When We Were Very Young was one of my favourite books when I was a child, a book of poems about childhood written by AA Milne . Every night at bedtime, my Dad read me a story, and every night I wanted a poem. Not again, he used to say. But he did read it, because he was special like that my Dad.
And now I miss my Dad.
My Dad, the quiet man, died two weeks ago today after a long, short illness, sudden death type of thing. You know, the thing, 85 great years, 1 year of illness, lots of serious illnesses which he adapted to and lived with, and then, bam, that was it.
I'd like to share a little bit of him with you, if that's ok. He was the middle child of 11, he was number 5 amongst 8 boys and 3 girls. We used to joke, 7 brides for 7 brothers but there were 8 of them. My grandfather had come from a large farming family, and believed in good bloodstock! In every big family each child tends to take on a role, and in my Dad's case this was so true. Dad was the quiet man, as my husband said in his eulogy, my dad was the Gary Cooper character. Dad was quiet, he didn't say much, but when he did you listened. Dad was also very clever, my grandparents were ambitious and believed strongly in education being the way to a good life. Now, my grandparents weren't on the breadline, but nor were they super duper rich. They ensured that Dad had everything he needed for grammar school. Indeed they educated all of their children, and that they had everything for Scouts etc, not easy with 11 children.
Dad then branched out and went to live in the Big Smoke, in London. Depending on his mood, he either had a great time, going to the rugby, listening to political speakers and philosophers of the time, (told you he was quiet!) or he was terribly homesick for family in Belfast. Anyhow he met my mum in London, came home to Belfast and "sent" for her. And the rest is history. Or it should have been, but my mum died when we were young. My father stepped up, as Gary Cooper would have done, and was both parents to us. He taught himself to cook, to bake, to work the washing machine and all the things that needed to be done. The man done good.
He encouraged me, or perhaps humoured me in all my many hobbies, whether it be a houseful of fuschia cuttings, bonsai trees in orange peel pots, quilting or knitting. He even wore the fair isle knitted slipover which went wrong, albeit he wore it in the greenhouse. Perfect for the greenhouse apparently. And, being an accountant, it is probably still in his wardrobe.
My father gave me a love of literature, gardening, country walks, well both my parents did. As an accountant, he also advised me if it looks to good to be true, it usually is; it is a lot easier to spend money than to earn it; keep enough put by that if it all stopped tomorrow you would survive; yet that you are also a long time dead. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, don't eat yellow snow!
ps I tried to read When We Were Very Young to my own children but they hated it.