In early 2006, dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which, as with all families, is a heartbreaking diagnosis. Words can't describe the guilt I secretly felt - lived with mom and dad for some 32 years, and then almost as soon as I move away, dad gets this diagnosis.
Luckily, we were told, prostate cancer is one you live with, rather than some of the other more aggressive forms of cancer.
Fast forward to July 24th 2006. It was a Monday. Dad started his first round of hormone therapy. Whilst not as aggressive as radio or chemotherapy, it was still a first for us as a family. That week was significant for another reason - it marked the final countdown to the happiest day of my (and Tash's) lives
Now, as a rebellious teenager, I would always try to distance myself - 'I'm not a minister's son, my dad is a minister'. However, truth be known, I was so proud to be the son of a minister. None more proud than that week, when we had the incredible privilege of having my dad marry us! We gave him the choice of whether he wanted to adopt a more traditional 'father of the groom' role, but he relished the opportunity to play such a significant part of our lives.
You see, in the 18 months leading up to this, I had, as previously said, relocated to Wednesbury, but more significant for mom and dad than the lack of noise pollution from my bedroom/home cinema emporium, they had taken on board not only my fiance, Tash, but also Jake, Beth and Abi. Tash's mom regularly retells the story when we all went to Shugborough Hall, and Jake went up to dad in between a spot of picnic and football, to ask him 'Can we call you nan and grandad?' Those of you that know him can, I'm certain, hear his response even before I share it... it was a resounding howl of various vowels - 'Aaaaaaaaaay Oooooooooooh Aaaaaaay - of course you can... of course you can'. You will all know what followed, as well... one of dad's world famous hugs! At that moment, they unofficially gained a daughter in law AND three grand children.
So... Friday 28th July. Dad had had his first week of hormone therapy. He was experiencing the hot flushes, the sweats and everything else that goes along with the change his body had undergone.
The wedding rehearsal... a time to walk the walk and talk the talk - and make sure everything goes smoothly on the following day. Part way through, Tash and I got the giggles... can't remember what for... but something set us off. Dad stopped what he was doing, and told us, in no uncertain terms, to 'stop it, get serious, or tomorrow won't happen'. It's easy to say the hormones had made him grumpy, but the truth is, this was one of the few times we got to experience dad's unrivalled professionalism - the rehearsal served a purpose, and dad wanted to make sure the purpose was served!
Well... the day after was just perfect - we had made the whole ceremony about the joining of the 5 of us... it wasn't just Tash and I, it was Tash, Jake, Beth, Abi and I all becoming one family. They shared their own vows and contributed in other ways... all the time watched and supported by grandad.
Please enjoy looking through these photos - memories that now hold even greater significance to us as a family.
Thanks dad - and I'm glad we calmed down enough on the Friday evening!