For the last 22 years I have lived on the other side of the world from my father, from my entire family for that matter. When I think about it, I left home at 16 and 3/4 to join the British Armed Forces, so out of almost 50 years of life, I have lived away from my dad for 34 years.
I feel however that my relationship with my father was stronger for the distance. It mean't that the times we met up (which were very few, 7 times I believe in 22 years)and even the phone conversations, of which there were many, and they would last for quite a while, were usually all filled with good times and good conversations.
I last saw my dad in 2011. He was looking old, and he was slower across the ground due to a hip operation. His wit was still there and I believe he enjoyed the company of my family.
So the news last year that he had lost the plot (dementia) came fairly hard. He had to be moved into a home as he was becoming a handful for my mother. I remember my last phone conversation with him as if it was yesterday.
He believed that he needed to get out because the place and the people were horrible. He could not understand that he had done anything wrong. I said that he had not, and that it was just for a while, whilst mum had a rest. His tone changed to that of a worried man. "You have to get me out of here Alastair". I joked with him that I would send him 30 feet of rope and some wires cutters, to which he responded " and don't forget the bully beef" (Its and in joke about a board game we used to play).
That was the last time I spoke to my father.
The last 10 months, until his death on the 27th of April 2014, were filled with e-mails from my sister reporting the decline in his health. He was confused, angry, forgetful, losing weight, losing his mind.
The thought had crossed my mind for one last visit, to see him in the home and tell him one more time that I loved him. I did not do it. I do not regret it. My memories of him are all good.I did not want my last memory of him being the fact that he did not know who I was. Dementia is cruel that way.
I still talk to him. It helps.