THE YEAR THAT

Mike King

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - INDEX -

My dad died in March. For my whole life, I al­ways thought, like most Kiwi blokes, I wasn’t good enough for my dad; that I didn’t reach the mark. I knew I was loved, but my dad never told me he loved me. That’s why com­edy was so ap­peal­ing. When I told a joke for the first time at school and a whole lot of kids laughed, it was the first pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tion I’d had in my life. So I as­so­ci­ated peo­ple laugh­ing with peo­ple lik­ing me. It was day one of my ca­reer and day one of my down­fall too, be­cause I started to get my self-es­teem from the ap­proval of oth­ers

Then when I was 45, Dad told me he loved me for the first time. He was half-cut and he said, “You know I love you, eh?” The first thing that popped into my head was, “Where was that when I was a kid?” As well as an over­whelm­ing sense of grat­i­tude.

Then I sat around for a cou­ple of years wait­ing for him to say it again and re­sent­ment started build­ing up when he didn’t. My coun­sel­lor told me I was in charge of my feel­ings and one day when I was on the phone with Dad, I thought “Bug­ger it” and when we’d fin­ished I said, “I love you, Pop,” and he went, “Oh yeah, okay. All right. Talk to you later.”

Then I fin­ished ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion with “I love you, Pop,” and af­ter about two years I was about to say it and he beat me to it.

Then one day in 2016 I was driv­ing when the old man called and said,“The hos­pi­tal rang. I’ve got to go in.” I thought: “Hospi­tals don’t ring you and tell you to come in.” I said I’d pick him up and we were told he was ter­mi­nal on that day. It was just him and me.

We left and I said, “That was good news, eh, Pop?” “What are you talk­ing about?”

“Well, you could have dropped dead with a heart at­tack and we’d never have had this chance. I’m gonna spend ev­ery spare mo­ment that I can get with you and I’ll en­joy ev­ery minute of it. You’ll hate it, but suck it up, big boy, this is what life’s all about.”

That last year with him was the best year of my life. We spent all our time to­gether. Talked ev­ery day. We ar­ranged his fu­neral. I shot a video of him thank­ing ev­ery­one in his life and hav­ing a good laugh, which we played at the fu­neral.

I thought I was help­ing him but a cou­ple of weeks af­ter the fu­neral, I started to re­alise he was help­ing me.

He helped me to un­der­stand my­self bet­ter. I only re­mem­bered the bad things from my child­hood. But there was one story he told me that I hold on to.

“Do you re­mem­ber when you were 12 and I bought you the chop­per?” he said. “Re­mem­ber the day I gave it to you?

I said yeah, but I didn’t re­mem­ber. I re­mem­bered the bike vividly.

He said, “I re­mem­ber it too. I took you out to the garage and opened the door and you started crying and I started crying.” And as I looked at him with tears in his eyes, I knew that it had hap­pened.

I fin­ished ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion with ‘I love you, Pop,’ and af­ter about two years I was about to say it and he beat me to it.

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