Exactly two years ago today, January 11th 2016, my wee world was turned upside down. It was a pretty unspectacular Wednesday. The night before was wild with strong winds and rain. We have a glass globe light fixed to the outside side wall of our house. It had been there since we moved into the house in 2016. It had never blown off during those sixteen years of occupancy.
On the night of Tuesday 10th January into the early hours of the 11th of January it blew off the wall and smashed to smithereens on the stone path below. After dropping Gabrielle off at her local primary school that morning I returned to the house and tried to clear up the white glass from the globe which was strewn across the path and garden. Stupidly I placed my mobile phone in the front breast pocket of the shirt I was wearing under my jacket. The howling wind and rain from the night before had disappeared and it was quite a pleasant January morning.
As I bent forward to gather the glass into the light green plastic pan with the small plastic hand brush my phone fell out of my pocket and landed on the concrete path. Why not on the bloody grass I thought to myself. The screen cracked. It was still working but it was a new HTC phone purchased in late December. I was furious with myself for being so stupid. Funny how we let things like that mean so much to us. I was to learn how little an accident like that really means within a couple of hours that day.
I entered the house and informed my wife Gail of my mishap. She was less than impressed with my antics and berated me for being so clumsy with my mobile. It was a Wednesday and over the previous three years I had either taken my dad to the post office to collect his pension and pay his energy and council tax bills or did it for him. This particular morning I had collected my dad’s wee wallet of cards the night before so I could get the pension, pay the bills and pick him up his rolls and papers from Browns, our local newsagents in Cardonald.
I kissed Gail goodbye and set off to the post office which is a few hundred yards from our house. I parked outside the post office and phoned my dad on the damaged HTC before entering. I wanted to check if he needed any more messages from the newsagents as it is right next door to the post office.
My dad didn’t answer his phone. That was strange. It was a wee mobile phone that he often had trouble working properly but he usually answered calls no problem. My dad was 80 years of age and had suffered a massive heart attack in August 2016 so I was concerned. I decided to collect his pension and pay his bills in the post office and then phone him again from the newsagents. The lovely staff in the post office asked how my dad was doing. They always did. For years I had taken him into the post office and the women who worked there chatted away to him. He was always polite and respectful. They appreciated that.
I rang him again from the newsagents. Still no reply. Perhaps he was in the shower I thought. Yet it was now around 10.30am and my dad was an early bird. He worked in a factory most of his life so was quite regimented in rising early in the morning, showering and making his breakfast before 8am. My concern grew. I got his 4 crispy rolls, some potato scones, a pint of milk and his Daily Record and Star. I didn’t share his enthusiasm for those papers but it was his choice. Michael and Helen, the owners of the post office and newsagents, asked after my dad. They were also fond of him. I said he was doing well and thanked them for asking. I didn’t want to share my concern.
I jumped in the car and swiftly drove the mile or so from the shops to my dad’s house in Penilee on the South West of Glasgow. Number one Linburn Road was the address. I didn’t rush out of the car because I was trying to convince myself nothing was wrong but I didn’t hang about. Me and my two big sisters had keys to his house so I opened the door and shouted ‘Dad, it’s me’ quite loudly. There was no response from the sitting room where he always sat watching his CSI Las Vegas series, or westerns or Sky Sports news looking for updates about his team Celtic.
‘Dad’ I shouted again and opened the small living room door. It was empty. Now I was worried. ‘Dad’, ‘Dad’, ‘are you okay?’ I shouted as I jumped the 16 stairs in the hall of his small 2 bedroom housing association house. I reached the bedroom and ‘bang’, ‘thud’, ‘wallop’. Nothing prepares you for it. You know it is going to happen. It is certain. There is no escaping it but nothing quite prepares you for it regardless. There was my dad lying in his bed still and pale with his eyes open and his kindle nestled upon his chest. My dad, my champion, my constant rock of support, my big pal was dead. I tried not to panic. I walked over to the bed and held one his hands. Both of them were outside the quilt. It was frozen. I held it anyway and leant over the bed and kissed my dad on the forehead ‘I love you dad’, I whispered. I tried to close his eyes. He was gone now and I wanted him to look in peace. I picked the kindle off his chest and noticed his bedside lamp was still on. He had been reading John Steinbeck’s classic ‘Of Mice and Men’.
