Dad has died. Aged 96, peacefully at the care home from old age, as we said in his obituary. I held his hand as his breaths grew farther and farther apart, like midnight waves in a lazy summer sea. He gave a surprised gasp. Then he was still.

Kerfuffle followed, carers elbowing me aside to check Dad’s pulse (or lack of it) and open the window, apparently to let his spirit out. I didn’t remind them: this was Dad we were dealing with, so his spirit would depart in its own good time and not necessarily through the window, thank you very much.

Dad, 1923-2019

Instead, I thought of all the things he’d loved – dogs, trees, Django Reinhardt, a good Rioja, and wondered where those enthusiasms had gone now he was no longer there to feel them.

I called Mr MS. When he arrived, we took on the chin a well meant talk about how we might need counselling. There was no shame in it, we were told, not even for Mr MS. Then the carers kindly left us in peace.

The doctor took forever to arrive. This was a blessing as during that time we were able to sit with Dad in the hot, fetid little room that had become, as Bones used to say to Captain Kirk, ‘home, Jim, but not as we know it.’ We gazed out across the care home courtyard at houses Dad had latterly insisted were the same ones he’d looked on as a young man working in Dursley, Gloucestershire.

In the care home kitchen, Mr MS made us a cup of tea.

I welled up. ‘It’s sad to be making two cups, not three.’

‘I could always make him a cup too,’ said Mr MS.

We decided not, but noted that sitting quietly drinking tea in Dad’s room was so similar to our recent routine, it was as though he was still there. Dad had stopped speaking in the last few weeks, communicating only in sign language. We didn’t know why. Perhaps he’d become so deaf that he couldn’t hear his own voice.

‘Should I do the Codeword?’ I asked. It had been another ritual. I’d buy Dad the paper, pass it over, and he’d pull out the puzzle supplement and give it back to me. I’d act delighted. Except it wasn’t an act. When Dad was happy, I was happy.

He liked to be hospitable. At his previous care home, he’d relished pressing his emergency call button to order us tea and cake.

‘It’s all free!’ he’d crow.

‘It isn’t,’ I’d think.

But Dad had no idea about care home fees, nor that he got no help from the government to pay them. I hated keeping it from him. But he was careful with money (‘mean,’ Mum would say when he’d annoyed her) and the knowledge would have tormented him.

Back to the Codeword. We decided not. Instead I held Dad’s hand (still warm) and thought how lucky I’d been to receive a weak thumbs up the day before when I’d brought him tea. He’d said a mute goodbye to me later that night, sitting up in bed and taking both my hands in his. Then he’d turned back to the pressing matter of dying.

Mr MS and I talked about my Mum’s death. When Mum and Dad moved up North to be near us, Dad had become obsessed with the local greeting, ‘Y’alright, luv?’ and said it at the slightest provocation. When Mum was lying in her hospital bed in a coma, he tried to bring her round by saying it loudly several times in a cod Yorkshire accent. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

No greeting was going to bring him round now, though. In a way it was just as well. He’d had enough of life, or rather life as an infirm old man, a state he found outrageous right to the end.

But by golly, I miss him. His opinions pop daily into my head, in his exact voice.

My first letter of condolence came from local government. Dad’s surname was Bassett. ‘We are sorry to learn of the death of Mrs Edward Sutter,’ said the letter. It was a baffling mistake, as his National Insurance number was quoted correctly, and you’d think his name would be automatically linked to it. In my head, he was incredulous. ‘What a bunch of halfwits! I mean, who are these people? Can’t they get anything right?’

He didn’t stop there. Every day he has something further to say. ‘Look at that mountain of flesh!’ he exclaims, when I see someone particularly overweight, or, ‘he hasn’t got much between the ears,’ when someone makes a silly mistake. ‘Screaming brats,’ he says when children pipe up in coffee shops.

My fathers daughter

I don’t know what to do with Dad’s voice. I assume it’s just a phase. But my normal, mild mannered self is terrified that one day his words are going to pop out of my mouth. If they do, please forgive me. I am my father’s daughter, after all.