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Careful What You Wish For

Many of us have a conditional love for our parents: we get on with them, or not, at different times, on different levels for different reasons.

I loved my Dad and he loved me, because we were Father and Daughter. However, there were many times when I did not like him and we found many reasons to debate, disagree and ultimately fall out over our years together.

But there’s one thing that was ‘ours.’ Our Father, Daughter tradition and ritual.

I remember so vividly our Saturdays, the highlight of his week. Now, I am sure I don’t really need to tell you (I am sure your Saturdays were just the same as mine) but just for absolute clarification, this is before internet, before mobile phones, actually before the house phone …… let’s just recall a Saturday afternoon in ‘our house.’

Dad would be out (at the pub) and come in about four O’clock. Not really drunk, but very chatty! During the week a very important event had taken place – he ‘put on the pools.’ Now this is pre lottery, where you predicted whether each football team in each division throughout the UK would draw or win, resulting in a score of 3, 2, 1 or of course 0.

This was a tense moment because the total of his predictions resulted in him either having to go back to work on Monday morning or not, a serious endeavour indeed.

“I might never have to go to work again!” I understood the importance and he had trained me well; at seventeen hundred hours I was in position, the TV turned on, in the front room – especially for the event, and I would have been waiting for at least 10 minutes (that’s a long time to wait) for those all important football results.

There was complete silence throughout – we all knew how important this was. There was no record facility, no instant rewind or easy way to recall the information that was coming. I knew how important it was to capture and not to miss it. I had to write down the score of each match on the form.

Week after week, month after month, year after year. Every Saturday, this was our family Saturday.

This was normal? To us, Yes!

Then sadly one day, my Dad became ill, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and following a serious operation, he struggled to get around. We got a wheelchair and got him out from the hospital into the car and the fresh air as often as we could.

I remember getting special dispensation from work – they gave me a parking space, an honour indeed and I was allowed to leave at 3pm because my Dad was dying.

I am truly grateful to them for that.

The drive was a welcome alternative to sitting by his hospital bed. I often thought it gave more ‘enjoyment’ to my Mum rather than my Dad, because she had been the excited one when I got a car, a vehicle to explore the country and discover places she had never seen before. I believe when one person in a couple is really ill, the ‘alternative to medicine’ needs to benefit both.

I clearly remember the phone call from the hospital,

“Janie” my mother said

“Hi Mum”

“Did you put he pools on this week?”

“Yes” I said, thinking, do bears poop in the woods?

I sensed the relief, but there remained tension in her voice

“Your Dad thinks he’s won”

Despite the hospital stay, despite the illness, of course the pools had to go on and it had somehow become miresponsibility to do so. Little was said about it but we all maintained the practice of that ritual.

My Dad; his focus could be no-where else on a Saturday night than with the football results.

When I arrived at the hospital, he was beside himself. His Cheshire cat grin confirmed I was the daughter he admired and I hadn’t let him down in his time of need. My mother, on the other hand needed confirmation I had actually selected the right numbers.

“Mum, they’ve been the same for years”

“I know, but we’ve been through so much lately, I didn’t know if…”

“It’s on, it’s OK”

“He said last week would have paid out eleven thousand pounds.”

The air of apprehension was evident in her speech. Did she doubt me? No, but understandably she needed confirmation before she could trust that win.

Dad got home from the hospital but sadly took a turn for the worse and was admitted to the hospice the day the cheque arrived. He opened the envelope and placed the cheque on the mantelpiece. Then he got in the ambulance. He was never to see it again.

Dad struggled with his pain, his breathing and his speech. I have a vivid memory of him frail in his bed with his visiting sister in a chair beside him. I stood at the window, trying to get some air. We looked at each other, held the gaze for what seemed a long while and he winked at me. I think that was his way of telling me he loved me. I struggled to hold back a tear as I smiled at him. Following many challenging times as Father and Daughter, to watch him die, was unbearable.

In 1989 five hundred pounds was quite a lot of money. In 1989 it paid for his funeral. He always knew he would win the pools and he had great dreams about how he would live with the money, how he would give up his job when it happened. He did not consider that life may serve a fatal blow to coincide with his dream coming true.

Maybe that’s why I do what I do. He thought the money would elevate his life to a new level, where he could do what he wanted without the financial pressures.

My Dad lived life as a victim, thinking others had been dealt a better hand than him and waiting for the break he believed he deserved. Life doesn’t work like that – people who work with the hand they are dealt are the ones that are truly happy. I have seen so many people being grateful for what they have and living in a world with so much less than my Dad, but sadly he didn’t see it like that.

So I always think, “Careful what you wish for” – it may just be what you get!

My father spent a large part of his life wishing every Saturday for a way out of the life he led, and he got his wish, unfortunately it did not give him the life he dreamed of, or maybe it did – maybe the pools win coincided with his transition to a different life in a better place, but it certainly didn’t make his dreams come true in this world.

What are you putting off whilst you wait for some ideal circumstance to show up in your life, some mystical arrangement of the stars and fate?

Well? Stop it! Because I’m telling you, it’s not going happen, not in this lifetime. It’s time for a new plan, a plan based on your passion, your ingenuity and belief. And if you don’t have one, then it’s the time for you to come talk to me.

Jane Quinn Jan 2013

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