My Dad has always lived in the same flat, since before I was born. My parents haven’t been together since I was two years old and have never lived together, so any time I spent at ‘Dad’s gaff’ was just with him.
Over the years we’ve had so much fun there; one of my favourite memories is of Dad putting on his records and us dancing round the front room to ‘Rock Around The Clock’, and chanting to some Native American music he had found at a boot sale. We played Crocodile Dentist all the time, with me hiding behind him scared of getting snapped, or sat eating Mini Cheddars in tents in the living room made out of a duvet cover and the broom. I had a particular spot that I would sit in the kitchen, on the corner of the worktop with my feet balanced on the big drawer beneath it, chatting as Dad made his specialty microwave meatballs.
On Christmas Eve last year my Dad was away. The flat below set alight and burned until Dad’s bedroom and living room floor fell right through: the flames and smoke destroyed the entire house.
I have recently been back to see the flat and nine months later the insurers have finished rebuilding it: the walls are painted, the floors are newly laid, and everything that made it ours has gone. Walking around, it felt like we were never there.
If I say anything about being upset at losing our flat, people say “It’s only things you’ve lost, you still have your memories”. I know it’s only a kind of grief that makes me feel this way, but it seems as though my memories were and are tied up in that place and all the little things in it. Our games cupboard, Dad’s rhino statue, the tin money box with the Boogey Monster on it that I barely even noticed when it was there but I miss now that it’s gone.
I cried when I saw the flat, all re-done, for the first time. This seemed to take Dad by surprise, he hugged me and we went to the place he was staying at, ate a sandwich and talked about nothing much. A couple of days later I had an email from him, it said that he hadn’t expected me to react like that, hadn’t realised that his flat meant so much to me . . “I’m sorry Poppet, I should have respected our memories.”
I couldn’t believe that he didn’t realise how much I cared, but then that’s typical Dad, always downplaying his part and underestimating the kind and loving influence he has on people’s lives. People are right when they say what’s important is that I will always have my memories. I’m so privileged to have a Dad who has given me a lifetime of them, full of fun and love, to hold on to.