What the hell do I do now I thought? I’d never found a dead body before. Who should I tell first? Surely phoning an ambulance is a waste of their precious time but who will know what to do? I phoned Gail first. I tried not to panic her. ‘Listen darling my dad’s dead, I’ve found him dead in his bed’. ‘No’ she said in disbelief. ‘Are you sure’? A reasonable question I suppose but she then asked ‘have you told Carol’? Carol is my middle sister and before moving to social care and social work she was a trained nurse. Anything medical in our family is referred to Carol. ‘No’ I said. ‘I’ve called you first’. ‘Well you better phone her’, she says. ‘You phone Carol and I’ll phone Lynn’ (my oldest sister), she said. ‘Then I will get a taxi and come down to your dad’s house’. ‘Okay I said before trying Carol’s number. It rang out. I left a short message asking her to call me. I didn’t say why. I wanted to tell her properly.
I phoned my dad’s GP surgery to inform them and ask for their advice. They were really helpful. They told me I had to inform the police and the ambulance service. They agreed to call the ambulance for me and I should call the police. I did so and they promised to attend as soon as possible. I was strangely calm.
My whole world was turned upside down with the loss of my dad but deep down I suppose I was expecting it and although finding him dead was not pleasant it was actually a blessing. Rather me finding him than anyone else. His face was pale and his skin was cold but there was not a trace of pain etched in his final expression. He actually looked at ease and at peace. I thought there and then if my dad could have had a box to tick describing his death then this would have been the one he ticked. In his own bed, in his pyjamas, in his own house and without fuss or fanfare. He was a humble man who hated to be a burden on anyone. This was how he would have wanted to pass from this world.
You see five months previously on the evening of Thursday 18th August 2016 I received a call from my sister Carol expressing her worries about dad. It was around 10pm and she had spoken to him on the phone and he was complaining of indigestion and sweating. He had taken a couple of Rennie tablets. Carol’s trained ear suspected something more serious than indigestion.
He sounded breathless on the phone and the indigestion type pain and sweating was synonymous with a heart attack. She was going to his house to take him to the hospital. I told her to pick me up. When we got to my dad’s house he opened the door and seemed to be in some discomfort but was talking away and didn’t want to go to the hospital. In situations like this my sister Carol can be very ‘persuasive’ and she demanded he put on some jogging bottoms and a sweatshirt and let us take him to the hospital.
During the car journey he was able to chat freely and insisted we were wasting the hospital’s time as he had just had some indigestion. He blamed it on some round mince pies I had taken him down a couple of days previously. It was around 10.30pm when we arrived at the Southern General Hospital accident and emergency ward. As usual it was mobbed. The girls at reception appeared stressed. We waited for around 10 minutes before explaining our dad’s circumstances. I let Carol do that. She knew what she was talking about. We were asked to sit and wait for triage assessment. We had found a wheelchair for my dad and sat him in it as his mobility was poor.
The numbers in the accident and emergency ward that night meant a twenty minute wait was normal. It turned into 30 minutes and my dad’s discomfort level was getting worse. Carol approached the reception desk again and my dad was then admitted for assessment. Thereafter it was crazy.
My dad was hardly behind the screen with the various monitors attached to him when paramedics came rushing into his cubicle and we were informed he was being rushed to the Golden Jubilee National hospital which specialises in heart issues. We were frightened. This was now something serious. He was to be ‘blue lighted’ to the Golden Jubilee, meaning he was being transported now as a medical emergency. My sister Carol got to travel with him and I drove her car from Govan to Clydebank after informing Gail, Lynn and my mum what was happening.
The next couple of hours were tortuous. The Consultant at the Jubilee informed Carol they suspected a massive heart attack. They were operating on him immediately to try and unblock one of his main arteries but his chances of survival were very slim. We feared the worse. Lynn now joined us at the hospital. We were in a sombre mood. The Consultant didn’t pull any punches. This was critical for dad. The paramedics were also perturbed. They were cross that we didn’t call the ambulance right away. Taking him to the hospital by ourselves wasted precious time. We apologised for our error.
