Sunday 8 May 2022

Watching the footie has never been the same!


My Dad died 14 years ago today.

Oy, he put up a fight! Year after year, Dad grumped and exploded his way through procedures, operations, scrapings and inflations. 
Towards the end, tragically for a man who expressed it so much throughout his life, he lost his joie de vivre.

My mother, his rock, redeemer, and a great force of nature, mentioned how she sometimes missed the sound of laughter.
Watching somebody you love head slowly lethewards threatens to erase from your mind the image of the person they once were.

I have seen many people lose parents, siblings, friends and - horror - even children. The most tragic losses are the ones in which there remains something unfinished.

As the minutes ooze from the time of death, that lingering becomes malingering, and pain follows close behind.

Dad made it easy for me, because he had been unwell for so long. I had time to tell him everything I wanted to say. 
Today, I’m incredibly happy I told him what I thought of him, before he went.

A few months before he died, he was at home for a brief period, inbetween hospital admissions. He sat in his armchair, my mum beside him on the sofa. 
I had to be tactful, because despite the Jewish spirit, my parents' home and behaviour was quintessentially Olde Englishe, like the marmalade.

Hence to avoid melodrama, I had to tread carefully when trying to explain to my father that he had always been my inspiration.

To that Octogenarian these words came as a surprise; one which I had anticipated, and thought might fire his spirit and confidence a tad.

I told him, in front of Mum, that he had been my inspiration throughout my life, in two different ways.

At a most vital level, I appreciated how hard he had worked; how many decades he had climbed into his car at 7.40 am, and driven off through the dirty sludge of London's constipated commute, all the way to Soho, where he worked all his life for Pearl and Dean.

At weekends he ran a small chain of three record shops, until one of his managers did the dirty, and sent the business down the pan.

From my privileged and relatively cushy life, I am in awe of how hard Dad worked, so that we might enjoy the upbringing we had.

His was the last generation that would ever enjoy the 'job for life' culture. Somehow, back in the early 1960's he earned enough money to take all five of us on holidays to Europe every other year, with trips to Devon and Somerset in the intervening summers.

"Thanks Dad!" I told him. "I didn't appreciate how hard you worked when I was a kid, but I do now."

My mum spluttered out that she thought that was very nice, and my Dad did something with his mouth that showed he was grateful.
But then I looked over, into his eyes, and I sent them a shiny glint.
"There's another way you inspired me, Dad. Your mountains! Remember your books from the 1930's and 1950's about the conquests of Kanchenjunga, K2 and Everest? They all had the same tan cloth covers, and were packed with photos and maps and tales of those great mountaineers, walking around the Annapurna Circuit and reaching for the skies.

“Well, it took a while for me to realise it, but all my travelling; the way I've lived my life; it's down to you. Didn't cop on when I was a teenager, because all that hitching just felt so good, and looked to me a million miles from the life you lived, and the one you wanted for me. But when I went off for my first roundy-worldy jaunt in 1984, you whispered ... 
'Say hello to the mountains for me!'...
“... and it all made sense. In that instant I understood why I was who I was. I knew that your spirit of adventure was kindled in me; that the boy who read those books about mountains gave birth to another who could go and see them. 
"The greatest thing about a spirit of adventure is that it helps you live your life less dominated by fear. I wish you had been able to enjoy that feeling.

“So thanks Dad! You worked your arse off so that I might have a good childhood, and you also lifted my eyes, my horizons and my understanding of ambition, so that when I felt happy in my life, I knew that was success."

What I didn't say to you then, Dad, but do now, was that unfortunately, I don't think you ever enjoyed the same self-confidence that you helped build in me.
You taught me how to appreciate fine wines, how to carry myself in any situation, and always assured me that while posh things were alright, you could never beat the pleasure and honesty of a pie and a pint.
We always had time for the Chelsea. You first took me to Stamford Bridge in 1969, Wembley in 1970, and wherever I lived in the world, we talked after every match. I do not recall a game in which we lost points where you didn't complain about the referee. 
"Well, we'd have had more chance if we weren't playing against 12 men!"
You were a possessor of great charm, a flirtatious twinkle in the eye and unquestioning generosity. You gilded every lily, and lacked the self-confidence you deserved. 
You loved a simcha, a celebration, and enjoyed a Famous Grouse or three. A year before you died, we were all standing round your bed in Intensive Care. We'd nearly lost you in the ambulance, and had been discussing how to cancel your big 80th birthday party.

Unaware of where you were, or how close you had come to death, your first words as you opened your eyes:

“Who's ordering the wine for the party?”

You couldn't understand why we all fell about laughing.
Your spirit, charm and humour were so strong, you live forever amongst us.

I love you Dad.
I love you very much.

God knows, I miss you. The footie just ain't the same.

©Charlie Adley