They both love tea (I wonder where I get it from?)Eden Keily-Thurstain for Varsity

My dad died suddenly when I was still very young, at  just four years old. At the time I didn’t really understand what it meant, but the older I get, the more I think about him. There are, inevitably, a lot of what ifs. What if he were still here? What then? How different would things be? These questions tend to make their presence known at about 3am, or whenever I’m trying to sleep. The extremely infuriating thing with what ifs, though, is that they can never be answered, and so the questions linger...

A few years after my dad’s passing, my mum remarried. We became a new family unit; my three siblings, my wonderful mum and I – and now my ‘new’ dad too, all dressed in a suit and tie. I loved (and love) ‘new’ dad. I remember when he first came to visit and he gave us endless piggy backs and made us tea. Having spent years working in schools, he had a stern ‘teacher’s voice’ which he saved for special occasions and which we found quite amusing. We raced around the house in excitement whenever we heard he was coming. I also remember how much we used to love visiting his house; it was so neat and tidy with folded up blankets – worlds away from the happy chaos of our own. He even had a cat.

“Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if my two dads were to meet”

So growing up, I have always seen myself as having two dads. I often get quite a few alarmed glances when I say this to people for the first time. I have the dad who I know mostly through stories and photos and faded watercolour memories. I can trace this dad through the features on my face and the colour of my eyes. Then I have the dad who drinks a lot of tea and speaks in a thick Yorkshire accent. I know this dad through the knowing looks we exchange when something is amusing, and the quiet closing of the door whenever I try to play the piano (‘try’ being the operative word). Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if my two dads were to meet. They both grew up in Bradford (and, I am afraid, support the football club). They’re both devout Catholics. They’re both very Yorkshire and they both love tea (I wonder where I get it from?). So I think that all in all, they’d get along quite well, which makes me very happy. There’s nothing like football to unite people after all...

“I can trace this dad through the features on my face and the colour of my eyes”

I used to feel guilty about calling my alive dad ‘dad’, because I thought that then I’d be replacing my ‘first’ dad. It took me a while to realise that having two dads is completely possible, and it doesn’t make me love either one any less. I feel very lucky to have a dad who (reluctantly) makes me tea and simultaneously mutters things about how you’d think a 19 year old could make it for herself by now … I also feel lucky to have had a dad who loved me with all his heart – a man who had so much kindness and empathy to give, that he forgot to give it to himself. This dad lives in my mind and watches over me from afar, maybe playing chess or talking about politics. He’s probably quite unimpressed by Brexit. And his chess-mania has passed onto my younger sister Jelly, who can rarely be seen without a chess board in sight (and this was before The Queen’s Gambit!). Throughout my childhood, this dad has always been here with me in spirit. We talk about him a lot and we walk like him too, apparently. His photos can be found around our house, you’ll find him quite easily as the tall, lanky man, dressed in colourful shirts, with very blue eyes, who won’t quite look into the camera.


Meet the AskVulture Team

Meet the AskVulture Team

Then you’ll find my other dad around the house too, maybe making shepherd’s pie or trying to find something that I have inevitably lost – like my bank card. Otherwise he might be in the park building dens or looking at the birds with my two little brothers, who are now 6 and 8 years old. Seeing the two of them at 4 years old was bittersweet because I saw the connection they had (and have) with dad and it made me want to give my 4 year old self a hug when she heard the news about her own. I wish I could tell her that things will work out, that another dad is on his way, who can’t replace who she has lost (and wouldn’t want to), but who can (and will) love her and help her to heal.

Hopefully one day I’ll be able to sit down with the dad I lost and make up for the years gone by. I still have nights when I am consumed by despair and sadness at his passing (and probably always will). However, when I wake the next day, I have my other dad to make me tea and raise his eyebrows at the fact it is mid-afternoon. ‘It’ll be dark soon’, he says – with a twinkle in his eye.