This is quite a long post I’m afraid, so you might want to grab yourself a coffee. I’m sharing these thoughts about Dad in the hope that it might help some of you who may be in a similar position, and because, well, it makes me feel better too. Thank you for reading.
My lovely Dad died in July. He was 87, and yes most people would say he had a ‘good innings’.
His death came as a tremendous shock to us though. Dad was as fit as a flea and still doing his daily 3 mile walks just a couple of weeks before he died. We thought he was indestructible and that he would easily reach the age of getting a telegraph from the Queen.
Sadly this was not to be. Six days after Dad was admitted to hospital we got a telephone call advising that Dad had terminal cancer. And the next day he was gone – just like that. We were able to spend time with Dad in hospital on his last night. He desperately wanted to leave hospital and hatched a plan where we would smuggle him out in taxi, Dad would pay for it (bless him), and he would get his head down on the back seat for a sleep. You’ll see the resonance to this in the poem later on.
We were numb with shock on the day of Dad’s death and for several months after. Dad was a very well-known and popular character in the town where he lived, and there were many many people to ring to let them know the sad news. People were in total shock and we had grown men crying on the phone.
The weeks following were a blur with the million and one things to do with the arrangements for Dad’s funeral and clearing out his little rented flat. People were very very kind and supportive during what was, a truly traumatic time.
And now, 4 months later, it still doesn’t seem real. Dad was my closest friend. Although there was a distance of 200 miles between us, we talked on the phone every day. I’m alone with my grief now, tears flow each day when I think of him, and there are times when I think I’ll never get over missing him.
And yet………I look forward to the future because that is what Dad would want. And I can always look fondly to the past with the 000’s of memories I have of him. With these cherished memories Dad will always be very much alive in my heart.
My brother and I spoke for Dad at his funeral. If Dad told us once that this is what he wanted, he told us a thousand times. Our 5 feet tall Dad always did like to be the centre of attraction (smiles).
I’m sharing below a couple of funnies from our eulogy to Dad plus a poem that I wrote around 4.30am a couple of days after his passing.
Dad on his childhood poverty – ‘we didn’t have a pot to piss in’
Dad’s phenomenal memory – Dad could remember the absolute exact and minute details of any event that happened 5, 6, even 7 decades ago, and he’d have instant memory recall of all this information at his fingertips.
One time we’d had lunch at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere around 20 miles from the town where we lived. After lunch, we noticed a tiny little graveyard next door and we had a walk over to explore. At one of the gravestones, Dad stopped to pay more attention, and then suddenly turned round exclaiming ‘this bugger owes me some money’ ! We then got all of the background to this in what turned out to be a 20 minute story. I remember Dad and I were joking about it in his flat a couple of years ago, and at the time, he recalled all of the exact same details without pausing for breath.
Dad’s utter bafflement at all things IT. Dad operated his life in his own highly efficient, organised and effective way without ever using the Information Technology that most of us now need in order to bring some sort of efficiency and order to our own affairs.
Dad referred to all of IT as ‘the machine’. He just had no concept at all of what it was all about. Recently I was dealing with something for him and I rang Dad to let him know I had sent an email to someone on the matter in hand. Dad said, ‘oh good, when will they get it’? and I said ‘they got it as soon as I sent it Dad, it was sent electronically’, to which he replied ‘oh right’ probably scratching his head in some bemusement at the time.
Dad’s endearing vanity in older age. Once he got to around 60 or so, Dad became somewhat preoccupied with how young he looked for his age. He was particularly proud of still having most of his own teeth, and his mass of brown curly hair – which he kept most of until the very end.
Dad is the only 79 year old I have ever met, who was eagerly looking forward to reaching his 80th birthday. So much so, that he started telling people he was 80 from around 6 months before the actual date. Dad absolutely loved being asked his age and inevitable ‘ooh you never are’ response. So began a tradition of every year after, of Dad putting his actual age up by 1 year around 6 months before his next birthday.
Dad and I went on a trip to Budapest a couple of years ago when I noticed his tactics were becoming ever more brazen, and he was no longer content to wait until somebody asked him his age. I first noticed this when we were checking in at the foyer of the hotel where we were staying. There were around 3 other couples in the foyer at the time and I saw Dad wandering up to each of them for a chat, and within minutes telling them ‘I’m 85 you know’.
Things proceeded to get worse, much much worse. Each day on this trip, we’d get up to things visiting places during the day with Dad having a little nap around 3, and we’d arrange to meet in the foyer around 6.30. Dad was always there before me, and always engaged with some hotel employee or unsuspecting hotel guest telling them how old he was.
I started to have my suspicions about what he was up to, and I decided to put it to the test one evening, when I made a point of arriving at the Foyer a good 15 minutes before our meeting up time. And yes sure enough, there Dad was already, telling some poor bugger how old he was. I remember I said to him later ‘Dad what the heck are you doing telling everyone you meet how old you are within minutes of starting to talk to them – you are absolutely shameless, do you know that.’? To which, Dad turned to look at me, with a little smile on his face and simply said ‘ I can if I want to’……………well, there’s no answer to that one is there.
It’s a bloody good job we were only in Budapest for 5 nights, or the Hungarian Authorities would have ended up cautioning Dad for stalking people.
Dad really was funniest person I have ever known, and to my knowledge he’s never told a joke in his life.
He was quite simply a pure one off.
Dad’s popularity. Since Dad’s passing, I’ve been mulling over how it was that he drew so many people to him, as I wouldn’t say that Dad’s was an especially loud or over gregarious personality.
The answer eventually dawned on me, and it’s a very simple one. Each time I spoke to Dad whether it was on the phone or in person, I always felt better for it, there was always some funny shared, and I felt lighter, with the world seeming a better place. I realised that this is what all of these many other people recognise about him too, whether on a conscious or sub conscious level. Dad drew people to him, because any time spent with Dad always made you feel better. As one of his friends put it to me – Dad had the ‘feel good factor’.
Poem for Dad
Dad, yours was a wonderful life that was so well and fully lived. Your unique qualities and gifts enriched the lives of each of the many of us who were blessed to know you.
Our lives will be profoundly poorer now that you are no longer with us, and life will never seem the same again.
We, who are left behind, grieve our loss. There are many tears shed – and many hearts raised in joyful laughter too, as we share our memories and stories of your antics and funny little ways.
But you, our lovely irrepressible and irreplaceable Dad, you are free now.
You will not know pain. You will not know suffering. You will not know the despair of helplessness and loss of dignity.
Did you know how much you were loved and by how many?
If you didn’t before you left us, we know that you will by now.
News of your sudden departure started a long golden chain of collective love. This golden chain now stretches the entire length of your journey on the back seat of that celestial taxi, where no payment is required, and where you laid your head down.
This shining love enfolds you now, as does the love of the people who went before you, and who have been waiting for you – your Mum and Dad, and your many close friends.
You will be so very sadly missed Dad, and never ever forgotten by we who love you, until the time comes when each of us is reunited with you in that joyful sea of blissful eternal love where you are now at peace.
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