I’m 42. I don’t know how, but I am. A few weeks ago I walked past a group of people in London. I heard the girl lament that she was 27. One of her male companions soothed her, “That’s not even nearly 30 yet alone nearly 40”. I laughed in that mwah ha ha kind of, comedy villain, type way. In my head. Don’t worry, I thought, it will come around all too quickly! By the time you get to 40 you realise that a year is just 365 days and those days take just 24 hours. Time flies. It really does. My Dad died when I was 32. That was 10 years ago. Simply unbelievable! He was just 57. Certainly in those 10 years I have realised how you need to value time and your time here.
My Dad was amazing. At 16 he went off and joined the Royal Navy. He travelled the world. He saw countries that I will never see. I just know that. I have no idea if he had a girl in every port but I bet he did. He looked a bit like Elvis. He worked on Submarines and on Aircraft carriers. He was a radio operator and very good at his job. I just know that too. He wouldn’t have said.
In 1972, at 23, he joined the police, following in his Dad’s footsteps. He met my Mum on the first day and she hated him! Obviously that changed. The next year they married and the year after that I was born. I am 42 and have no children and think back to being 25 and can’t imagine taking on that crazy responsibility or being mature enough to manage! I don’t think I could manage now!
My Dad’s career was awe-inspiring. He did what interested him. During his 30 years of service he was a dog-handler, worked on the drugs squad, was a detective, worked in the intelligence department and spent 6 months in Bosnia after the war to try and help train the police. Everything he did he did with passion and he totally believed in his job and doing what was right for the public. He believed in hard work. He stood up for people and he never said a bad word about anyone. He definitely didn’t like everyone but even those he didn’t like he had a good word for. He questioned authority, wasn’t a yes man and fought hard to ensure that the right thing was done. Much to his detriment, he never got promoted.
My Mum met my Grandad before she met my Dad. And my husband met my Dad before he met me. And my husband is one of my Dad’s biggest fans and was before he met me. What he loved about my Dad was that, despite his extensive experience and service in the police, he remained keen and enthusiastic. He liked that he didn’t always conform but he was respectful. And he liked that he wasn’t just taking a wage.
I learnt so much from my Dad and am definitely a living embodiment of him! My one regret about not having children is that I don’t get to bring some of that amazingness into the world. Like my Dad I got hideously disappointed when doing what was right wasn’t enough to earn respect in a world filled with egos and back slapping. I try on a daily basis to be the Dad I see in the world and do good like he did. I think about him on a daily basis and I miss him horribly. He was full of sound advice and reassurance. And he loved me very much.
The most important thing I learned from my Dad is that you get one very short life, whether you die at 57 like he did or younger or older. In the blink of an eye it is over. So don’t lament about being 27. Don’t lament about being 42. Grab the day. Make a bucket list. Travel. Read. Learn. Love. Fit it all in because tomorrow might be too late.