To Dance With My Father Once More
It’s been almost a month since my last blog when I reflected on the madness of the year we’d all just had. For me it included closing the tearoom, learning what a zoom meeting is, discovering how many different sized cardboard boxes you can choose from and getting my book published!
I’m on countdown now to the 26th April when travel across Scotland is once again allowed so I can take myself and Beatrix (and her stones) up some different mountains. I have my eye on Ben Ledi of the Trossachs, so watch out for more tales and adventures. Even more exciting for me is that I have planned my first trip down to Halifax since September last year when little Harley was born. A whole week catching up on cuddles and hugs, especially from my children, Ben and Chloe and my grandchildren, Minnie and Harley. I’m sure a week will not be long enough!
So, what is Mother Murphy doing with her time at the moment I hear you all ask. Of course, I’m still baking and creating the lovely monthly cake boxes – April’s Drool Box is the current one. There is on-line promotion of my book in virtual events as I’ve not been able to do any “real” book signings yet.
I have to say though that all this virtual stuff has taken its toll on me and I was, along with the rest of the world, missing seeing real people. Now you can also find me working a few hours a week at my local Home Bargains Store. I’ve not progressed to working on the tills but I’m quickly becoming obsessed with creating neat and tidy shelves and dreaming about the different types of deodorants. Don’t worry though, when I do a shift, I’m often on the very early shift so back home before Mr M has finished his second pot of tea so there’s still plenty time in my days for baking, taste testing and more baking.
Then there’s my new book I’m working on. Well, it’s not actually me that’s writing the book. It’s Beatrix who is narrating the stories and I am just typing them up. It’s slow going at the moment as Beatrix does enjoy having plenty sleeps during the day snuggled up to the radiator. Yes, we still have our heating on up here in beautiful Scotland! I do hear her at night-time pacing the floor sometimes though and I’m guessing that she is getting all the stories ready in her head to spend some solid hours dictating them to me once we can get back out on the high hills and mountains again. That’s when we really do have our deep and meaningful chats.
Without wishing to create any debate or arguments here, I feel it would be amiss of me not to mention of course, the very sad news of the passing of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. We, as you know, don’t have a TV at home so I was probably a little late to the game finding out the sad news, but still felt an enormous sadness at hearing this.
This morning I found myself still feeling a little out of sort with myself but as the birds were just starting to wake up, I set off with Beatrix for another hike over the Campsie Fells. As I drove away from my house, I switched on the radio, and as usual Radio 2 was playing away. I quickly realised it was a different radio programme to the usual Radio 2 and was simply a day of reflective, beautiful music in respect for Prince Philip. Just as I tuned in, the first song to be played was To Dance with My Father Once More by Luther Vandross.
Now you all know that I’m a tough Yorkshire bird and I don’t do that crying stuff. Today though, the beautiful lyrics of the song somehow hit hard with me. I felt my heart breaking that my own father was no longer here. I can’t remember living with my father as a youngster as my parents divorced when I was a toddler. Those who know me or have read my book will know that my Dad died in 2014 and it was a very difficult time for me for many reasons. I think it’s probably fair to say that I’ve not done the grieving I needed to do and have spend the time since he died wondering if my Dad loved me and whether I was a good daughter.
As Luther beautifully sang the lyrics of the song, my heart finally cracked, the tears began to pour down my face (not a pretty sight!) and I found myself wishing I could dance with my father once more to find out if he loved me.
Parking my car at the high car park on the Crow Road, I toyed with the idea of turning my car around and going home because I felt I’d be too sad to be on the hills and would just spend the day thinking about all the troubled memories I had. But Beatrix gave me that look that said, “It’s ok, I’m here. It’ll be ok”. So, I changed my shoes, fastened my walking boots and put on my gaiters (it’s a boggy walk up there you know!).
It was still early, probably not even 9.00 am, but the sun was shinning and the sky was clear blue, though it was decidedly chilly! Crossing over the main Crow Road, I was soon on the hills and able to let Beatrix off her lead and see what the day would bring.
“Ey up our Debra, do you remember ‘time you thought you’d be able to beat me at squash?” I had a quick look around but of course my Dad wasn’t there, but he was having this conversation me with. And I laughed.
I remember well the time I thought I’d be able to beat him at squash. Just to explain, my Dad was a fantastic squash player, albeit with a bit of a bear belly! Once I’d made contact with my Dad after many years not seeing him, we had lots to catch up on. By this time, I was perhaps 17-18 years of age. I was seriously into my racing cycling and as fit as a flea. I was also a bit of a dab hand at tennis. Maybe I got my competitive streak (yes, I have one!) from my Dad and we quickly got it sorted for him to take me for a game of squash. I’d never played before but decided that with my youth, my fitness and my ability to smash a ball with a strong left-handed forehand, I would be able to give this old man of mine a run for his money. I told myself that he might have the edge over me with his skill but my fitness would get the better of him. Bring it on Dad! Forty minutes later, I staggered off the squash court, dripping wet with sweat. My Dad had not even taken his tracksuit top off. Fitness beating skill? Never in a million years.
Over the next few years my Dad helped me to become a pretty decent squash player and I was proud of new my talent but I never ever beat him. So I smiled again to myself at the idea of my Dad talking to me but also the daft girl I was thinking I would ever beat him at squash.
And for the next hour or so as I climbed up the Campsie’s my Dad reminded me of all the different things we’d done together. There was the time after my humiliation at squash that I challenged him to a tennis match, which of course, I won. Then my Dad tried to get points back by thinking he could challenge me on the bike. Now I really laughed out loud. I remember so well not even worrying my Dad would be able to match me on the bike. For a start, he’d never manage the shoe plates or the little narrow saddle. But in the spirit or things, I took my bike up to his house in Bradshaw. He whipped the bike out of my hands and set off up the road. 5 minutes later he walked back down the road pushing my bike. “Ey our lass! I put me hands up there. I’ll not beat thee on that thing! How on earth you get you’re a*** on that thing I’ll never know”.
He reminded me of the fabulous wedding cake I’d made him when he got married again and the amazing father/daughter dance we had at my Dad’s wedding!
I remembered all the times he drove from Halifax to Skipton to catch up with me as I cycled so he could take me into a Café for a pot of tea and cake “to keep me going” on my cycle rides.
As I approached the summit cairn, I remembered one of the last afternoons I spent with my Dad at the side of Loch Lomond the year before he died. We already knew that he had the big C by then and he’d decided that he wanted to do something he’d never done before and that was to take a coach tour around Scotland. By some quirk of nature, he was booked to stay at the Tarbert Hotel on the edge of Loch Lomond where I was doing some work in my training and development days. It was a glorious day. We walked together from the hotel down to the edge of Loch Lomond and took in the views of the Ben across the Loch. We talked about Scotland, my life in Scotland and my dreams to open a tearoom. “You’ll do it our lass, I’m sure. It’ll appen when it’s time”, my Dad told me that day. He bought me the biggest ice cream from the ice cream stall and we sat in warm silence enjoying the moment.
Then I was back to reality and a realisation that I’d done all the climbing for the day and I was at the top of the hill. But the biggest realisation for me and yes, there were more tears, was that of course I knew my Dad loved me and today, I did indeed dance once more with my father.
I urge all you mums, dads, sons and daughters to tell the people who are important to you that you love them. Show them that you love them and make sure that when it’s time for you to leave them alone in this world, they will not feel alone because they will always feel your love.
And the song for this blog has to be of course, Dance with My Father Once More by Luther Vandross.