One of the earliest recollections I have from my childhood is of my dad standing in the kitchen of our flat adding blue food dye into a glass of warm milk.
He knew it would be blue, it always was. It was my favourite colour.
The same reason he re-sprayed the red Raleigh Racer bike he bought me blue and painted my room as a surprise, even adding blue light bulbs for effect.
My dad, John, was an electrician – an approved electrician no less. I thought it was the best job in the world, until the day I blew myself up.
He’d come home with a set of disco lights for me. I switched them on and started poking about with a screwdriver.
They went bang, there was a flash. I was covered in soot. All very dramatic and led to my first electrocution lessons.
He worked hard, very hard and growing up on a council estate as I did, toiled away so I’d want for nothing.
I inherited his double-crown, a frustrating quirk of birth which means no matter what you do your hair sticks up, the reason I get my own shaved so short.
It’s because of him we shared a passion in The Beatles, rugby and malt whisky.
Despite preferring the oval ball, he would take me to the occasional Hearts game and drag along my Hibs supporting granddad for good measure.
He had a soft spot for helping old people, even talked about becoming a carer for a time, a kind side of his nature which came to the fore when my mum was left in a wheelchair.
It was a combination of his patience and her own unbelievable determination and resilience that means she is back walking today.
They were a great double act. I recall vividly how they’d share a drink and ready to go out of a Friday night, steal the last morsel from each other’s plates for fun when each other wasn’t looking.
But there were hard times too.
My dad liked to drink almost as much as he enjoyed chain smoking, was infectious company and stayed out too late or disappeared for a few days on a bender.
He was booted out, rightly, by my mum more times than I care to remember.
But despite their problems, they always made sure to make time for me through my formative years.
They might not always have liked each other, but they loved each other, and I was never caught in the middle.
That was never more evident than the day we were told he had cancer.
He’d been feeling tired, secretly coughing up blood and went for the tests and we were asked to rock up to hospital for the results.
My journo Spidey senses picked up straight away it was bad news.
We’d been allocated a quiet room, the busy nurses were overly attentive, no-one could really look you in the eye.
And a box of tissues was discreetly added to the folders, books and staples on the desk.
The doctor told my dad he was among the fittest 50-odd year old men he’s ever seen as a patient in every way, except for the issue of the cancer.
“Yes, Mr Milne, cancer. It’s in your lungs and, well, there’s nothing we can do I’m afraid except help you manage the condition.”
I recall watching the scenes as if not there. My mum crying into his shoulder, gripping his arm so very tightly.
His still smiling, bravely. Shock etched on his face, his mouth dry and voice cracking as he asked first, what did he mean by “nothing we can do?” and secondly, how many years did he have left.
“Not how many years Mr Milne, I’m afraid you have between four to six months, at best. I really am very sorry.”
In the end, it wasn’t even that long.
I recall my dad’s words clearly: “Thanks very much doctor, not exactly what I was expecting, now if you’ll excuse us I think I’m going to take this pair to the pub.”
Which is what we did.
What followed remains, frankly, too raw to write about of how he tried chemo, soldiered on etc, especially knowing that my mum will no doubt read this post.
She, more than anyone, has had to adapt, cope and struggle on without him and I have been wholly inadequate as a son in helping.
I never tell her that I ‘get’ it, because I don’t want to talk about it. Selfishly.
But it doesn’t mean I don’t care.
The day my dad died those 10 years ago or so, was the day part of me went with him. My humour.
We laughed and joked and wound people up like some kind of bad telly double act.
There was an unspoken understanding, some freakish sense of humour like code which only we got.
I’ve been, by my old standards at least, a miserable git ever since having watched him die on his crumpled up hospital bed, struggling for each last breath, determined to fight on for as long as he possibly could.
A couple of months back I was in one of his old haunts, the Abbotsford pub with friends from work when something happened that I found hilarious.
Tears were rolling from my eyes, I couldn’t stop the belly laugh for ages. I used to do that all the time. It made me smile more, because I could imagine there and then how funny he’d have found it too.
I miss my dad more than anything. As a father, as a friend and as a confidant.
He should have been there for the wedding and marital advice, the chat about becoming a dad myself, the counseling over work decisions.
A simple beer.
But for all that he was there, I watched, listened and learned and hope that it may go on to make me a good dad too.
Two Fat Laddies is part of my attempt to make good on that, as I blogged about before.
If I have even half the relationship with my own son Joshua as I enjoyed with my dad, I will be a far richer person for it.
When I head out for my weekend run today, I’ll do so in the knowledge that if I keep it up, there’s a good chance I should be around a lot longer for him than would otherwise have been the case when I was a heart attack waiting to happen.
This Father’s Day, there can be no better motivation than that.
Help those with cancer by supporting Iain’s charity here.