Today is my dad's birthday.
It's almost 14 years since he died and I was 14 when he died, so I am reaching a stage of unwelcome equilibrium. How strange that he has been absent for the same length of time he was present.
I question my memories of him now. Whether they are truly mine or whether they are constructed from the recollections of others who had the pleasure of his company long before I featured as part of his legacy.
The stories I have heard have chided my youthful ignorance of the revelation that mothers and fathers were people before they were parents; that there was life before our family unit and that that life was exciting and funny and even rebellious at times.
My dad was always the one who accompanied me on trips to the doctor. The usual minor childhood illnesses (of which I had several) drilled us in what became a familiar routine. A day off from school and a day off for him from work, into the back of the car with a pillow and blanket, into the doctor and then a video of my choice and whatever treats I wanted on the way home to the couch which always served as the sick bed.
It was also dad who was with me for my first encounter with a nephrologist. That was when I was 12 years old and there were mutterings we hadn't heard before, suggesting that something may be wrong with my kidneys. Nothing was confirmed in tests that saw me go under anesthetic for the first time and I was sent home to be a normal child and grow out of it.
It is now known that this was the point when my kidneys began to fail. The doctors I have come across in the last two years have grumbled that if we had caught it then, they'd have done this and that and maybe put off the inevitability I am now living with for another few years.
I have no time for their medical opinion on this one. I am glad my dad didn't know what was ahead when he died, that he passed away without worrying that he was leaving me behind with nobody to put me in the back of the car with a pillow and blanket or to get me a video on the way home.
For my increasingly hazy recollections of him, I do remember his laugh and I remember him waking me up with chocolate milkshakes at all hours when he would come home from a meeting. I remember him always asking me what page I was on now of whatever Enid Blyton book I was reading and taking delight in my grasp of the Irish language which he didn't share because like many of his generation, school was dropped out of necessity for taking over the family farm.
Most of all I remember that he was a gentleman of the kindest and most patient manner.
I can only hope that I also made his life, in some way, wonderful.