Thursday, 19 November 2009

Happy 89th Birthday, Dad - or it would have been!









Dad died on 25 May last, aged 88, and today would have been his 89th birthday. I'd like to share some images of him with you: Dad as I remember him during his last 20 years or so. He was a father to be proud of. He was good at writing and painting, and if he had a stern side, and was over-inclined to conservative thinking, he was also remarkably forebearing about the pain from his arthritis and many matters in general. I think his sense of humour shows.

The last photo was taken on 11 May, just two weeks before he died. We were having another lunch together at a country pub, just him and me. I had been on hormones for nearly two months, and was starting to change before his eyes. The hair was getting long, and I was wearing my jewellery and girly jeans. I think you'll agree that he was relaxed about me. We'd spoken about where I was headed. The love of a father for his son had overcome most of his dire misgivings. He had asked me not to do anything 'too drastic' in his lifetime - surgery for instance - but he knew that I would gradually turn into a daughter. He didn't tell me exactly how he would feel about it, but he had realised that it would come on slowly and not prevent him enjoying my company. It was, after all, just him and me now. A parent's love for a child, and a child's love for a parent; all that really mattered.

These are the closing words of my little speech at Dad's funeral (I posted the full version on 2 June):

How I admired his determination [at the end of his life] not to be defeated by crippling arthritis! Despite the increasing pain and discomfort he led a normal life right up to the end, doing his own cooking and shopping, although (thankfully) the cleaning and gardening were done for him. I showed him how to use a computer, so that when he didn’t feel like going out he could place an order with Tesco online, and have it delivered to his door. He had all his home comforts, and he had an alert mind, even if he often now felt very tired. I liked to play cards with him, and have pub lunches with him, and we had a Mediterranean cruise together which he thoroughly enjoyed. But he must have brooded on the terrible loss of W---, my younger brother, some years before. And he did not have Mum with him anymore. Nothing could replace her. He seemed to face his loneliness with fortitude, even cheerfulness, but I could see that it was eating away at him.
What would Dad say if he were still here? I believe he would say these things: that you must never give in; that nothing in life is better than the love and support of your partner; and that raising children to be proud of is the finest ambition you can have. The rest is dust.

10 comments:

  1. Lucy,
    I get a strong sense of why you are so proud of your Dad. I hope you have a day remembering happy times spent together.From your post I get the feeling he was a remarkable man and dad.
    Karen xx

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  2. Great pictures of your Dad, Lucy! What a lovely tribute to him! He looks like a sweet old guy. I'm sure you miss him very much. When my dad passed away nine years ago, it took me a good year, before I could think of him without choking back tears. The sadness finally dissipated, and now I am left with my fond memories of him. Your fond memories of your dad, will allow him to live on in your heart. You were lucky to have him for so long.

    Melissa XX

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  3. A lovely tribute. He looks like a really great dad. Like Melissa I lost my dad a few years ago, it's funny how the sadness creeps up on you, but the memories of the good times help so much.

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  4. Thank you, both.

    Yes, I miss Dad and often tears come when I think of him, and of course I am now living in his house and it still looks much as he left it. I always tell people, I just haven't the heart to dismantle his decor and his DIY, at least not for some while ahead.

    I miss Mum too; and it has struck me that fate dealt a cruel blow taking them both when I was at an early stage of transition and so much needed to be said and understood, but wasn't, and now never can be. It has been said to me that my parents would never ever have accepted the female me. I say, how do you know? And why don't I know best? And even if they were at first implacably against my transition, surely time and the blood-is-thicker-than-water principle would have eventually made them stand by me? I have every reason to think that Dad was putting love for me first and personal embarrassment second. I know some parents can't manage that, but many do. So I am defiant about what might have been. Alas, it IS only what might have been...

    Even if Dad was hiding a distaste for transsexuality from me, I still respect him and want to think about him with fondness and great affection.

    Lucy

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  5. Sorry, Anji, you came in while I was responding to Karen and Melissa. Thank you also!

    It's often said that it's not so bad when people have lived a long life before departing. Maybe; it begs the question, who thinks so? And I don't think that the length of a life is any true measure of its worth. And no good person's death is welcome or easy to bear.

    That's far too much philosophy. I intend to return to flippant and silly things in my next post!

    Lucy

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  6. I can identify strongly with the the words you shared at your dad's funeral. I was privileged to give a similar tribute at my dad's funeral. I still have a copy, together with photos to remember him by, and so, in my heart at least, he lives on.

    I spent some time on Tuesday with a spiritual counsellor-friend. I said that I wouldn't want my sons and their families to know about Angie. Her reply was something like "Don't assume their hostility. Their love for you is probably stronger than you realize."

    So love may well have triumphed, had your dad lived to see you now. And that's a lovely way to remember him.

    Angie xx

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  7. Lucy, it's a moving tribute to a Dad you clearly loved a lot.

    As for whether your parents would have accepted you...well let me put it this way. My Mum (who died getting on for 2 years ago now), and I had a pretty tough and demanding relationship. Long story. She was difficult, needy and pretty hard work for many years...I dare say i didn't help, but there it is.

    She was also transphobic. I know this for a fact as she knew someone who had transitioned and she was caustic. Viscious.

    Then came the day when I had to tell her she had a daughter - me. All along I had been Jo. It was make or break...and I fully expected to be shown the door never to go through it again.

    She accepted me 100% on the spot. Aged 81...Thence started 6 months in which we came to know each other better than we had done in the preceding 30 years.

    Now I know the situation was very different to the one you were in, and the dynamics were different for you. But don't let anyone tell you your Dad - or your Mum - couldn't have got their heads around it all. Whatever the augurs, the most extraordinary things are possible. Don't forget also you yourself would have shown a new, different side to them too - an attractive, possibly softer one. My Mum told me that she actually preferred Jo to the my old male self ("Well me too actually", I said!)

    I think that when one manages to grow to one's seventies or eighties then often the realities of life become something that strike home. Authenticity and love and care and respect for those in your life, and things like that - for some anyway, especially as the reality of one's own mortality becomes clear. What use is prejudice and rejection if you know that you may only have a few years left?

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  8. Thank you, Jo. You have put it so well.

    I still feel sad that (a) I wasn't able to put your words to Mum before she died; and that (b) there are people once close to me who still maintain that I broke my parents' hearts and drove them to an early death. But I wasn't able to control my own outing. If I could have had my own way, Dad would have been told gently a little later on, and Mum (her death early in 2009 foreseen and ineveitable) might never have been troubled at all. But it didn't happen like that. It was a mess. No wonder Mum wouldn't come to terms with it. More credit to Dad that he did.

    Lucy

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  9. This is such a nice testimonial to your father. I'm sorry for your loss. Even reading just this post, I feel like I know him. How wonderful that he was so accepting of your life change. You must miss him so much. I'm sure he's watching over you now, and is so proud of the bravery and strength his child has.

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  10. I enjoyed looking at the pictures of your dad, Lucy. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    I'm glad you have such good memories. Those pictures will become more and more precious as years go by.

    Calie xxx

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