My dad, Brian passed away peacefully last Friday the 22nd of May 2015 at the age of 86.
He was quite disabled for some years with a lack of balance and towards the end he also started to lose dexterity in his hands and then arms.
But despite that, he always remained cheerful. I don’t know how he managed it with what he was going through but that’s the impression everyone had. Always ready with a wisecrack or pun and a cheeky look, recognising the silliness of his joke.
He was a great dad. He tried at first to instil some discipline into Steve and I but his heart really wasn’t in it. He didn’t want to be nasty to us, as he told me later. I told him many years later I was grateful for the freedom he and mum gave us to do almost whatever we wanted but I thought it was a bit of a gamble that we’d not ended up a pair of crooks!
When we were kids he used tell us stories of “Doodlebugs” (Nazi flying bombs, launched from France) passing over his house, and of the one which didn’t. He was out playing not far from his house when he heard the dreaded silence as the engine died and the bomb started to fall. He laid down on the ground as he’d been taught, and as the pavement bucked from the shockwave it bruised his face. He went running home to find the windows blown-in and really thought that his parents were dead. Luckily his mum and dad had been in the kitchen and were completely unhurt.
He told us stories from where he was evacuated and how stressful it was. It was also rather pointless since he was evacuated only seven miles south of where he lived at the edge of South London (into “Bomb Alley”). I am really not convinced it was the slightest bit safer but I suppose there were box-ticking exercises even then!
He told us these stories when we were young and at first they were just scary ghost stories to us. Little more. But as we grew up and began to understand the reality of what it must have been like, the stories became horrifying. It was a very tough time to live through.
Like many people as they get older, he had some set ideas which he’d never taken the time to examine. He often used to say “English food is just as good as French food! I don’t know why people talk about it so much!”. And one day, when I was about thirty (it took me a while), it finally dawned on me; he’d never set foot in France! So that had to change. We booked a trip on the Eurotunnel for the car and took him and mum over for a short visit to buy some nice French wine and try a restaurant or two. He loved it! “Best steak I can remember having!”.
After that he’d wait for a few months before pointing out the dwindling booze stocks and we’d gear up for another trip!
After mum died, we wanted to see if we could bring him further afield so he ended up getting pushed around the whole of Bruges for a weekend. With a repeat trip the following year!
With that under his belt, he was persuaded that a trip to Sweden was in order to see the in-laws. So we spent six days soaking up some incredibly warm weather and eating Ostkaka. Not bad for someone who had only been out of the country during National Service when he was 18!
After mum died he amazed us by learning how to cook and sorting out running the house – despite being quite badly disabled even then. He turned Primal and lost two stone (12.5 kilos) and came off almost all his medication.
But as he was increasingly cared for by carers he slowly slipped back in to old eating habits of course. Eating a bit differently is a very difficult thing to keep up when other people are helping you.
Eventually it was clear that he simply couldn’t cope on his own any longer and he moved into a care home. But again he amazed me. He left the house where he’d lived for over sixty years, and the “village” (it was when he was a boy, now a London suburb) which he’d lived in for 85 years without fuss. He didn’t hang on to a load of sentimental things from his house. He had his huge TV to watch and his iPad to talk to us on; he settled in just fine. Such a massive change of scene at such a late stage in life and yet he coped without bother.
The care home was very good and the staff genuinely seemed to love him. He made a new friend; Dave the Marine, whom he’d sit outside with, just the two of them, under blankets in the cold. Not like the other “inmates” (as he called them!) who were too old for that!
But although his mind wanted to continue, his body wasn’t happy to go any further and eventually heart failure caught up with him. We’re very sorry indeed that he’s gone but at least we can say it was “his time”.
Goodbye Pa. We’ll miss you.