It’s Fathers day again, our third without you here.

Where do the years go?

I wanted to write you a letter but I didn’t know where to start. There’s so much I want to say to you, things I should have said when you were still here, things that I left too late.

When you took us in to your home as young women I know it wasn’t easy for you. You were older than Mum, you’d had your children and watched them grow and have families of their own and were enjoying the freedom and peace of living alone. You didn’t have to take us in. You didn’t have to put yourself through living with three women when you were so used to a your own company but you did.

I know we didn’t see eye to eye. I know we clashed. You didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand you and both as stubborn as we were, neither of us would ever back down. Living with me wasn’t easy, I get that. I was headstrong, I was finding my feet, working out my place in the world. I was trying to work life out and while you were slowing down in life, I was speeding up.

Over time that changed. When I moved out I enjoyed nothing more than coming home for the night, to catch up with you and Mum and spend some quality time with you both. You always had my tea ready on the table and a hug waiting for me  and I appreciated that.

Our relationship changed again when I became a mum. We both softened. You were a granddad again and I saw how happy that made you. I remember the very first time Billy belly laughed. You were playing with a sheep and making it jump out at him to the point he was hysterically laughing, as we all were, as you were, you were crying too. You were crying happy tears.

We were the family that you never expected you’d have but boy did you embrace us.

You walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, well marched me down really because you were so nervous. I remember how choked up you were when I asked you if you would do it, I saw the water well up in your eyes.

I remember your wedding day. I saw your face light up as mum walked in to the room. I saw the happiness written all over both of your faces.

I remember you visiting us in hospital when we had just had Isla, you were smiling from ear to ear.

You were happy.

Life plodded on, our family was like any other and then everything changed.

We all hoped we had got it wrong, we all hoped that we were overreacting and that everything would be ok.

Within a couple of weeks of each other youd been diagnosed with Alzheimers and vascualar dementia and Isla had been diagnosed with Autism – two unfamiliar and scary ‘A’ words that none of us expected orncould comprehend.

We were all a bit lost. We were all confused, we were all in denial.

Except for you. You may of hidden it well but to the outside world you were strong.

You changed. You appreciated the little things, your dementia almost made you softer. You didn’t take things for granted. I saw you take in every single moment as though it was the very first, or very last time you’d see them.

I would often come over and just sit and hold your hand. We hugged more. I appreciated you more. I saw you in ways I hadn’t before.

I remember the first time you heard Isla say a word. She said ‘hello’ to you. I remember you couldn’t believe what you were hearing, you couldn’t get your words out through the years, you sobbed, you stood there and cried like I hadn’t seen before.

It meant so much to you that you were around to see the thing we were told she may never do.

You and Billy had a lovely relationship. He would often just cuddle up to you and watch telly. You always made him laugh doing one silly thing or another, he talks of you often, always with a huge smile on his face.

I don’t know what it was about you and Isla, maybe a mutual understanding but there was something so pure about your relationship. You needed no words, it was uncomplicated, you expected nothing from one another. It was beautiful to watch. You would often just dance together, mess around laughing, squeeling, just happy.

You were happy and it wasn’t fair.

Your illness got hold of you quickly. You forgot how to play the guitar, something you loved so much. You couldn’t read music anymore. You couldn’t remember so many things you’d once held so dear. It was robbing you of everything that you loved and everything that made you who you were.

You were tired, you’d had enough, I could see that.

You stopped eating and drinking and I knew. I knew you’d given in, I knew you had no fight left in you, I knew you wanted to go before you forgot who the people you loved were. I knew you’d made your choice.

You got your wish.

The last time I saw you I absolutely knew it was the very last time. I knew after I left the hospital that I would never see you again.

It broke me.

It was my last chance to tell you everything I hadn’t but should have over the years and that is exactly what I did.

I leant over and whispered in your ear. I told you everything I needed you to know.

I hope that you heard me Ron. I thought I saw you smile.

I want you to know that I didn’t say it very often but I love you. I didn’t know how much until you were no longer with us.

I am so very proud of you. You were the bravest person I have ever met. You fought your illness with such dignity, such bravery, such strength. You are a hero. Dementia is cruel, I don’t want to ever see anyone else go through what you went through.

You once told me you were proud of the woman I had become, that you thought I was a brilliant mother and that I was different to the young lady I once was. That will stay with me forever because you had never said anything like that to me before. It meant more to me than you will ever know hearing those words come from you.

I want you to know that you were never the children’s step grandfather, you were their granddad, you are still their grandad and that is how they remember you. They love you.

Stepdad’s often get the raw end of the deal. You did when two young ladies landed on your doorstep. You took us on as your own and you loved us as your own.

What was so special about you? You chose to love us when you didn’t have to and love us you did.

We couldn’t have loved you anymore if you were our Dad. In many ways that’s exactly what you were.

I miss you today as I miss you every day, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face as I remember just how much you enriched my life.

Happy Fathers day Ron…… Dad xxx