I didn’t cry very much when my dad died. There was just too much to do, too many other people to support. I was devastated, but it was the type of tragedy that required resilience and pragmatism, not reflection and melancholy.
I’ve certainly always missed him over the past almost twenty years and I’ve tried to live up to his rigid sense of fair play. If I’ve ever shirked a responsibility or taken the easier (but wrong) path it is always to him that I apologise. And that acknowledgement has always made me think and act differently next time a similar situation arises.
Today, however, while watching the morning session of the Headingley Test match I made up for my lack of tears by imagining what it would have been like had I been able to share the experience with my dad.
The story of the match has led to an exciting conclusion today and my better half is at work all day. I might have rung him up last night and invited him down to watch England snatch an improbable victory from the Aussies.
And so, there we would have sat watching the action in a definition that dad could have hardly dreamed about. He would have loved the recent technologies, Hawkeye, Edge Detection, HotSpot, Ball Spin and all the statistics that come with them. He would have despaired at the Decision Review System which leads to a seeming fallibility of modern umpires. Cricket, like my dad, has always been a solid mix of the traditional and the innovative.
There wouldn’t have been any long conversations, just the occasional observation or recounting of an old story. The most repeated phrases would have been familiar two words, “Good shot”, “Well left”, or in extreme circumstances, “What a shot, ball, catch…” We might have argued about who the best players were, but this would have come down to their work ethic and determination rather than talent.
We would have shared every laugh and cheer though. And this is what has made the day so poignant. At the time of writing Jofra Archer has been caught in the deep so England now require 73 with only two wickets remaining, so a famous victory is unlikely.
Now, perhaps, we would have talked about more personal things. He’d ask about work, about the kids, about everything. I hope he would have been proud of me. I’d like to think he can rest peacefully.
I was trying to explain the difference between my job and my better half’s job to my daughter when she pointed out that the company I worked for was quite small.
“There’s only about nine people at your work, isn’t there?” She said.
“Yes. There’s ten.” I replied.
“Well,” she said, fixing a beady eye on me and crossing her arms. “I said ‘about nine’, didn’t I?”
“Yes, darling. You did. I was just pointing out that there were exactly ten.”
“And does it make a huge difference?” He arms were folding themselves tighter and tighter and her eyes becoming beadier.
“No.” I said. “Not really. But if you’re giving someone an estimate, you would usually round it up. In this case to ten.”
“Really.” It was not a question.
“Yes. Really. You wouldn’t say :’There are nine hundred and ninety five thousand, four hundred and thirty somethings’ if you thought there were about a million somethings, would you?”
“Well that’s silly, darling.”
“Ask me how many minions Gru has in Despicable Me.”
I fought back a sigh. “How many minions does Gru have?”
“Nine hundred and ninety five thousand, four hundred and thirty… one.”
“No. About nine hundred and ninety five thousand, four hundred and thirty one.”
“Well that’s about a million, isn’t it?”
“Yes. But it’s also about nine hundred and ninety five thousand, four hundred and thirty one.”
“This is true, darling. But isn’t it easier to just say, about a million?”
There was a bit of a silence.
Then she said: “How many dads are there in the world?”
The question was asked without particular menace, but after a quick calculation I’d worked out that there were a lot of potential replacements for me.
“About two and a half billion.”
“And how did you work that out?”
“Well, there’s about seven billion people in the world…”
“Are there exactly seven billion?”
“No, of course not.”
“HA! Then why not say ten billion people? Are you an idiot? You’ve just told me that if you’re estimating something you should round it up. And now you say seven!”
She was not interested in the rest of my calculations.
She is about twenty years old. But exactly eleven.