It was ten years ago today, at the age of sixty, that my father had a heart attack. He was one of the lucky ones. He was not on his own, was rushed to hospital, had the care and tests needed and a stent fitted at Papworth a couple of days later. A little bit of my dad died that day however. It was sudden. Shocking. He looked at life differently. We all did, really. We have learned a lot more of what it means to be grateful for life and the blessings, large and small. In the intervening years his heart has grown stronger with walks and cycle rides. He eats more healthily and is grateful for so much, not least the births of his six grandchildren and seeing family grow, move onwards and develop our passions. My sister makes films. My brother helps run a church. I write.
Over 420 million heartbeats on now, I am grateful for every one of them. Ten years is so little, and yet counted in heartbeats it also feels like so much. We have said difficult goodbyes in these years, weathered changes and heartaches, seen my sister move abroad, laughed, played scrabble, teased, gifted, made children and memories. We saw the arrival of giraffe bread and the demise of Pluto. We have connected online, travelled together and found much to talk about. If you get my father started on topics like English literature or education you’re likely in for a long conversation. If you ask about birds he can tell you how to identify them, what he’s seen recently and where. If you ask about what he’s been up to at church, or his thinking about biblical passages, or memories of particular events, he has plenty to offer. He is not as quick as he was, or as agile, and his hearing is not what it used to be, but he is still a mastermind at scrabble (or any word game) and makes the best roasts and gravy ever.
But he wouldn’t be what he is without mum. Mum was there when he had his heart attack. When the beat stopped, mum kept the melody going. Mum changed too. They still bicker; people going deaf have the best squabbles in my opinion, especially when there is a deep-rooted love. But mum plays the tune while dad keeps time. She holds the fort, manages their lives, deals with so many practicalities and keeps life interesting. Mum loves quilting, she is generous with her time in visiting and caring for the elderly, supports a range of folk and plays music at church. Together they are quite a team.
I am grateful for the ten extra years we have already had with my dad, knowing that for many people this has not been a possibility. I am equally grateful for the years of support mum has brought us, individually and all together. They are still beating time, playing tunes which bring joy. The beat goes on.