That was 34 years ago today, and I had just turned 17. I'm posting this at the exact moment of his death, 3.30pm, and at this very moment on yet another Saturday afternoon my team St. Mirren are playing Rangers at Ibrox Park. So, it's all tying together in some strange way; for the eagle-eyed, my laptop is set to Spanish time.
The lines in the shot are the opening of a piece I wrote to mark the tenth anniversary of his passing. Unusually for a short story, it was composed (and repeated and re-composed) in my head, as I walked to work every morning in Edinburgh from Montpelier Park to Charlotte Square, before any of it was written down.
In the first sentence I tried to capture the rhythm of Govan street kids playing hopscotch, I don't know if it still echoes across the years. I don't have a copy of 'Govan Road' here in Rio but, not surprisingly, many lines still linger in my memory. Here are some more for my family record , and also for your interest should you care to read them:
Brain tumours grow in the most familiar places. My Dad's did in our living room, as he sat on the settee watching television, with the gas fire pumping out heat and the light in the alcove pushing shadows from behind the ornaments on the mantelpiece.
Mum and Dad had been out shopping on his Wednesday half day for my sister's birthday. He was still having the headaches. He came in and slumped on the settee. 'Have you seen my slippers, Alan?' I was in my chair in the corner watching TV. 'They're upstairs beside your bed.' I didn't make a move. Mum blew her top, 'Selfish! Your Dad's ill! Don't just sit there!'
It was a Saturday morning. Mum came out the consultant's room and walked along the corridor, all glass and iodine. I had seen this in films; bad news, compressed perspectives, they never had to say anything. She looked at her watch. I was reassured. We went up to Glasgow to buy me a suit; three piece 'Andersons of London', stone colour with a small check. She never let on.
When dad was dying I was busy joining the church. I scuffed the soles of my shoes so that when I knelt, no-one would see they had been bought special. After the service, we went up to the Southern General to see him. Dad was perky, sat up in bed. There were six of us that afternoon; Mum, Dad, May, Stewart, me and Aunt Christine. It was a happy time in a sunlit ward. As we all left, I turned and went back. I kissed him on the forehead. It didn't matter that I was now a man wearing a three piece suit. It's the only important thing I've ever done; it made up for the slippers.
His head was like a chicken's lying on the pillow, all shaved and scrawny with a plastic tube coming out the back. I didn't know if he could hear me, I didn't know if he could see me. At least he was breathing; you can't die if you're breathing. Mum held his hand. 'I love you, Jane, he said. I thought that was nice.
When I came back his bed in the ward was empty. I found him alone in a side room. It was what I had been waiting for. I sat and took his hand. All I did was lie; St. Mirren had won the First Division championship, he was going to be all right, we were going to take him home tomorrow. A nurse came in with a vase of flowers. I saw her looking at me holding his hand. I felt sorry for her.
Mum came down to the hospital entrance hallway and sat with me. 'He's got a brain tumour. They operated to try to ease the pressure but it didn't work. He's going to die soon. It's better this way, otherwise he'd be in bed at home suffering, and for only a few months more. Do you want to wait?' 'No', I said.
It was a long, cold walk along Govan Road, beside wasteland with chain link fencing. I got on a strange bus with seats like carpets that billowed dust and fag ash. It wound its way through housing estates where men cleaned their Minxes and Cortinas, with weeds growing up between the slabs. And the windows were dirty.
When I got off in Old Sneddon, I thought about going to Love Street to catch the second half, and sit in our usual seats. Instead, I went home. The house was empty, and as soon as I got in I cried. I cried so much that my cheek bones ached; I never knew that was possible. I drank a pint of milk straight from the fridge to get some liquid back inside.
Half an hour later, I heard the door open. Mum came in and hugged me. 'He's away.'
If you have reached this point, thank you for being with me on today's anniversary. And St Mirren, under Sir Alex Ferguson, did win the championship one week later. I was there at the final whistle.
Rio de Janeiro, Saturday 16th April 2011.