This is going to be quite a rambling post. I'll start off by saying, I loved my dad. I'd like to think that goes without saying, but I know there are - sadly - some families whose members don't get along with each other, who don't even like each other much less love each other, but - despite the fact that when I was growing up I didn't always get on desperately well with my stepdad, or my half-sister Antonia, I can safely say that I adore my family. They (and Sarah's family too) are a great blessing to me, and in many ways I wouldn't be able to cope without them. And that definitely includes my dad.
On the other hand...well, there's kind of a clue in that last paragraph. My mum and dad separated when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I was just over a year old when dad left mum, and I (as I guess was par for the course back in those days) stayed with mum. They both remarried, and my mum and stepdad Malcolm had a daughter, Antonia and I grew up with them, calling my stepdad "dad" and calling Antonia my sister. My dad & his wife Joan had a couple of daughters, too - Emma and Jessica.
Slight aside - for a while during my childhood, I called my dad "uncle". That was actually encouraged. I don't know why - when I spoke to him about it not long ago, he said it wasn't his idea, although I'm pretty sure that I had some birthday and Christmas cards signed from him as uncle. I can't remember exactly when I was told that he was actually my father, although I'm pretty sure I was well aware of it by the time Emma was born, in October 1980. Also, there was probably a point when I realised that it was a bit strange that I had six grandparents and not the more usual four. Hmm...
Anyway, throughout my childhood and teenage years, I'd go to visit him and Joan and Emma and Jess where they lived in Highgate, north London. We got on very well, despite not having grown up together, and despite the fact that I was never really sure whether to call him dad or Bill. I'm still never entirely sure, actually. However, as I moved from being a teenager to being an adult, I developed my rather chronic fear of making 'phone calls. Really, the only two people I ever really feel comfortable 'phoning are Sarah and my mum. So, I wasn't terribly good at getting in touch with dad, and he wasn't terribly good at getting in touch with me. I'm not sure why, but I suspect he wasn't desperately organised (or at a lot of stuff to be organised about, possibly). That's said not as a criticism, because that would be a case of pot commenting unfavourably on hue of kettle. More of a "like father, like son." So that's where I get it from. See also my predilection for bad puns and jokes...
So text messages and emails were a great blessing, because it saved the whole hassle of 'phoning each other, and meant we could stay reasonably well in touch and arrange to meet up from time to time, and do stuff. Back in 2003/2004 we got together fairly regularly, if memory serves, going up in the London Eye, going to Regent's Park Zoo, visiting the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, generally chilling out and relaxing. Also, latterly, Sarah has been very good at poking and prodding me into texting, emailing or shock 'phoning him. And there was always the annual Pegram family get-together on Boxing Day, which most years dad would host at his place. That was always a lovely occasion, even though I'm not the most social animal in the world - lovely to see family and catch up on what we'd been doing.
The last time I saw him was back in August. He came to visit me regularly when I was in hospital with my bad foot (despite the fact that, as I later found, his doctor had warned him off driving). I'd not made any attempt to get back in touch with him since being discharged, despite meaning to drop him a text to see how he was keeping. I really regret not doing that now, obviously. Had a call from my aunt - his sister - earlier today. She'd spoken to him the day before he died. He was in New Orleans on holiday, visiting a friend. He apparently was in good spirits, teasing her about the fact that she was about to go on holiday to Bognor. New Orleans, Bognor, hardly different. I've not really cried about it yet, but when I was talking with my aunt was the closest I've come to it. I wish I could cry properly about it, but it's not something I'm very good at.
Since getting the 'phone call on Friday, I've sort of been trying to process the information, and failing miserably. He'd had a heart scare a couple of years back, and been diagnosed with diabetes a while back too (like father, like son), but as far as anyone knew he was fine. If anything, if we were going to get a call like that, we were kind of expecting it to be about my grandmother - my grandfather (dad's dad) died earlier in the year, and she's been getting frailer since then (if not before). To hear that dad had gone...just seems so wrong. I'd love to wake up, find it's just been a weird and unpleasant dream. He wasn't even 70 yet. I've found myself thinking a lot of the times we spent together, things we did together, and then having that weird thought of, "hang on, I'm never going to see him again." You know that expression, "I just can't even"? Well, I can't.
Yeah. Stuff. End of rambly-ness.
A picture. Dad, Antonia, me and Joan, from...about 1979, I reckon. Possibly at Regent's Park zoo.