Carpe Diem: What Dad’s Death Taught Me About Decision-Making

You can be a bit bombastic sometimes, you get it from your father.

I had to have a little laugh. First of all, because in this sense, ‘bombastic’ didn’t quite mean what my mother thought it meant. She meant to say that I was impulsive, bless her,

And, well, because I loved being anything at all like my father, even his negative bits.

I was proud.

My father was one of those people, a stocky, gentle soul. Soft like a teddy bear until you wronged him, and then that teddy bear had very, very sharp, poisonous spines.

I can’t recall anyone ever hating my Dad, and more still, there wasn’t a dry eye at his funeral. That man was loved. See?

Me & my Pops in 2007

There wee many things people said about my Dad. He was confident, he was funny, he was a leader, he was kind.

He inspired me. Doesn’t it show how much I thought of him? Dad hated having his photo taken, so that was a rare opportunity.

Over time though, as I became more like my father, I too was known for my confidence, my wit and my leadership capabilities. I too was identified for knowing how to balance ability and humility. My favourite saying that keeps me from getting too boastful?

There is always a bigger fish.

My Dad had two sides, and both were probably as frustrating as the other. On the one hand, he was impulsive, and he was always buying quantities of food or going-cheap pastries on a whim. I can remember my Mum asking him where he was planning to store it all, and “I’ll find somewhere” or “let the kids have ’em” was always the answer. It was no wonder we all put on the pounds!

The flipside to that, and the thing that Dad used to say that used to really annoy me, was “do it tomorrow”. Oh my goodness, I can almost feel my blood boiling now.

Do it tomorrow.

For part of me growing up, I used to think that maybe I was just impatient and I needed to learn to be more patient, but here is the kicker.

My Dad died at 60.

How much more could he have done if he had done some of his do-it-tomorrow’s, today?

I’m not saying all of them, because he struggled with poor health and I believe that there were times when his do-it-tomorrow’s really had to be done tomorrow, but his do-it-tomorrow’s made me become, well, me. I learned that if I wanted something done and he’d told me to wait until tomorrow, sometimes I’d have to learn to do it myself, today. After all, maybe tomorrow would come with its own set of challenges, as it often does, so what then?

Carpe diem.

I can remember the construction of a three-door wardrobe very well for this. It was a purchase from IKEA and my mother and father could not work out the instructions between them. Me, being the person who’s bedroom was now an array or wooden panels and screws, picked up the screwdriver and did it herself. I called my mother about two hours later for help with hanging the doors.

“I thought we said wait until tomorrow?” she said angrily as she marched up the stairs.

I still remember the slight smirk that spread across my face when she realised that the unit was up and in situ, sans doors.

In adulthood now, I’ve learned a lot about self-efficiency and managing my time. Do-it-tomorrow sometimes really needs to be do-it-tomorrow, like when I was cold, wet and exhausted from trying to plumb in a dishwasher that wouldn’t stop leaking. Everything else had to wait a day, I had no energy left to give. But once I did, I did, and I got everything sorted.

Following my father’s death, “carpe diem” has become something of a motto for me. A reminder that half of 60 is 30, and I’ve already surpassed thirty. If I go at the same age as my father, then I’ve spent half of my life doing precisely not much. I have no time for dawdling and dwindling on what I should do and what might have been, I have to live for today, we all have to live for today, for we never know what tomorrow may bring and I encourage people who are stuck to take an opportunity with both hands. Carpe diem.

Last week, my mother offered to pay for us to have a small conservatory installed on the back of my flat. Excited by the prospect, I immediately got onto the writing letters to our landlord and finding out if we needed planning permission.

So then when I was told that I was being ‘bombastic’, and ‘like your father’ because I spoke of my research, I was a bit bemused. I decided against pointing out his early death, though, the poor lady is still hurting.

One of the things that I’m aware of is that even if I send a letter today, my landlord, the local authority, are unlikely to make a decision this side of Christmas. If they said yes, then great, we could get started as soon as possible in the new year. If they said no, then we had all of the colder months, January-April, to talk and negotiate a suitable solution with them.

But getting the ball rolling and putting the idea out there is not the same as taking a sledgehammer to the wall. Not even close.

Once we have permission, we need to source builders. We’re still at least six months from any holes in the walls!

I know my mother meant well, and I know she worries about me being impulsive, but really, I disagree. Impulsive is when you act first and ask questions later.

Even if I’ve drafted the letter, I haven’t sent it yet.


Well, because the following day, I realised that we didn’t actually need the conservatory, It was a want, a room for a dining table, not a need.

The need was a rear door so that we had another way out into our garden without having to trudge past the junkyard that is our neighbour’s share of the garden. The junkyard that caused me to skin my hand two weeks ago, so maybe my landlord would be more willing to settle for this proposition instead?

Plus, if push comes to shove, in five years time we can have a little chin-wag about a lean-to conservatory, anyway. Having lived here for three years is no time at all to decide whether you want to live somewhere forever, so let’s not expand our castle quite just yet.

So I swapped ‘conservatory’ for ‘rear door’ instead, and gave all of my reasons why we needed it, weighing heavily on the fact that they are currently trying to get my neighbour to move his junk and the impact it has on us. We didn’t need a conservatory, but we wanted it. The back door, though, would allow us to maintain our part of the garden unimpeded.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not someone who is known for being.. persuasive. Hey, isn’t it also a good leadership skill to have?

I’ve promised myself that I will have my husband proof-read the letter by this evening, and have it on it’s merry little way by the weekend. If they say no, then I’ve still got the cold months for deliberating with the local authority anyway, and if they say yes, then at least we’ll have our decision in time for Christmas.

Over and out until next time, folks. And remember, carpe diem.

Helen xx

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