This is my first blog post of 2017 and has nothing to do with sewing. I lost my darling daddy on 19th January. Readers of this blog will know that he had to go into a nursing home last year after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I say ‘battle’ but that sounds dramatic and it never was. He never made a fuss and with some support he coped incredibly well for many years. He kept his sense of humour all the way through and, thankfully, was still able to recognise us right up until the last few days of his life.
I am missing him so much and just wanted to take this opportunity to write down some of my special memories of him, so I hope you will bear with me!
He was an only child who grew up in Wimbledon but at the start of the Second World War, at the age of nine, he was evacuated for almost its entire duration. I think this made him very self-reliant. When he told us tales of his National Service in the RAF at the age of 18 he always expressed amazement that some of the other lads used to cry for their mums at night!
Here he is in his younger days. He was a handsome chap, no wonder my mum fell for him.
One of the most impressive things about him was his ability to make or fix just about anything. When we were very young he built an extension on our house pretty much single-handedly and his DIY skills were second to none. In their current home he built the kitchen and all the wardrobes from scratch. He also had a life-long interest in model engineering and spent many hours in his workshop building model boats which were then sailed on the ponds at Wimbledon Common. My sister and I always had our hearts in our mouths as the boats set out across the water in case they sank (which they sometimes did!).
We never had someone in to mend things – he just rolled up his sleeves and fixed it. A friend of mine always remembers us breaking down in her old Mini when we were about 18. We rang my dad and he appeared in his overalls and got us back on the road.
I always say that I spent the first 20 or so years of my life thinking that all blokes could do this stuff and was rather disappointed to discover that they couldn’t!
He was probably the most even tempered person I’ve ever known. My sister have obviously been talking about him a lot recently and agreeing that he almost never told us off. The only time you needed to watch it was if you noticed his jaw clenching when he was driving – probably because we were mucking around in the back of the car! We spent many childhood holidays in Swanage and he used to get home from work on a Friday, load up the back of the Morris 1000 Traveller and off we’d go. The loading up of the car included my sister and I being settled in the back to sleep on the way down there. On my sister’s third birthday there was also a tricycle hidden under a blanket next to us and unbelievably we didn’t even notice it!
He was brilliant at reading stories to us and while we were looking through photographs recently I found this one. I think I was about three at the time and I’m fairly sure that is a Mabel Lucie Atwell book that belonged to my mother.
As we got older we joined a book club and one of the many books he read out loud was The Borrowers. I was obsessed with Arrietty and he started writing me tiny little letters in miniature envelopes which I would find by the fireplace in the morning and honestly believed were from her. How I wish I still had those treasures. I always imagine that one day I’ll be clearing out a box at my parents’ house and one of them will appear.
His calm nature came into its own when we were teenagers when he could always be relied upon to turn out at all hours of the night to pick us up from parties, sometimes in remote locations. He never batted an eyelid as groups of our friends staggered out to get a lift home and I remember one occasion when one of the boys was sick out of the car window and my dad just carried on driving. He always remembered collecting me from a party that had turned out to be in a field and he suddenly spotted a group of us emerging through a hole in the hedge!
Obviously he wasn’t perfect – he was a master of the tactless comment when you were just about to go out for the evening thinking you looked great. I wore fuschia coloured tights to his funeral as a reminder of the time I went downstairs in some maroon tights and he remarked “did you know all the blood has rushed to your legs?”. He made dreadful puns at the drop of a hat and continued to make these right up to the end of his life – some of them were so obscure that you wondered how his dear old brain came up with them when he could barely do anything else. He also remembered all the poems and songs he’d learned as a child and we sat and recited and sang them with him all the time. And he was still always smiling.
I think we did him proud when we said a final farewell to him last Thursday. We read poems, sang and one of Mr Jane Makes’ lovely daughters played “Moon River” on the flute, one of his favourite tunes. My mother was an absolute star and read her poem without faltering (unlike me and my sister) and Mr Jane Makes read the eulogy so beautifully. We finished with these words of comfort from Winnie-the-Pooh.
If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. I’ll always be with you.
I now need to get on with my sewing, he wouldn’t have wanted me to sit around idle.