After a couple of hours we were invited to quickly talk with the Consultant. He was very busy and had other patients to attend to but he gave us a clear and concise prognosis. My dad’s main heart ventricle had been blocked. He suffered a massive heart attack. The Consultant couldn’t believe he was still alive. ‘It should have killed him instantly’ he said. The arteries around his heart were in a very poor condition and although the blood block and been relieved by the operation it was too dangerous to place a stent in my dad’s heart so if he clots again overnight it would be fatal. We were stunned. My dad thought it was indigestion. He popped a couple of bloody rennies tablets for indigestion when he was actually suffering a massive heart attack.
We were allowed in to see him. He was clearly in shock. ‘You have suffered a massive heart attack dad’ I said to him. His reply was ‘Is that right’? We left the hospital that night with trepidation. The nurses and Consultant were agreed that it was touch and go for dad and he may not see the night through. We hugged each other and headed home with instructions to keep our phones handy and return at 12 noon the next day if we were not called beforehand.
I got home around 4am. Gail kept falling in and out of sleep waiting for news. She was very fond of my dad. I went into my toilet and cried my eyes out. I was tired, drained and very emotional. I spoke to myself and declared I couldn’t care less any longer about the big court appeal decision I was due to receive at 11am that day. I had beat the News Group Newspapers in a 5 week defamation case in 2006 and been awarded £200,000 in damages. They printed a pack of lies about me concerning affairs and sexual shenanigans. They set out to destroy me politically. They are bullies and I hate bullies. They are also criminals and liars from the Murdochs at the top to their lickspittle hacks at the bottom. I stood up to them and the jury found in my favour. NGN appealed the decision then continued to pervert the course of justice through a criminal conspiracy which involved illegal phone hacking, contempt of court, perjury, subornation of perjury and corrupting police officers and lawyers.
On an 8 to 6 margin I was convicted of perjury in relation to the 2006 case in December 2010. It was a miscarriage of justice and it will eventually be quashed. But based on this unsafe conviction NGN sought to overturn the 2006 civil jury decision and force a re-trial. I was to receive the judgement of three High Court judges that day at 11am. I don’t believe in a god but that morning in my toilet I asked for my dad’s health rather than a favourable court decision.
As it turned out the court judgement was in my favour at 11am and my dad was still alive at 12 noon. We visited him and he was cheery. When I told him about the court decision he was so happy for me and Gail. He joked about him eventually getting back all the money he had leant me to survive over the years, including paying the fees for my law degree. I promised him every penny and hugged him tightly.
The Consultant again met with me and my two sisters and informed us my dad was a bit of a medical miracle as he should have died under the severity of the heart attack. I reminded him that Govan didn’t just build ships it also built men, tough and resilient men like my dad. He smiled and told us he would have to take medication and try and change his lifestyle. Another attack would surely be fatal, he said.
I reckon we knew then my dad was on borrowed time. The fact we had him in our lives for a further 5 months and spent Christmas 2016 with him was truly wonderful. We traditionally went to his house to watch Celtic v Rangers games with my bluenose brothers–in-laws and his brother Jim and close friend Hughie. On 31st December we cheered together as Dembele and Sinclair goals saw us win 2-1 at Ibrox. He never ever gloated and always ensured Andy and David were welcomed and treated well despite supporting the blue side of Glasgow.
For over 20 years he and his brother devoted their time to running Pollok United Boys club. They gave up their Celtic season tickets to put something into the local community. Scores of young men went on to become professional footballers and managers due in large part to the voluntary commitment of my dad, his brother and the other selfless dads and mums who helped run our club.
The night before I found my dad dead I popped in to get his wee wallet of cards to collect his pension and pay his bills. He was watching Man Utd against Hull in the semi-final 1st leg of the League cup. I sat and watched the 1st half with him. It was rotten. I made him some tea and left at half-time. As I left I told him I loved him. I always told him that when I left him. He shouted to remember and lock the door.
That was the last time I saw my dad alive. But I told him I loved him. Those were the last words my dad heard from me. Perhaps the wee glass globe blowing off my side wall during the night was my dad symbolically passing. Who knows?
I apologise for writing what may be a rather sad or even morose column but I wanted to honour my dad’s memory and gently remind each and every one of you that the passing of loved ones is sadly inevitable and it is why we have to always cherish them here and now and always tell them you love them. You simply never know when they will draw their last breath so don’t regret not saying how much they mean to you each and every day. Life is precious but it is also perishable. Hold and treasure your loved ones while you can.
Rest In Peace Dad (21-3-1936 / 11-1-2017).