Happy Birthday Dad You would be 100 today but you went to glory in 2001 and I still miss you. It is nearly 3 years since I wanted to write this blog. January 3rd 2018 came and went with only 140 photographs saved towards the project. By May 2018 I had copied all the photos and then in October 2018 I finally made a start. Here I am 3rd January 2021 and whilst I published two years ago it is still unfinished and as I edit this on 3.1.21 I have feeling you will get more updates.
I had been happy to write Legacy blogs to grandmas, granddads, mum, children, grandchildren and even aunts and uncles but somehow I just could not get started on dad. I began to realise I had not really grieved the loss of my dad. My mother’s grief at losing her husband was so vast there seemed no room for my grief. Then as the years went by it seemed silly to be so moved by the loss of a loved one who died so long ago.
I have seen, up close and personal, the grief of four widows, two grandmas my mother-in law and mum. Each one was left a half person. It was as if they had a chunk missing ..their ‘other half’. Only one came through with a partially successful ‘new life’.
Now dear dad I need to give you credit and pay you the respect you always deserved but which I found so hard to give.
In the photo of you in my Christening book you are probably in your Demob suit . My first memory was you fixing frames in the bedroom to take my brothers’ carry cots. None of us expected twins but I can only remember my mum’s comments…she blamed you for all my troubles and to be honest those days at Hayes were happy until I think of you. You were so anxious and worried and so was I. I know my brothers were a handful. You had your front room and we had the back room which mum called the nursery but looking at the photos it must have been great when there were just the three of us!
Thank you dad I know you gave me the best you had to give and I remember you let us all use tools and were always eager to teach us stuff. You and mum would spend your evenings pulling nails out of a great log so that the boys would be able to hammer them all in next day.
You know what dad I always looked up to you. I can still remember the smell of that kite as it was wood and paper stuck with ‘dope’ that smelly glue. It was always great when things you tried to do worked out just right. We loved the aerial runway you fixed in the garden…they call them flying foxes now and they have a seat whereas we had to hang on to a wooden trapeze bar and when one wire snapped you got a better stronger wire.
Dear Dad you were so good at teaching us maths …setting up a shop for us in Jim and John’s bedroom; using an Edam cheese to teach us fractions and showing us the planets travelling round the sun. That was when you were in your element when we wanted to learn and it was a subject you could teach. You always liked to have new technology. The whole street watched the Coronation on our Ekco TV set. Thank you dad.
You were a good son-in-law too. In the early years driving your wife and family up to see Olive and Bill…. leaving at 5am, bacon and egg sandwiches on route, only to turn round and get home on your only day off, Sunday. You did it so often that Jim John and I knew the route and every town on the A1 off by heart. In those days we did the journey in a van at about 50mph max…..thank you dad
So we grew as a family of 5 and struggled, money worries got worse, you always seemed anxious and you were not often in photos. When I was 12 we moved from Hayes to Rickmansworth this was the era of slides and ‘movie cameras’ alas we don’t have many records. Your biggest feat for us apart from paying for our horse riding, scouts (World Jamboree) and school trips was a model railway in the loft!!! Sorry dad but all I remember was feeling I would never live up to your expectations ….You worked so hard seven days a week and things got better. You fought with the headmaster for your son’s integrity. Then we were all at Grammar school, we all got bikes and you could afford the £12 a year school fund money for the three of us (about £260 in 2018). Thanks for paying for my driving lessons and getting me a car Thank you dad.
In 1966 you found a shop in Didcot; got a manager in your shop at Rickmansworth and finally you were able to house your family without you having to sit hunched round a tiny kitchen table with your wife. You even had a room for Tristan’s dad who was working at the power station..You paid for my brothers driving lessons and got them on the road…In between the shops you found time to take your family on holiday albeit to your mum and dads in Verwood and take that boat on Poole Harbour.
Where I pushed the boat off the mussel bed and you were too timid to come back for me!!! Still that prepared you for the highlight of your life when your sons persuaded you to get the boat….I think they talked you into the MGB too!
At 46 you were ready to be a granddad and what a brilliant one you were. I think all your children were quite jealous at how good you were with Tristan. I felt that for you and mum I had finally got something right.
I have over a hundred photos of you over the next 33 years it is going to be hard to get the balance right dear dad.
So where do I start? Two children to employ always on the lookout for new income and growth opportunities. Managers in shops that seemed to leak any profit. Oh and the interminable stock-takes. Then your children all married within two years. How did you find the money?
How did you juggle it all and manage to keep us all mobile? No sooner had we grown the business than we contracted with your beloved wife running one shop, your son running another and you managing another… time was running out….Thank God you had found time once a week to take your wife dancing. I think from 73 to 83 must have been good with us kids out the way.
By 1983 you provided part time work for your grandson too. The pair of you enjoyed writing computer programs and I hope one day Tristan will write his reflections of that time.
Then two of us came home having failed marriages only to leave the nest again once we were recharged. You never had a go at us and even if I pranged the car you would just hand me the accident claim form.
I never really appreciated you during those years and I very often exacerbated you….sorry dad. You came to my new home in ’86 to celebrate your granddaughters birthday and for the odd meal and christened my couch with your favourite position.
By 1987 you made a home for your mother in law. She thought you were the most wonderful son-in-law in the whole wide world. For years you had sent her and Bill money to keep a car on the road. Welcomed them for holiday breaks.
Thank God we made up and made good with retirement in 1990. There were miracles but that is my story.
Finally by miracle ( again that is my story) You were able to retire to a bungalow big enough to house your mother and your mother in law. There was a brilliant 50th Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1991 and your grandson’s wedding in 1992
It was not until about 2008 that I found out what you wrote about us. In 1995 you had reason to find your old crew from the 57 Squadron Lancaster P Peter.
I was quite amazed you called me an angel…….You said nice things about all of us
Clearly you were proud of all of us but we never knew.
I also wanted to write about grandchildren I have mentioned Tristan but as you tell your friends you had another 5 grandchildren and a great grandson before
you left us…..from those letters we can see that you kept up to speed with the children’s progress and achievements
Dad I still have another 5 years to write about I wanted to publish “My dad at work” because whilst you hated gardening and decorating and do it yourself some of your feats were fun. How many times did we climb ladders, unblock gutters and pass cable through the loft space? In your 10 years of retirement you did good dad….especially as for the last 6 years you had; as you described to your old crew members; a blood disorder which meant you needed to go for a blood top up quite frequently. I still have those white overalls and your shorts from RAF and your string vest which by the way I don’t think you wore after Greenford Market.
So many of the other photos can be found in my Legacy of your wife and my tribute to your wedding anniversaries. The amazing thing is you recorded your story for Tristan and we have that on DVD and a very humble testimony it is. Thank God you also gave testimony to your answer to prayer when you prayed to be content…..and your prayer was answered….. Miss you dad