Today is my dad’s 28th Father’s Day. He has two human children, and one four-legged, furry one called Bessie. He says he loves us all equally (!!!), but us humans know who is top dog!
I often think that dads of disabled children are overlooked, as mums are more often than not the primary care givers (to able bodied children, too). My dad often says that he doesn’t do enough for me, but that isn’t true at all. As my consultant once observed, he is one of the special ones, and that’s an understatement!
A while ago, we were discussing the issues of parenting with disabled kids. I said, truthfully, I would much rather have EB and my parents than have neither. My dad said that, though he wishes he hadn’t passed on his EB gene, he would “selfishly” always choose to have me with it than not have me at all. He said that being my dad has made him a better man, and he couldn’t imagine life without me. I’m crying again just writing that!
It has been far from easy at times, our relationship. Mostly because we are so much alike and have been known to lock horns over such trivial things as carpets (yes, you read that right). But we’ve always loved each other, and, now I’m older, we are great friends. Apart from the odd tiff! We go to football matches, the occasional gig, watch films together and quote The Simpsons at each other (“One of you ate cans, one of you ate health food. How you solved crimes, I’ll never know”). We both love cars, and I’ve got into cricket and am beginning to not hate golf, whilst sneaking my favourite bands on to his iPod, turning Dad into a David Ford, Weezer and Muse fan (he’ll never come around to NIN or ATR, sadly), and he saves Johnny Depp et al interviews for me from newspapers. I’ve realised that, though he might not remember the courses I studied at uni, and has at times added or subtracted a year to my age, he knows me far better than I knew. He can read my moods, knows how to calm me down or cheer me up, and he always helps me to rationalise my fears. Dad understands my decisions when no one else does, and can tell I need a cuddle from the way I’m sitting. He drives me here and there so that I can have a social life, drops my friends home so they don’t have to walk or catch the bus, has sat with me while I get tattooed, bought home weird things that he knows I’ll like, and sat outside Brixton Academy until 11pm even though he’ll be up at 5am for work.
Dad is still there when I’m in hospital, and comes to sit with me in Recovery after I have surgery. He doesn’t mind if I vomit blood over him, and protects me when I’m too drowsy or in too much pain to speak. When I have a blistered eye and am screaming in agony, he still lays on my bed with me and cuddles me until the Morphine kicks in. Dad knows when I’m a bipolar bear, and let’s me cry snottily on his shoulder until I have no more tears. He’s even been stuck in two lifts – one directly after the other in Great Ormond Street – with me on the theatre trolley, two panicked nurses and an almost hysterical porter. All he cared about was me being okay (including telling said porter that if he tried to climb on my trolley again – to get out of the celling hatch! – there would be trouble) and getting to my bed as soon as possible. He’s taken me and Mum to Brighton, even though he hates shopping, so that I can have a nice day after having surgery.
Dad has believed in me when I haven’t, slept in chairs on hospital wards and in A&E departments to be there for me and Mum, had more days off of work (even though he is self-employed, won’t get paid and we’ll be short of money) to be with us than I can count. He’s run from the City to Lewisham when I dislocated my knee to get to me when the trains were stopped, driven me home from hospital at 10pm because I was desperate to sleep in my own bed. Dad has chased our guinea pigs around the garden and been scratched to bits, cleaned bird cages and tortoise houses so that we could have pets. And he agreed to having Bess because she made me happy after months of ill-health (I was 21 when we got her!).
Dad has always given me the encouragement to keep my spirit going every day, and walked a mile in the snow and ice to get my medicines to keep my body going. He has driven across London to get my pain killers and sat in pharmacies for hours to wait for them, just so I can sit comfortably.
He is currently renovating an antique desk and chair, so that I can have my dream place to write, overlooking the garden, even though kneeling on the floor damages his skin.
All of these things, and so many more, make my dad the best I could ever ask for. You might not change my dressings, or know how to measure out my medicines, but you’ve loved me all my life. That’s the most important thing of all. I’m incredibly lucky to have my dad in my life, but luckiest of all that my dad is you xx
My dad feeding a two day old me.