Step Away

My Dad died last year.

He wasn’t an old man. Aged sixty-six it seemed to me he had been taken well before his time.

You can probably imagine the frustration, the anger, the unexpected flood of tears that have filled the twelve months since then. And I’ve come to realise that he wasn’t “taken before his time”. If that was when God chose to take him (and surely it was no one else’s call) then that was his time.

A lot of my grief was for myself. What would I do without him? More importantly, I had to face up to the fact that, with him gone, I was the patriarch, mine was the final authority on family issues. Scariest of all, I realised that there was now no-one between me and death. His generation was gone and, all being well, mine would be next. Dad wasn’t there to save me from the dark any more.

It meant I had to be the grown up.

Terrifying as that was it brought with it another realisation.

All through my life my father had been stepping away from me. Not in a neglectful way, but in a way that kept me moving forward.

When I took my first baby steps, he would have caught me. The next time I tried he held out his hands and, as I moved forward, he took a step back — and I took another step!

In the old, cold, public swimming baths I splashed relentlessly towards the deep end, safe in the knowledge that Dad was right in front, backing away from me as I completed that first length.

He held the seat of my bicycle until he thought I was ready. And then, without me even realising it, he let go and stepped away.

Many times, through the turmoil of the teenage years Dad would survey my latest disaster and go red in the face, then he’d walk away and leave me, ashamed and embarrassed, to fix it or learn from it.

When my own children came along he wasn’t slow to tell me how he thought I should raise them. Then he’d shrug and metaphorically back away with the words, “But it’s your decision.”

Now, I’m a husband, a father, an uncle and a grandfather. I was all of that before he died. I like to think, in our time together, he’d taught me all he could about being a good man — like him.

From that point on in it was all up to me… so he stepped away.

This story was written by David McLaughlan.

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