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.