Dad left us on Wednesday. I got a call from the nurse late on in the evening that his breathing had become very shallow and if we wanted to, we should get to the hospital asp. We quickly agreed to leave mum behind … she wasn’t in a fit state to come with us. C and I got in the car, drove out of their road when I noticed that the car’s lights weren’t working. That is they were on with main beam, but not on dipped. Bugger. And then there was a further call from the hospital and dad was gone. We turned the car around and went home.
Since then we’ve been sorting stuff – medical certificates, green cards, death certificates, undertakers, vicars, crematoriums, churches, people, pensions, picnics (taking mum out) etc. The list is pretty endless, but thankfully between us we have managed to maintain our humour – just. Mum has been better, although it’s probably fair to say that we’ve tried our best to mellow a little.
Dad, what to say?
What few people know was that he’s the son of a farm labourer. Poorly educated, left school at 14 and after a spell of National Service stayed in the army where he made his way all the way through the ranks: from private to major. That is no small achievement. He is widely respected among his regimental pals (the accolades keep coming in) and him and mum were loved by almost everyone – they were generous with their time and always on hand when other military families were struggling. Dad retired early and they bought a pub, which was very successful, and then they ran a series of post offices/shops retiring into Great Bentley … and golf.
And golf was huge. Dad became both the veterans’ and main captain of a posh golf club (did I tell you he was the son of a farm labourer?) in Stoke-by-Nayland and a major pillar in the village. Unfortunately dementia stalked him for the past five years, with the last 18 months being particularly frustrating. In the end, at 88, it was a blessing that his time ran out.
As a dad? I think it’s fair to say that I come from a generation where mums brought up the children and dads were more shadowy figures in the sidelines. As such, dad was always there … and always a gentle man … but not the beacon of advice and support that we sort of expect from dads nowadays. He was a figure to be admired, and to emulate. But not someone with an obvious metaphorical knee to perch on. But, we didn’t expect anything else. And I can tell you that it hasn’t done me any harm. Far from it. Before I was old enough to take my own control, I had a lighthouse to follow. And follow it I did.
So, thanks dad. Thanks for your example – straight and honest. Thanks for putting your hand in your pocket when my car needed new brakes at Sandhurst after I’d spent all my cash on beer and women (and so many other times). Thanks for pointing me towards the army. Thanks for being there … and whilst I rarely asked for advice, I always knew that you’d drop everything and listen intently. And thanks for never being anything other than you.
I miss you. I hope you’ve found the organ and are giving it everything you’ve got. And that you’ve found Mags (C’s mum) and give her a hug from us.