The King & I

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of my dad’s passing. Twelve months during which I learned for the first time in my half century on this screwed up planet what loss truly meant. A valuable lesson formed from emotions resultant at never again being able to share the company of a dearly loved family member.

This last year has taught me deprivation of anything other than a cherished individual’s existence isn’t a true loss. A new found awareness that, at times, has ignited a more philosophical approach by yours truly when things don’t quite go to plan.

I still get frustrated and angry in certain situations, however, being unable to locate possessions, my garden re-cycle bin not being emptied, Sainsburys not stocking an ingredient I desire and a Leeds United defeat are imposters that no longer rankle with the ferocity of yore.

Despite the manifestation of the positive above, large swathes of the last year have been spent being blindsided by multiple triggers of melancholy. These producing a feeling in the pit of my stomach akin to that experienced while descending at speed on a rollercoaster. Sadly though, unlike the thrill ride, the sinking stomach moments initiated by these triggers aren’t accompanied by an uplifting adrenaline rush.

King & I

There’s numerous fond memories of Malcolm Strachan for the family to cling onto. Recollections that act as my lifebuoy when more powerful eddying currents attempt to drag me out to an uncompromising dark sea. Among them, feeling truly blessed to have had this beautiful man as my father and mentor.

I do realise what I’ve experienced since the death of my selfless, loving, caring father is what many hundreds of thousands globally encounter every year. It has to be dealt with; life goes on for those he’s left behind, which I endeavour to do through the upkeep of his garden and various other odd jobs for my mater.

What have I learned in the last twelve months since he left us in the early hours of 11th October in Wakefield Hospice?

For starters, I don’t suppose I’ll ever be able to walk into my mum’s home without that pit of the stomach feeling on witnessing his empty chair. Likewise, strolling down Lowfields Road toward Leeds United’s ground, as I did with him on numerous occasions from 1970 onwards. The same ‘punched gut’ feeling will also be my lifelong companion as I walk into Headingley Stadium (where his ashes are scattered) to watch his beloved Yorkshire County Cricket Club play.

I’m still not at a point where I can play one of the audio disks in his eclectic CD collection. An act he and I would regularly undertake in his dining room, ordinarily with a glass of vino accompaniment. Here we’d chat about sporting memories, music and family history. The conversation only broken by his changing of CD, which, as was his selfless nature, he’d generally ask me to choose.

I struggle to look through the unit in which he kept/keeps those music albums that accompanied so many happy hours in the company of my old man. A bit like Pandora’s Box, I’m reticent to open it as I’m not sure the strength of emotions it’ll evoke.

Mind you, I don’t always attempt to avoid triggers of melancholy. His red leather reclining seat, dining room in situ, has had the dubious pleasure of having my posterior parked upon it on numerous occasions. Admittedly, though, I felt somewhat irreverent at being perched on his ‘throne’ at first.

When parking my backside on his chair after his passing I had the uncomfortable thought I was expressing an unintended subliminal message of ‘The king is dead…… Long live the king!‘ A vain notion that couldn’t have been further from my intention and a crown of which I’m not worthy.

Despite our emptiness at the loss of our beloved family head, I’d like to think the family’s emerged from the first year without him subscribing to the mantra below, of which he’d no doubt approve:-

The king is dead….. Long live the king’s spirit’.


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