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On the Death of my Da - March 2007

On the Death of my Da

Last Monday evening my da died.

I called the hospital in Manchester and the doctor broke me whilst I sat on the back seat, upstairs on the C2 bus to Camden.

‘Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’ I asked, and immediately played out Denial.

‘Yes’, she replied.

I got off the bus in Camden and walked through the grunge and trails of spliff and wondered where my da now was. I was sure it wasn’t Camden.

I had to call my brother. He wasn’t answering. So I sent a text – ‘Dad’s Dead’, I said, ‘ten minutes ago’ – the miracle of modern technology.

My brother then called said he was so depressed he wouldn’t mind joining him.

‘Fine’, I said, ‘just make sure you have insurance’.

I reached what passes for ‘home’ and made my usual supper of oatcakes, bananas and a glass of soya milk and felt guilty at sticking to my ritual. Then I realised that the first episode of Sopranos series six was starting that night.

I called my dad’s sister and broke her. She cried. I cried but then she passed the phone to her second husband, a man I barely know. That’s when I stopped crying.

She asked if we were sending him back to Ireland. I thought money.
Then I thought Home – that was Us, for him, us, his grown up children – we were his home, and he ours.

Then I got the poem out that I would read at his funeral, Those Winter Sundays, by Robert Hayden – miles of meaning in each line, known only to us – to him.

And the song?

We thought of something by The Pogues – Fairytale of New York would be an apt statement of his and our mum’s marriage, but instead we unanimously agreed on Peter Gabriel’s Salisbury Hill because of the words ‘Pack your things I’m gonna take you home’, which is what we wanted to do. Now. Pack his things and take him home. And it’s what he had said, over the years, to each and every one of his seven children.

There’ll be no one in the world now to say that to us with the same meaning.

I just hope he knew how loved he was.

B. Webb C 2009

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