It was four weeks ago when I was at home with mum and the postman delivered the mail...Mum cried. I was a little bemused and looked at her, her eyes shone as never before, she looked at me, picked up the phone and called my dad at work..."It's happened" she said, my dad must have asked her a question and she just said "This Wednesday" and her voice broke down and she sobbed. I didn't like seeing my mum sad so I just went over to her and gave her a hug, not daring to ask what the matter was. My dad burst through the door about half an hour later, he grabbed my mum and they both held each other tight, crying. They held each other as if there was no tomorrow and they came into the lounge holding hands.
"Josh" they said, "We have something to tell you"...I was scared now and had not experienced anything this serious before. "Daddy has to go far away to a country called Afghanistan and help other children and families rebuild their lives. There is a war and daddy signed up to help our troops when he could. His bosses have chosen this time to ask him to go over there and daddy won't be here for Christmas". I stomped out of the room shouting "It's not fair" and went upstairs.
My dad came into the room after a while, sat down at my side and told me all the deatils of his job and what he had to do...suffice to say I wasn't really listening and just didn't want him to leave mum and me alone. I told him I understood and it was okay but really this was just to make him feel better and at that time deep down I hated everything about the world and all those people fighting in it. I didn't sleep well that night and throughout the darkness heard mutterings and footfalls of unsettled and anxious parents. I heard my dad playing some music from another room and it was the song that they had played at their wedding on their first dance together. I remember watching the video once and I couldn't help laughing at my dad's haircut and my mums dress, in a way it was beautiful though. In the darkness I listened to the song and waited for my dad to start singing as he usually did, but tonight there was no singing and it seemed strange.
I fell asleep after a while and woke to the sound of church bells and peacocks, it was the last day for a while that I would see my dad and I wondered what the day held in store. Of course to say that it wasn't the happiest of days was an understatement. Mum had taken the day off work and we walked together in the winter sunshine talking as families do but in a strained and unrealistic way. The day went on, with me wishing that it wouldn't end and my mum grabbing every opportunity to hold and touch her beloved soul mate. Dad treated us to a Hut meal for tea and we went home full and tired. Dad had to be up early in the morning so we all went to bed early. He came to see me before I went to sleep and dozily I looked at him as he spoke, "Josh, be a good boy for mum, clebrate Christmas like you would if I was here and above all know that I will be thinking of you wherever I am and I hope you do the same"..."I will dad, I love you" I responded and drifted off to sleep.
Dad left early the next morning, Mum thought it was best to let me sleep in as my Dad went off to catch the train to his departure point. I was upset but knew that he was going to be home in a couple of months so after a while carried on with my day to day routine. We weren't allowed to know exactly where dad had gone but we knew it was Afghanistan. Mum dreaded the news coming on the telly so banned me from watching it. I suppose in a way she was in denial about the war and my fathers work but every so often you could see her well up after a bit of thinking time. The first couple of days I heard my mum crying late at night and wondered if there was anything that I could do but realised that the only thing that would make her happy was the sound of my dad walking through the front door of the house. Mum tried to prepare for Christmas but my nan had to help her a lot as she didn't seem to be able to get things together in her normal efficient manner. I asked if I could write a letter to dad for Christmas and she thought that was a lovely idea and let me get on with it, I wrote...
'dear dad, I hope you are well and the army and the people of Afghanistan are treating you well. I had a fight in the playground today because a boy said you weren't a real soldier. I got told off by the teacher but mum didn't seem cross at all. Mum is sad and we both miss you. I am thinking of you like you asked me to and I hope you are thinking of me. I have asked for an xbox for Christmas and I hope I get one. Nan told me to say hello and that she loves you with all her heart. I have to go now as I have heard a noise and I think mum wants me...I love you dad...Josh'
I went downstairs to see what happened and mum was screaming, I ran to her, she was shaking and screaming, it frightened me and I started crying. Mum had turned the telly on early for her programme and the news was still on, there on the screen was a picture of my Dad and I smiled through the tears, then I heard the words.."killed by a mortar attack on the army base today".
In that split second my young life ended and my forced adulthood began. I held my mum as long as I could but she was hurting because she wouldn't let go...I got to the phone and phoned Nan who was crying on the end of the phone. I gave the phone to mum and imagined the two women looking into the receivers not saying a word to each other but saying everything to each other with the silence.
I went upstairs and held the letter that I had just written close to my heart and whispered "good night dad, wherever you are, happy christmas"
I wish you all a very peaceful and lovely Christmas, I will be back in January xx