Last week it would have been my Dad’s 100th birthday. He’s almost been gone from this world for as long as he was on it. I just wanted to do a little post to tell you of what I remember about my life with my Dad for the short time I had him around.
I can remember my Dad tucking me up in bed and telling me bedtime stories. He didn’t read books to me, he would tell me old fairy tales from memory, stories like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Then he would give me a kiss and tell me he loved me more than 2 bags of sugar and a pound of butter. Apparently, this is a war time thing, when such luxuries as butter and sugar where hard to come by, so that was a whole heap of love from my Daddy.
I also remember him drawing pictures for me. I don’t think he was a great artist as such but he loved to draw ballet dancers and cowboys. If I close my eyes I can see these drawings in my mind. I don’t know how accurate my memories are though. I know he loved watching the ballet on the television and as a little girl I always wanted to be a ballet dancer. A dream that was never going to happen to someone as uncoordinated and clumsy as me.
He loved Doctor Who and would always watch it when it was on television. I was really scared of the daleks though and would hide behind the settee when it was on. We had one of those 70s style sideboards behind the settee which had a very shiny Formica coating, and I could just see enough of the television to be able to watch it along with my Dad without being terrified. My nightmares would be about daleks or fire. I have always been terrified of fire but that’s probably because of my neighbours massive house fire when I was very little. I can still see their curtains melting, and when we went in to look at the damage afterwards, the polystyrene ceiling tiles where hanging down like brown and ancient stalactites.
Home and Car
We lived in my Dad’s parents home when I was little. Both of them had passed away before I was born. The house was really old fashioned with an outside toilet which was always full of spiders. We had a lovely big garden but Dad loved his allotment which was just around the corner. He would grow mostly vegetables and take me with him when he visited. He would push me there in the wheelbarrow and we’d come back with cabbages and peas. I would go around the neighbours selling them a cabbage for tuppence and I would save the money for our holidays.
I don’t remember our holidays much but we always used to stay in a caravan. Once we stayed in a hotel on a golf course when we went to one of Dad’s family member’s wedding. But I don’t remember much apart from walking back across the golf course in the evening and being attacked by a swarm of crane fly.
I also remember driving somewhere where we had to go up a steep hill. A lot of cars where having trouble, but my Dad just sailed up easily in his Robin Reliant. I can remember him laughing that three wheels were better than four. He loved his little car.
When I was a little older we had the house modernised. It was after my brothers had left home as they were a lot older than me. Dad, Mum and my baby brother moved into my Nan’s house while we had the bathroom (and toilet) moved upstairs and the kitchen was transformed. Also the front door was put on the front of the house when it had originally been on the side. It was all very different when we moved back in.
We had a drive at the side of our house and we lived on a corner. There were not many other houses with drives in the whole street and my Dad was one of the few car owners. As children we could play in the road for hours before someone would shout ‘car’ and we would move onto the pavement. You can’t move up that street for cars now.
Weekends with Dad
I remember that Dad mostly worked the night shift and he would come home early in the morning and leave me a packet of half eaten polo mints. And on Fridays I would get a copy of The Beano (Which he would read first.) The weekends would be the best though because he never worked Friday night. On Saturdays he would often take me to the park in the car. Sometimes he would let me take a friend, and other times I could take my cousin. He took me to lots of different parks and would sit on a bench while I played. Or often he would stand by his car smoking. I remember one park he would drive too that had an helter skelter. What a treat that was. I called it the helter skelter park but he didn’t take me there too often so the novelty never wore off. As I grew up I never knew where this park actually was but I found it a few years back when we moved house. I took my kids to the local park and as soon as we pulled in the car park I recognised it. Of course the park looks nothing like it did back then, and it doesn’t have an helter skelter any more. But there are lots of features which make me believe it was the park he took me too. And it’s only a ten minute drive from my childhood home.
On Sundays he would go to the pub before lunch and take me with him. Again we went to many different pubs but my favourite was The Merrits Brook. I loved it there for many reasons. It had fields at the back with horses and Dad would hold me up to the fence while I fed them with grass. It also had an off licence or ‘outdoor’ as we called it. This meant I could go into the shop and buy myself crisps or sweets while Dad went to get his pint of beer. There was a little garden out the front with a small wall that I could walk around on, practicing my balance. But best of all, there was the brook. (Yes, the name of the pub gives it away.) There was a little metal bridge over the brook and then a little sandy spot by the water which to a small child was a wonderful as having a whole beach to herself. I would take my shoes and socks off and paddle in the water. Or on hot days, both me and Dad would take our shoes and socks off and sit on the little bridge and dangle our feet in the water.
