On Monday March 15 my father passed away. Just a few days earlier I had told him there'd always be a piece of him in everything I do. This is why...
My father was a man with many loves and passions. His wife of 38 years. His children. His grandchildren. His brothers and sisters. His other relatives and friends.
This passion extended to other areas too. And one in particular had a most profound effect on me.
To say Dad had an interest in computers is to commit an act of serious understatement. His study was full of computer hardware, computer disks and computer manuals. The downstairs room was a jumble sale of old monitors, ancient motherboards and other relics of silicon.
When he wasn't cooking dinner or playing with us kids, when he wasn't pottering around in the yard or just having a lie down, Dad was busy installing some new operating system or assembling some new machine from a multitude of spare parts.
I didn't need to understand what he was doing or why he was doing it. He took immense pride in his knowledge. It was enough for me to appreciate how much he enjoyed his hobby.
But even at an early age, I couldn't help but find it fascinating.
At the same time, Dad was generous enough to encourage my curiosity and, over the years, gradually foster a hobby that would eventually become my own passion.
In the early 80s, Dad would take me into his office when he had to work on the weekend. He'd seat me at the computer terminal next to him. To my child eyes I wasn't staring at a monitor but a luminous green window that looked out into other worlds. I'd peer through with wonder, my imagination fired by adventures involving caves, dragons and magic riddles.
It was my first real contact with computer games.
Back at home, Dad and I had a continuous rivalry with the Game & Watch, those simple handheld electronic games where you had to catch people jumping from a plane or building. You would walk past our bathroom on a Sunday afternoon and hear "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" coming from inside. Eventually, Dad would emerge and show me the new high score he'd just set. I'd grab the game and race into my bedroom. I wouldn't leave until I'd knocked him off the top. Later, if you walked past the bathroom, you'd hear that "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" all over again as Dad renewed his efforts.
Dad didn't just encourage my interest in electronic games though. Dad and I invented board games based on cricket, on football and on Formula 1 motor racing. We even played Dungeons & Dragons together. But as we raced each other around the circuits of Mario Kart, Dad knew that computer and video games were my real passion.
He showed me his computer magazines that carried reviews of the latest games. He then found me entire publications dedicated to games. I devoured them and hassled him to find me new ones. By the time I was 18 I was writing my own reviews, and with his encouragement submitted a few samples to one such magazine.
18 years later I'm still working in that field. I'm still getting paid to write about my passion...
A passion that I wouldn't have if it wasn't for my Dad...
If he hadn't shared his passions with me...
If he hadn't been there to encourage me every step of the way...
And if there hadn't always been a piece of him in everything I do.
Last week after the funeral I returned to the family home. I went into Dad's study to browse and reflect on those experiences we'd shared. On the shelf was his collection of PC games, including all the Civilization games still in their original packaging. For some reason I opened the Civilization II box - his favourite.
Inside I found a piece of paper with handwritten notes outlining how the technology tree progressed. As I read down the list I realised that the notes had begun in my own writing and then about halfway down had flowed into my Dad's as he filled out the remaining details.
That Civ II box - and the handwritten notes within - now sits on my games shelf. Dad won't have the chance to have "one more turn", but I think he'd want me to have it for him.
I want to say thank you, Dad, for everything you gave me. I'm going to miss you. But there'll always be a piece of you in everything I do.