I honestly have no idea of where this is going, but this weeks blog is inspired by the man above. My fiancees father Mike Smith, who sadly died this weekend.
To most people he was a fun unassuming guy, the life and soul of the party, the one always cracking jokes and making everyone feel welcome. To me he was all of that and more.
I first met Mike Smith at Chicken Soup Choir, a community based choir based in Bournemouth, Dorset. It was the real first place where I just went and introduced myself as Debbie without referring to my being transgender. I just wanted people to get to know me rather than my gender identity.
I had no reason to worry. People were very kind and accepting and as I grew in confidence and got to know many of the members I was honest about my transition and being transgender. Not one person was prejudiced. They all accepted me as one of their own.
As I got chatting to Mike we bantered about football (him supporting Spurs and me Newcastle United), and we talked about music as well as my being transgender. He was always respectful and never asked anything that I felt uncomfortable answering.
At one of the choirs Christmas parties I got a lift to the party and he was in the back seat with me. We got chatting about all sorts. He really was someone I could talk to and he would always offer sound advice.
A few months later his daughter (Sydney) came to choir and he introduced me to her in the interval. I was besotted and the week after she asked me to go to the bar for a drink with her after the choir ended. I was going to say no, but something told me to say yes. (He even said to me afterwards he thought I'd say no).
As the weeks passed, we fell in love and she came to leave her husband (I didn't ask her to). The day after she left him , as I'd been away; I drove to the family home to see her and make sure she was ok. When I got there at about 10:30 the whole family had stayed up to meet and see me.
I was a tad nervous but nevertheless once I saw her and knew she was ok, we all sat and had a chat and drink. As we were all about to leave he had "the chat" with me. He told me that he didn't want her to get into anything serious as she had just left her marriage and he wanted me to look out for her.
Well that was 2 1/2 years ago and we're still together so that chat may have fallen on deaf ears a little! But wasn't through a lack of respect.
As my relationship blossomed and I became more of a part of this beautiful family, Mike always encouraged and supported me in my push to become more successful.
We've had so many laughs in the last few years, quite a few funny car journeys (including him collecting me from London when I'd had my gender confirmation surgery). But that's for another time.
The thing about Mike was he didn't judge anyone. He was kind, caring, compassionate, selfless and most of all funny with it. He wasn't afraid to laugh at himself or others. He was straight and told you things you needed to hear. Be it words of encouragement or a telling off.
Even when he was really ill, had been in hospital for surgery and came back home a little under 4 weeks ago, when I walked into the lounge to say hello he asked, "How's the talks going"? Meaning how my business was going.
He accepted me into his family without judgement at all. He has always supported me been there to offer sound advice on relationships, budgeting, business, whatever I was struggling with. His words of encouragement and support will live with me, always.
As far as father in laws go, there's no competition. He was the best. He was the dad I never had.
So Mike until we meet again. Farewell you old bugger. I'll never forget you.