LOYAL (Five Minute Friday)

Soon after I started my first job post university, my dad developed depression and was put on long term sick. My plans to move out were abandoned so that I could stay and support both my parents through this.

One of my clearest memories of that time is of sitting on the stairs with my mum as she talked about how hard it was to interact with my dad, how he spurned offers of help or sympathy, and particularly how easily he snapped at the most innocuous comment followed by a sinking into abject guilt. We walked on eggshells most of the time, not knowing how he would react. And, most painfully for my mum, he simply withdrew from all company and contact for the majority of the time.

However, there was one presence he could tolerate, even welcomed: our dog, Rhauaridh*.

My mum had insisted that Dad continued to take the dog for his regular evening walk. Where we lived in London there was a reputation for assaults and muggings, so it wasn’t considered safe for a woman to go out alone after dark. With my brother away at university, that left Dad. The daily dog walk became the anchor to his routine, made him exercise and leave the house, even the occasionally have a short interaction with other dog walkers; it was a lifeline.

Throughout the day, when Dad shut himself away in our back room to just sit on the sofa for hours, the dog would patiently curl up next to him, head on his lap. He said that Rhauridh’s* was a comforting but completely undemanding presence. Dad needed company but found human conversation or questions too much whereas the dog provided just what he needed. It was as if he knew that Dad was ill and had found the most effective way of telling him that he wasn’t alone.

(pronounced ‘Rory’, it’s Scots Gaelic for ‘the red one’)

LOVED (Five Minute Friday)

It’s a job I’ve put off for some time but today I finally got down to it.

I’d bought a set of decorative boxes online and chose the pale blue one with furry budding stems on the lid. Carefully I read the instructions, put it together, and then found the albums I planned to store in it. They’d been sitting in a pile of books, DVDs, and games, almost lost on the bookshelf. They deserved a special home of their own.

The items in question were my parents’ wedding album and the books of condolence from each of their funerals.

It was then I discovered that I had never got round to sticking all the sympathy cards in my dad’s book.

So I spent my afternoon reading all the messages from a year ago: all the precious memories of my dad and all the support offered to my family, some from people who had never met my dad but just cared about us.

And now it’s done. All three albums are safely tucked up in their pretty box with its hope filled picture on top that speaks to me of new life just around the corner – something I think my parents would approve of.

It’s been painful going through all the tributes. I feel the cold ache of a hole in my life that is no longer filled by Alan David Faulkner and cannot be filled by anyone else. But when I read the words of kindness and consolation, what I feel most of all, is loved.

(Five Minute Friday is a supportive group of writes who blog on a given word each week. You can more here: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/08/16/fmf-link-up-loved/ )