Most people would presume my childhood ended abruptly aged 14, when my dad died. In truth, I’d say it ended a little beforehand - one sunny August afternoon when my dad struggled to find the words to explain that he had cancer as I sat next to him on a picnic bench with a Calippo melting in my hand.
It wasn’t his diagnosis as such that sent teenage me into a tailspin, more the fact that it made me question everything that I knew to be true: Did this mean that good doesn’t in fact always triumph over bad? Could bad things happen to good people? Were things not going to be ok like my parents had always promised me?
And that is the really f*cking hard bit about a loved one falling ill. It’s having to face up to the fact that the world doesn’t work the way that you thought it did. In a strange way, I found having to accept that my dad wasn’t invincible more difficult the fact he had cancer. Being forced to let the realisation sink in that he wouldn’t be around forever - whether that time came in 2 years or 20 years - was the scariest part of all. I always knew that of course but, suddenly, his diagnosis meant I really knew that. I was suddenly struck by the soul-shaking revelation that my dad wasn’t a superhero after all.
But now I’ve got a very different perspective on things …
You see, no ordinary man could stand tall at 6’2” then drop to a frail 7 stones in a matter of weeks yet still command a room with his wit and humour. But a superhero can.
No ordinary man could become so riddled with disease that he no longer recognised his own daughter, yet still manage to hold her hand in such a way that she knew deep down he still loved her with all his heart. But a superhero can.
No ordinary man could become so weak that he could barely muster a whisper from his hospital bed yet still be the loudest, most influential voice in your life. But a superhero can.
Superheroes can do all of those things and more. Superheroes don’t need to be in every scene of the film to play the leading role in your life. So dad, I take back the title of this blog post … you still are a superhero to me!