A couple of years after dad's injury, someone walked past me on the street wearing the same aftershave he had always used.  It just transported me back to all those times he had picked me up in the car or opened the front door to me, made me a cup of tea and thrown his arms around me.  It just hit me that he'd never do those things for me again and I just wanted to collapse right there on the street corner and cry.

When dad was first in hospital, I was desperate to talk to everyone there, to grill them for information.  The consultant always seemed to come round when I was at work and I had to get all the news third-hand.  It drove me mad.  In the family, we all reacted differently and I found myself trying to manage everything - that's partly my natural role in the family, partly because some of my siblings withdrew into themselves, and partly because at the time I had no partner or children to have to think about so I had the time.  I knew I couldn't just sit back, that I needed to do something, and seeing how much mum and dad needed support provided all the motivation I needed.

It was a really stressful time, with everyone looking to me for news.  When I couldn't answer the questions, I know they felt that I was withholding information.  The situation impacted on all of us, it aggravated sensitivities, it caused clashes.  I felt like I'd become the parent in our family; people would tell me that I was so strong and I felt like I had to live up to their description when often I'd just want to sit in a corner and cry my eyes out.  I was exhausted and, in private, I was breaking down.

Bad stuff happens to good people all the time

Because I thought we had to protect dad, I tried to micro-manage people's emotions for a long time.  I'd tell my siblings how to behave around him, that they couldn't get upset when they saw him.  Eventually, one of them said, "What the hell, Foz, he's not only your dad."  I didn't react that well, I was over sensitive, but looking back I know that I had no right to tell people how they should cope.  They told me that I was so uptight and that I didn't relax, that I never switched off and in that they were right.

It was actually dad that helped me - he made me realise that I can't control everything and that he's not made of glass so I don't need to protect him.  He's still my dad and he reminded me that I'm still the kid, that I can ease off.  We've spent a lot of time talking, I've definitely chewed his ears off about all sorts, and as the parent he's the one who has been reassuring me.

This hasn't changed my mind about the world; bad stuff happens to good people all the time and whilst it's difficult, and sad, and I miss things we used to have, there's still a lot of good in our lives.  Dad might not be able to throw his arms around me and pull me into that delicious smell of his, but he's still here, he's still the wise head of our family and we still have so much to look forward to.

Go back to the stories