My father died on Tuesday night.
He was 88.
He was in hospital and had just been treated for an infection. He was very weak and in the end he just died. I last saw him on Monday, and my brother on Tuesday, a few hours before he left us. The consultant told me to prepare for the worst on Monday. We were called just before 11, but by the time we got there he had already died.The nurse who told us was very kind. Then my brother and his wife arrived. We had a little cry then went home.
My father was a Grammar School boy before the war. He went up to senior school a year early, and got a place at Queens College Oxford. He then volunteered and joined the Royal Signals. He never went back to finish his degree. He was a man of conviction. He couldn't stay at university when his contemporaries were fighting Fascism. In the Signals he was a System X installer, amongst other things. He landed shortly after D-Day and ended up in Germany then Egypt where he joined the Archaeological Society. He claimed this was so he could get access to the Officers Mess. Like my Grandfather, who likewise volunteered for the Great War, he never rose above non-commissioned rank. I think neither of them wanted to be a soldier. They just did what was right.
I owe this lesson to him, and I am profoundly grateful.
He was a good athlete and sportsman. When at Blackpool Grammar School in the sixth form he won everything on the track at sportsday, pretty much, plus high jump.He was a good club cricketer as well, being a left handed fast bowler. I only ever saw him play cricket once, when he represented the Parents v the School. He didn't get to bowl much, although he did hit the only boundary in the Parents' innings. Cricket also gave us the Perfect Day together. In 1994 I took a day off work and we went to see the first day of Warwickshire v Northampton. We sat, had a few beers from a cool bag, ate smoked salmon sandwiches, and watched Brian Lara score 197 runs off 193 balls. Lara was caught at full stretch on the boundary for what would have been a 6. When the game started we were two of only a few in the ground. As Lara scored and the sun stayed out the ground filled up until it was standing room only by the end.
So, thanks Dad, for showing me how to enjoy this wonderful game and sharing this time with me.
He came from a generation that had "General Knowledge" lessons at school. Although he had a scientific background (he was an industrial chemist) he was interested in pretty much everything. As he got older he read a lot of history, which we sat and discussed. He would tease nurses and carers with more exotic names about their mythological antecedents, phoning me up to make sure he'd got the story of Dido and Aeneas exactly straight in his head. My last conversation with him included a discussion about the supply of grain from Egypt to Rome. Our house always had books, and he was always reading. He joined our pub quiz team as a sub on a number of occasions. He was the perfect ringer.
Again, thanks Dad for the gift of wanting to learn, and understanding that knowledge, for its own sake, is a valuable prize.
He was always good with people. He could remember names and always had time for pretty much anyone. He was also a fearsome and stylish complainer when the need arose (although sometimes it would make my mother cringe). He was always precise about who should be the object of any complaint, knowing that it usually isn't the fault of the person you have to complain to. When I was young we once had a most awful Sunday Lunch in a restaurant in Dunchurch. The peas were hard, the chicken raw in places. He refused to pay, but obtained the bill anyway. He then tipped the waitress on the way out. After all it wasn't her fault the kitchen couldn't cook.
Thanks Dad, for making me aware that people matter.
There is so much more I could say, but that will do for now. I was privileged to know you Dad, let alone be your son. I can never say thank you enough.
So thanks, once more, for everything.