OK, so when I was writing la centaine I referred to the one story that I was unsure about whether or not to add, heartbreaking as it is to tell.
Anyway, I've decided to tell it.
Why? Because it is a big part of my tale. Because it has shaped me. Because it affects 90% of everything that happens within my family.
Why have I chosen to tell it today? I don't know. I feel good. I feel happy. I feel able to write it without getting too emotional.
That's a big build up. Sorry. Here it is.
21st March 2002 and I'm in London for the day. I'm working and have been in and out of a succession of meetings all day. Luckily, I finish early and head to the station.
Now, any of you who know Euston will know how everyone stands in the departure hall, looking up at the screens waiting for their train to be announced. On a busy day upwards of 1000 people can be congregated there at any one time.
It was such a day, and my screen gazing was interrupted by my phone ringing. it was my brother.
"Where are you?"
"What train are you on?"
"The Lichfield one - my car is at Lichfield station"
"Change it, come to Birmingham. Dad's in hospital, he's had a heart attack"
(Calm, but nonetheless shocked reaction) "I can't, it'll be quicker to get the train to Lichfield and drive to the hospital. I'll be there in two hours"
"Ok, just get here as soon as you can"
"Is he ok?"
"Yes, just get here"
So, I got on the train, mildly stunned but calm and keen to get some miles behind me. If he was in hospital, then at least he was being looked after.
The phone rang again.
"We've left the hospital, come to Mom's"
"OK. Is everything alright?"
"The nurses said there's nothing to be gained by sitting around at the hospital. They said to go home"
"Right. Well, I'll come to the house then"
And then, in the background I heard his wife say 'just tell him we all need to be together'.....he shushed her, but the damage was done.
At that moment I knew that my father had died.
I drove from the station to my Mother's house on auto-pilot. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I knew this was one of those moments. I knew that once I rang that doorbell my life would never be the same again.
I pulled up on the driveway and steeled myself. I had to go in. I had to face the news.
I rang the bell. My brother answered.
He opened the door and my Mom came running to the door. She made it half the length of the hallway and collapsed.
"He's dead" she cried, and just lay there on the floor, not knowing what to do, or how to do it.
All of our lives changed that day.