I think I mostly remember my Dad for our trips to the Bluebell woods. They were next to the reservoir which is wonderful place. I would go with friends and cousins and we would spend hours playing in the wood building dens and swings in the trees. At bluebell time I would always remember to pick a bunch of flowers for Mom who would then put them in a milk bottle on the kitchen windowsill.
I still think of my Dad when I see bluebells and I have a little glass vase with glass bluebells in on my landing windowsill in memory.
Both my brothers were already teenagers when I was born and by the time I was seven years old they were both married. My eldest brother had a little boy before my youngest brother was born. The tradition was carried on when my brother’s eldest son had a baby shortly before my brother’s youngest daughter was born.
I remember the weddings pretty well as I was a bridesmaid for both. For my eldest brother I wore a long yellow dress and a bonnet of daisies. For my other brother’s wedding I wore a pink princess dress with a tiara. I have a photo of my Mum and Dad at my brother’s wedding in 1972.
The church is near where to we lived and my Mum and Dad and both my brothers were married there. It was where I had my first wedding and is now the resting place of my Mum, Dad, Nan and younger brother.
Losing My Dad
For long time readers of my blog you are probably familiar with a lot of my family stories. I wrote about most of this here in 2017
The day I lost my Dad is etched firmly in my mind, I can remember it minute by minute as if it happened yesterday, not in 1975. He went to work and never came home after suffering a massive heart attack at the top of our street. He didn’t even get very far.
Mom had just asked him about Christmas and how much we could spend and she was really excited. My Nan and my aunties arrived within five minutes of my Dad leaving and they were all excitedly talking about how great it was going to be. My cousin and I had been sent to the corner shop for some sugar and when we came back there was a police car outside the house. A neighbour took us into her home without telling us why and we sat nervously waiting. I don’t remember much of what happened afterwards but on returning home I found my Mum had been sedated and everyone was in tears. And I was told that my Daddy was never coming home.
Back then, children were not told too much about what was going on. I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral. We didn’t talk much about his death and what had happened. I went to school as normal and no-one spoke about it to me. Shortly afterwards we had a school play in the evening. One of the girls was late and when she arrived she was in floods of tears. Her poor dog had just been run over and killed. I remember the teacher giving her a big a hug and being so nice to her. Then I thought about my Dad who had died just a couple of weeks earlier and no-one had given me a hug and been so nice to me. In my mind I figured that dogs were more important than Dads. But it was very overwhelming for me and as soon as we got on stage I started crying and didn’t stop all night. It was put down to stage fright. (Despite the fact that we had done exactly the same concert the night before without any issue.) I couldn’t really tell anyone that it was because dogs were more important than Dads.
I can’t really imagine my Dad celebrating his 100th birthday. He seemed very old when I was little, but then don’t all adults? My Dad was already 10 years older than my Mom and he was 44 years old when I was born. Then he passed away before I was ten and my little brother was just a toddler. I sometimes feel jealous that my older brothers at least managed to grow up before he died.
My Dad never got to see me grow up, get married or have children. My younger children used to think that my older brother was their grandad. Considering he has grandchildren a lot older than my kids that’s not so shocking. My older brother is 70 in a couple of weeks and he’s just had his 7th grandchild and already has a great grandchild.
No one carried on my Dad’s name. I always thought that seeing as it was given to my younger brother then he would pass it on, but he never had children. However, my Dad wasn’t really known by his actual name anyway, he was always called Fred. So gave my youngest the name Frederick as his middle name. Boo, has my Mom’s known name as her middle name too. Was it a generational thing where people were never called by their actual names? Even my Nans was the same, and for the first 12 years of my life I was called Anna.
I always feel a little weird wishing someone a happy birthday if they are no longer here, but if my Dad was here he’d have been having the most wonderful special day. So, Happy 100th birthday Dad, I do hope you would have been proud of me.