; that’s the rule. We all prescribe to the notion because the alternative seems far too shit and in some ways, grief really does get better with time; you go back to eating three meals a day and to washing your hair and to ordering stuff on Amazon and paying council tax and everything else in between. You become less and less paralysed, as if you’re walking off a very, very uncomfortable cramp, and everything goes back to ‘normal’; normality of course being the British shorthand for better, for fixed.
However, the other thing that grief can do over time is get quietly, insidiously worse. With each day that passes, each unit of time that gets added to tab increases the total amount of time that it’s been since you last saw a person that you loved so much that the love felt so deep and ingrained that it was almost unnoticeable.
And so, as I’m awarded the ten year commemorative watch that I assume all members of the One Parent Club receive, I am only reminded that my dad has been missing for a whole ten years of my life; he’s missed way more than he’d missed when I first emerged from the first 365 days of grief-fest and he’s going to miss much, much more.
He won’t be at my wedding. He won’t teach me to drive. He won’t even be called Grandad by the children that I’m not particularly sold on bearing.
I could list what I’ve learned, 10 years on, except I don’t feel like I have learned anything; things can still be hard, things can still be painful and things can still work out.
I could list precious memories that I’ll never let go of, except my brain is a traitor and I remember less and less of the time that I did spend with my dad everyday. It feels like the more I flex my brain to remember, the more brittle and breakable the memories become, even if I shut my eyes really tight to try and stop them leaking away.
I could list funny moments from my dad’s life and death, but it’s harder to be funny now than it was three years ago. It is actually quite exhausting to try and be funny and okay about something that is painful and permanent.
I could not write anything at all, but as much as I want to kick against this milestone, it’s happening regardless, so I might as well acknowledge it in my own emotionally explicit way. So, instead, I’m going to list 10 things that I wish my dad had been here for as, annoyingly, it’s those moments that feel the most vivid.
1. My eyelash lift and tint – As a man who was visibly baffled by the idea of exfoliating beads, the concept of getting one’s eyelashes permed into a curl and then dyed would have perplexed you beyond words and I would love to see your face as I explained it.
2. Graduation – It was kind of boring, the speaker was Sanjeev Bhaskar, and scuttled across the stage like a rat up a drainpipe but the day did not feel completely right with you not there.
3. Every job that’s ever made me cry for three consecutive days – I think I most wanted you around at these times because I know you would’ve told me to quit, and when you’re stuck in a job that makes you practically immobile on a Sunday and nauseous every morning, all you want is for someone to tell you that it’s okay to quit.
4. Luther – You just would’ve really liked Luther and I always think of you when I watch it, even though you’ve never seen it.
5. iPhones – I remember the Motorola Razr blowing your mind, so I think I would’ve had to break the concept of iPhones to you gently. You would constantly tell me that it was amazing that a phone was that compact and light and I would respond with a teenage face that said “Dad, stop being so lame, I care about literally nothing that you have to say because I am 15.” Would you have been one of the people that Twitter mocks for queuing up to get the latest iPhone? Yes, you bloody well would.
6. The return of Alan Partridge – I first watched Alan Partridge in your depressing, newly divorced-dad living room and let me tell you, dad, you do not know how well being able to quote Alan Partridge has served me with the fellas, which I know is exactly what you intended when you introduced your teenage daughter to something that you found hilarious. I wish we could’ve watched the movie together and then discussed how disappointing it was. Also, I served Steve Coogan in Urban Outfitters when I lived in Brighton and he was nice.
7. The demise of Ricky Gervais – You would think that he’s a complete tosser and I would no disagree with you.
8. The rise of pulled pork – I cannot believe that you were not here to see pulled pork become a thing, that you have never actually tasted pulled pork. It is actually not that great, but I think you would’ve liked it.
9. For every stupid mistake I’ve ever made – I wish you were here to say “It is ok. Everything is ok. You have done something stupid but I love you and you are not bad. Also, I will kill [blank]”.
10. Memes – Dad, you would fucking love memes. Rough calculations lead me to assume that you would tag me in approximately 168 a day on Facebook, which doesn’t seem like too high a price to pay to have you here, so let’s make a deal with the necessary people
PS – Do you know what the 10 year anniversary gift is for people who are married? It’s tin. What a completely underwhelming gift. I can only assume the person who got tasked with the job of finding a gift for every marriage milestone got so maddeningly bored with process and decided to have a little joke by giving tin on the tenth anniversary because the two words sound vaguely alike? I mean, sure. It’s a terrible joke if that’s what they were going for, but GOD. What a job.