Today is a day of very mixed emotions. I just found out this morning that my father died on Saturday. In a way he's been dead to me for years.
I used to idolise him when I was a kid. When I was four years old he introduced me to Monty Python, first taught me how to play chess and how to reassemble the engine of his Suzuki motorcycle when it was lying in bits on newspaper on the lounge floor. Much to my mother's disgust.
When I was a little older he gave me a camera and got me into photography. We'd go for long walks in the countryside taking pictures and searching for fossils.
But that all changed after my parents split and divorced when I was 11. He was an alcoholic and an excessive smoker; the drink was very much a contributory factor in their split, even though I didn't know it at the time. He kept it very well hidden but over the next few years it became very apparent.
Still, that didn't stop me walking down the same path and becoming an alcoholic myself. That was until I finally saw sense and woke up one morning determined that I wasnt going to end up like my dad.
27th March 1989.
I quit drinking. Just made a decision, stopped right then and haven't had a drink since but still fear what could happen if I did, even after all this time. I always joke that I was an alcoholic and quit all before I was legal.
Things came to a head in 1995 when on two separate occasions (my sister's wedding and the night before my own) my father made "advances" towards my wife, then my fiancée. The first time he put it down to the drink as it was at my sister's reception. The second was in our own house and I never forgave him.
He came to the wedding but we never saw him again. I spoke to him a few times over the next couple of years listening to all his promises of getting better, of stopping, but he didn't. Despite illness he continued and would blatantly lie about it, slurring his words down the phone as he said he wasn't drinking.
So, today I mourn the early memories, mourn the loss of a relationship that died way too soon. I don't mourn the man he became, although in some sense it's the man he always was, the man I haven't spoken to in over 20 years. I don't mourn the lies and the inappropriate behaviour.
I knew he had been ill for a long time, it was one of the things he wrote in his last letter but even that didnt stop him; it all finally caught up with him.