Peet & Steve Portrait

When Ben asked about my dad and I explained that he is no longer alive, I was touched by Ben's immediate response which was that I should participate in My Dad's My Mate. I think the concept is brilliant, and notably dealing with depression is something which resonates.

Dad passed away not long after being diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was 47 and I was 22. I was (and am) fortunate to have some great help. Being able to talk about it with my (now) wife, my brothers, my mum and my friends made a huge difference. After registering my dad's death, then speaking at his funeral, I came to a point where I realised that I had likely done the hardest thing I would have to in life. Any obstacles I now face seem insignificant compared to this.

Growing up, we were very fortunate that everything revolved around our family, with both mum and dad sacrificing a lot to ensure they were always around us. We had a pretty simple but active upbringing, coupled with a connection to our local environment and community. I didn’t necessarily appreciate all of this at the time, but as I have grown, the wisdom and learnings shine through. When I was 15 dad bought our first family car, an impulse buy and "ultimate babe magnet" as he described it. I was so chuffed to hear this, as up till then we had been doing our weekly shopping for a family of 5 by bicycle. Turns out the mid-life crisis impulse buy was a 1968 Morris Minor Traveller with wood panelling. It was perhaps (?) a babe magnet for a dad approaching 40, but I’ll diplomatically say that as a teenager it was a conversation piece when I learned to drive.

Dad was heavily involved in our local community, volunteering his time and setting up several schemes for locals including nature groups, environmental campaigns, and local music and sports events. He was also one of the people behind a community initiative to live sustainably, which involved 5 other families tending to a large field in our village and living from it. It’s a ridiculous leftie cliche, but through this we learned a lot about ourselves, our family, community, animals, food, health and life.

However, this lifestyle was not without its classic dad moments. Most teenagers have many “urgh, dad” points where the embarrassment hits. Several of mine revolve around dad’s eccentricities and environmental ideals. There was the time I went to the freezer to get some peas, and instead found tubs of different animal poo which dad was going to exhibit to the nature group to help them identify foxes, badgers and deer. When I had just passed my driving test I jumped in the Morris Minor to drive to school and realised there was a chicken pecking about in the back. And then there was the day, for which I was ridiculed at school, when my dad kayaked to work along the River Thames from our village.

Now I can’t help but smile whenever I recount memories of my dad, and that's one of the reasons why I will always consider him my mate. Like a good mate, he was someone who listened, who you could confide in, who you could happily sink a beer with, who could crack a joke and make you laugh at your own misfortune. As I grew up and started to look more like him he would often refer to me as his flatmate, trying to confuse people by telling them that we were roomies. I think in part this was a way of making him feel younger, but in another way it signified a bond which was more mate than father-son.

The values that dad lived by and exposed us to are the same values I live by today, and in so many ways I am always striving to be like him. If I ever have kids then I have a very high, but outstanding benchmark. Thanks Dad.

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