Thursday, 4 July 2013

Time to say goodbye

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.




22 comments:

  1. Trebian,

    What wonderful memories you have ... and as long as you have them, he will still be very much 'alive'.

    I have already sent you my condolences, but I send them again.

    I hope that we have a chance to have a chat and a pint over the forthcoming weekend.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. I look forward to seeing you. I am releived that my father was mentally fully functioning right up to the end. My memories of him are good and strong.

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  2. Sorry to hear your news. I'll see you tomorrow.

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    1. It will be good to meet and talk. I think I may not be able to do the "Let's Bomb..." session, I'm afraid.

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  3. Trebian,
    you can add my tears to yours after a very moving tribute to a wonderful father. I dare say he wasn't always right, but I'm sure would then have been wrong for entirely the right reasons. What more could any of us ask?

    With my condolences to you and your family,
    Clive

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    1. "Wrong for entirely the right reasons" would apply to his joining the CPGB whilst at University on the grounds that they were the only people actually fighting facism.

      And possibly wearing yellow socks with sandals.

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  4. My condolences. What a wonderful eulogy though. My thoughts...

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  5. A wonderful eulogy for an extraordinary man

    Take care

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  6. Your dad is an amazing man im sorry for your loss.

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  7. What a lovely "obituary", sir. I am sure that I would have liked the man very much.

    My sincere condolences for your loss . . . and my joy for all of the fine memories that you have with him.


    -- Jeff

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  8. A beautifully written eulogy to an obviously well loved man. I often wonder how we'll measure up to that generation.

    Sincere condolences. It's not a happy time, but I hope it's a peaceful one.

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  9. Your father was clearly a man of a different generation, one we are not like to see again!

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  10. Hi Trebian,

    So sorry for your loss so please accept my sincerest condolences to you and your family at this difficult time.

    All the best,

    DC

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  11. Trebian, very sorry to hear of your loss. I live, half a world away, waiting for the phone call that will tell me I will be too late to say goodbye to my own father. I am sure that in years to come you will think back on what is (after all) the natural order of things, and feel that you have had the best of starts and the best of inspiration, and be grateful for your obvious closeness.

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  12. Very sorry to hear of your loss, Trebian. You've written a wonderful tribute.

    Aaron

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  13. Sorry to read about your father's passing. You're very lucky to have known someone like him from what you've written. I'm sure he'd be touched and proud if he had read this.

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  14. My condolences to you and your family . Tony

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  15. You honour your father's memory with such an exquisite choice of words to share your memories and pride. Beautifully expressed, I suspect that we would all have been the richer if we had met your father. Ken

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  16. Sorry to hear. Though it sounds like you have don memories.

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