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We’ll never be lonely, dad will fix it

It was dad’s funeral last Monday. We were humbled by the 200 or so friends and family who turned out to say goodbye.

My dad would have loved and hated that day with equal measure.

He would have loved the fact that his friends and family were all together but hated that he was the centre of attention.

He never craved the limelight, preferring instead to let others shine; seeing their happiness and success brought him joy, particularly if it was down to something he had taught them.

Nikki with her dad.
Nikki with her dad.

He was a great teacher to everyone who met him – whether that be practical jobs or the art of being a good friend – and he had a quiet, understated knack of making people feel 10ft tall.

From as early as I can remember, dad was the fixer.

If a toy broke “daddy, can you fix it?”. And he did. Whether it needed a blob of glue, a whack with a hammer, or simply some gentle coercion back into place, he fixed it.

Later, it was our bikes. From punctured tyres to loose chains, they were all repaired.

There wasn’t much money around so we didn’t get new bikes very often, but that didn’t matter because every year, dad would take us to Halfords and let us choose a new spray can of colour.

We’d then head home and help him paint our bikes and polish up the chrome until it shone. New bike? Fixed it.

He taught us to ride those bikes, and to swim too, at the Black Lion in Gillingham. There was always a treat if we’d done well. To this day, I can’t leave a swimming pool without wanting chips because dad always bought us a bag afterwards, smothered in salt and vinegar.

He taught me to walk on stilts, on a pair he made himself, obviously. None of these mass-made metal things; mine were bespoke wooden ones and painted bright pink.

Then it was the cars. He’d service every one of them, happily buying yet another Haynes manual and getting one of us to stand in the freezing cold while oil was drained and filters changed.

Things didn’t always go to plan but again, he always tried to fix it.

One year, for some reason, we’d missed out on buying some fireworks and it was too late to go to a display. Undeterred, dad bought some indoor fireworks, but was too worried to use them indoors.

Instead, we traipsed out to the garage to watch a laughably pathetic display as he lit these finger-nail sized fireworks which let off a series of tiny, coloured puffs, fizzes and the best one that looked like a worm cast being created.

We had no fireworks but still he’d fixed it, giving us a memory for a lifetime.

Later on, he fixed my broken heart, never with a lengthy chat – he left that to mum – but a knowing look and a mug of hot chocolate.

And even now, as a grown-up, when I managed to crash my computer, needed advice on building a wall or the time I wired in the kitchen light and the ground floor circuit went bang, 20 minutes later he was there with his toolbox. Daddy fixed it.

The one thing he couldn’t fix was his diagnosis. He dealt with his illness in the same way he dealt with everything; he weighed up what it meant, tried to make the best of the situation and didn’t whinge about the hand he’d been dealt.

But he kept his humour throughout, even finding new uses for his walking stick, turning it into a giant prodder to call lifts or press the button at pedestrian crossings. We also went on sneaky escapades for lunch at McDonald’s and an ice-cream down The Strand.

“The world is your meat and potato pie,” he’d tell us, as few of us liked oysters, but we were under no doubt that he was always there, supporting us and encouraging us to follow our dreams.

My heart is broken for now but I know it won’t stay that way.

Dad has provided me, my brother, mum and all who knew him with a lifetime of memories which means we’ll never be lonely. Dad will fix it.

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