In the January of that year Fiance's dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. It turned out to be too advanced for them to treat and he died, after a courageous battle with the disease, on the 2nd May aged 58. Watching Fiance and his mum reel from their loss, I was made to realise how thankful I was for my own happy little family.
On 11th November, Fiance got an early morning phonecall from his mum to tell him that his uncle (her brother) had died suddenly in his sleep. He was 52. We were stunned by this news, partly because Billy was such a character he seemed invincible, but partly because we couldn't believe one family could be so unlucky. I now wonder if our saying over and over at this time that things couldn't get any worse, had anything to do with what followed.
Two days later, on 13th November, I was having lunch with friends and got a phonecall from my mum to tell me that my dad had collapsed and been rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack. I raced to the hospital, praying that everything would be ok but knowing deep in the pit of my stomach that it wasn't. By the time I got there my dad had passed away. He was also 58.
My father worked all his life, and in everything he did he gave 100%. He could do anything (or so it seemed to me when I was younger). He knew how to put up wallpaper, change a tyre, read a novel in one sitting (something I have never managed), lay concrete, fit carpet, put together a killer PowerPoint presentation, write a fantastic CV, do long division and he had a knack for keeping young children amused for hours on end. If he didn't know how to do something, he gave it a bash and generally ended up succeeding in whatever he was doing.
He worked for 30 years in Ferranti and all its various incarnations. He studied part time for an MBA in the six years before he left Ferranti (or BAE Systems as it was by then), and two weeks after he graduated he handed in his notice, and went off to a fairly senior post in a large luxury car manufacturer where he stayed for six years, before becoming disillusioned with it. He then left to work in Scottish Enterprise, which he adored. In the short time he was there (a year) he had managed to cause some ripples in the calm, but inefficient, pond that was Scottish Enterprise. In short, my father was a driven man, but he also loved his family and would do anything he could to help us - his career was important, but nothing compared to his devotion to his family.
For the last year, Fiance and I have been trying to deal with the fact that we both lost our fathers at a fairly young age, and to support our mothers as best we can. Back in November last year I didn't see how everything could go on as normal without my dad in this world. But life has gone on, difficult as it's been, and it will continue to do so. In one way it feels like we just lost him yesterday - like how could a whole year have passed without me talking to my dad (or asking him to nip round with his drill and put some shelves up)?
But in another way it feels like a whole lifetime ago that both dads were just at the end of the phone, and we didn't have to worry about our mums being lonely or taken advantage of by dishonest tradesmen. I get a horrible tight feeling in my chest every time I leave my mum's house, and see her standing there waving me goodbye - alone. I picture my dad standing behind her, making faces, tickling her or just giving her a hug, which is what he used to do and which meant I could leave satisfied that they had everything they needed, in each other. I'm grateful that I had such a shining example of a happy marriage right in front of me for 25 years - I just wish it had lasted a few more years. But it will stay with me when I embark on my own marriage with Fiance and I hope we'll be as happy as our parents.
I can't imagine being at this stage but I guess it'll happen in the blink of an eye. So much has changed in the last year and a half, I feel like a different person. Even this time NEXT year I'll be a different person than I am today (I'll be married for one thing - ohmygoodgod). I'll always miss my dad, and I'm so sad that he won't be walking me down the aisle next September, but I know he'll be watching me, and I know he'll approve. Even if he did used to call Fiance 'Meatballs' (his name is Campbell).