Two weeks ago, my Father died of cancer. The initial blaze of grief has now burnt itself out, leaving behind the cold, grey ashes of spent emotion, but I no longer feel quite so overwhelmed.
When a loved one dies, it initially feels like a huge, ragged hole has been ripped in the centre of Life. I now realise, though, that by talking about my Father, a definite silhouette is being shaped from the shadows – he is gone, but the legacy of who he was and what he did remains. It is small compensation for his loss, but a compensation nonetheless. Here are some of the things I miss most about him.
Children loved him
You can tell a lot about a person by the way children react to him or her, and children (for the most part) loved my Dad: his own children and grandchildren, his nieces and nephews; and those he taught in a scholastic career that lasted more than 25 years.
Why did children love him so much? The answer is simple: Dad possessed a fantastic imagination, and combined this with a child-like sense of fun and irresponsibility. Only six months ago, I had an angry phone call from my ex, in which she explained that my children were repeating an inappropriate limerick at school that began ‘My friend Billy had a 10-foot willy. . .’ the words of which had been carefully implanted in their minds during an afternoon being “looked after” by their grandfather.
It brought a smile to my face, as I had been taught the self-same rhyme as a child . . .
He taught me to revere the written word
I was not spoiled as a child . . . except when it came to books. Dad loved second-hand bookshops, and introduced me to the pleasures of nosing around amid dusty stacks early on in Life. When it came time to leave, I was often weighed down beneath a pile of books, but was never forced to leave any behind. As a result, I grew up with a deep-seated love of reading and the acquisition of knowledge.
His sense of Humour
Dad had a fantastic sense of humour – cheeky, irreverent, and rude – and he loved a wide range of comedy greats: Laurel and Hardy, Tony Hancock, Dads’ Army, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Alan Partridge.
He was also a great lover of anecdotes, especially when they related to some minor mishap that had occurred to him or a friend. An example? Dad made a painted sign – FARNBOROUGH GALLERY – that was screwed to the woodwork outside my uncle’s picture framing shop. When a night of heavy wind struck, though, it whipped off the front half of the sign, leaving behind the words, ROUGH GALLERY.
He was kind, gentle and humble
Life teaches us lessons. Some of us learn from them and, in the process, develop wisdom and maturity; others ignore them, and merely grow old.
Dad belonged to the first group, and valued a simple, uncomplicated Life surrounded by family and friends, who in turn valued him for his kind, gentle nature.
He was also the most effortlessly talented person I have ever met – whatever he turned his hand to, he was good at, be it painting, drawing, cookery, DIY, motor repairs, sport or playing the guitar and piano – yet he was truly humble, and disliked any form of praise.