For the sake of balance, yesterday I wrote about he role that my mother played in my life, so I want to write about my father today. Growing up in the 1970’s, fathers were less of a hands on parent back then as Dad was mostly at work when we were small, so we saw him mainly at weekends and during holidays. We always ate our meals together, around the kitchen table, when we would each discuss our days. My Dad was always very keen for us to succeed at school, so he took a big interest in what we were studying and, like Mum, encouraged us to work hard enough to go to University. I can remember him testing our mental arithmetic over meals or engaging in French conversations! Both my sister and I wanted to make him proud of us.
My Dad always adored his garden and he was a very talented gardener, in our last family home he fitted flood lights, so that he could work in the garden in the evenings! I went through a phase in my early teens when I rejected Sunday School and I used to go to Garden Centres with Dad and while he bought plants, I would look at the fish and other pets. I wanted a garden gnome, and rather than spend money on a plastic model, he spent hours carving then varnishing a unique wooden gnome for me. Later, once we had our own house, he would love to work in our wild garden whenever they came to visit us, he was itching to get to work on our wild hedge or untamed flowerbeds, so the garden always looked better once they had come to stay! He must have been disappointed that I did not inherit his green fingers.
Dad was a willing taxi driver – he took on a number of University visits when I was studying my A Levels – and he taught me to drive when I was 17. We used to go out in his car early in the morning, before he went to work, and he was never cross when I hit several gate posts, but was endlessly patient and calm.
Dad was not very demonstrative, he did not really discuss emotions, but it was never in doubt that he loved us, he showed that through his actions. Like Mum, he was supportive throughout his life and family was very important to him. It was Dad who stepped up when his mother had a stroke, when his father and brother in law became dependent and needed carers at home and he was a frequent executor for several family members’ wills. He was methodical, thorough and had very high standards. Dad was rather a shy man and at family parties at home, he was always to be found in the kitchen washing up or being barman, rather than being the centre of attention, so he was an excellent host.
Joshua was born on Dad’s 64th birthday and he and Mum came to the hospital as soon as they heard the news that their grandson had arrived and that he was in Special Care. They both put their own lives on hold and came to us, where they were needed for their calm support.If they were disappointed that their grandson had been born with brain damage, they never once showed it to me, but instead they were endlessly interested and supportive of his progress and shared our pleasure as he attained his various milestones.
At today’s family meal to mark Joshua’s 18th birthday – the last of his celebrations during his birthday week – Dad’s quiet, solid presence will be greatly missed and we will raise a glass of thanks to him. He died when Joshua was 13, but due to his dementia, he did not really know him during the final years of his life. However, I have no doubt that were he here today, he would share our pride in all that Joshua has achieved and he would be quietly ensuring that all of our guests were being well looked after. Thank you for everything Dad xx