Happy Father’s Day to all the happy fathers, and those happy to have fathers. This is my first year without a dad, mine having passed away last summer. It’s okay, really it is. His mind actually slipped away quite a bit before that, and so, in the end, it was a relief to see him go. But now, almost a year later, I find myself missing him more than I did when he was alive.

I did the eulogy for my father at his funeral last August, and I mentioned all the right and true things: his keen intelligence, his tremendous accomplishments, his deep and droll sense of humour. I even touched lightly on his inveterate alcoholism, and tried to skirt neatly around his troubled relationship with my mother. Neill Holloway was not without his flaws, but I’ll tell you one thing for sure: he was a wonderful father. He and my mother had four children. I’m the eldest, then there’s my sister Louise, my brother Andrew, and then my sister Kathryn. I was an only child for 5 years before Louise came along, and my earliest memories tell me that I spent those years on my father’s lap in his big chair, where he read me stories until I learned to read them myself. He took me everywhere, running errands, driving me to endless drama and dancing lessons. We spent hours in the car, playing trivia games and singing songs. To this day, thanks to him, I know all the words to “Danny Boy”, and that the capital of Montana is Helena. Later, when I started acting in various stage productions, he never missed a single performance. He taught me to ski, to sail, and to play tennis. He visited me and took me out to dinner when I was in boarding school, and then university. He took me to Ireland for the summer when I was 18. He gave me my first summer job, and he approved wholeheartedly of the man I chose to marry (who turned out to be a civil engineer just like him.) He always told me that he was proud of me, and that he loved me. I hope I told him as much myself, but I don’t think I did enough.

In later years, my father declined rapidly. The drinking did him in. Too many falls damaged that fine brain of his, and I knew it was the beginning of the end when he could not read anymore. Eventually, he also lost the ability to walk, to talk, and then to recognize anyone. He received good care, but when he came down with yet another infection last July, I made the decision (with his doctor) to forego antibiotics, and he … just went. I was dry eyed through the whole ordeal, up to and including the cremation and the funeral, although I don’t mind telling you I’m welling up as I write this.

There was no burial. He didn’t even want a funeral – we did that for my mother. Instead, his ashes are in a box in a black velvet bag, sitting, appropriately enough, on a bookshelf in the living room. His Irish tweed cap sits on top. It’s not a permanent situation, but it will do for now. Sometimes, I leave the newspaper there, or my keys, or something I need to remember to take with me, and I ask my dad to look after them for a moment. And sometimes, I tell him that I love him, and I always will.


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