Even though its taken him 92 years to get to this place, (I gesture towards his coffin) I am still unprepared for this. The close calls he’s had which would have started nearly 20 odd years ago with his heart failure and subsequent pacemaker has always had him bouncing back for another round. Up to this point. What a survivor. I’m sure everyone is going to cover so much of dad today, the funny things he said, the adventures he had, the mad engineer and Mr Fixit he was. He was so full of life and energy, always wanting to know the technical details, always pulling stuff apart to fix it or make it better.
He was the kind of person who took me and my sister in as a package deal when he married my mum, and although parenthood wasn’t something he had aspired to, he took us in as treated us as his own. As my brothers and sister came along he was dad to us all. He told us stories and made us toys. Took us on dangerous adventures and showed us castles and interesting places. The clearest memory I have as a child is his lanky frame striding ahead with the youngest of the clan (and they took it in turns as they came along )on his shoulders. We had to run on our little legs to keep up.
He always made plans for worst case scenarios, or any eventuality as a matter of fact. What to do when the Queen came to dinner, the manners, how we should not be eating our mashed potatoes ‘like a goddammed lollipop’ etc etc. All of this, amusing as it might be had a very serious side however. His words led, in part, to saving my life. By the time I was five he had taught me that if I ever got into difficulties in the water, then I should not panic, tread water, if I sank not to worry as I would pop up again and I could take a breath. The other part of him, his strong arms and quick action saved my life in full when we had the tragic drowning accident at Sunset Beach in 1959. My tribute to him is to ever remember the hero who saved my life. He never thought of himself as a hero, he only spoke of that terrible day many years later. We had lost my sister you see, he wasn’t able to save us both, and I think that troubled him deeply.
I feel very grateful to Helen who alerted us and gave us the opportunity to be with him in his final moments. I think that he knew how loved he was by us all. We all managed to spend some time with him in recent months, and I had shown him how he could get songs on his computer to his delight. He wanted me to find The Hartlepool Monkey by some chap with such a strange name I cant remember it, and I did kind regards to Google, and as I sat by his bedside I sang this song to him.
So what he left with me was that desire to survive, my own unquenchable thirst for technical knowledge (even though I can’t keep up) a loud singing voice and a sense of humour that can only be described today as ‘politically incorrect’.
Goodbye dad I love you very much.