In Memoriam

On Friday night, a little before midnight, my father died. It was sudden and unexpected – even though he was 82 and had suffered several strokes, his mind was still sharp and he could still get around, although with some difficulty.

My parents had been out for a meal at a pub and he collapsed and died on the way out. I’m going to Wales in the next few days and will likely be out of touch for a while.

My father was filled with stories. Not the fiction I turn out, these were all real life tales of working in the mines, in factories after the mines closed, and pranks from the days before health and safety took all the fun out of it.

I’m sure I’ve told of the time a young singer named Tom Jones did a set at the Ynysddu Progressive Working Men’s Club. This is indeed the same Tom Jones, when he was just starting out.

They paid him off halfway through. All the shouty singing and hip-thrusting didn’t go down well with a room full of flat-capped miners. He was told he’d never play the Ynysddu Prog Club again. And he never has.

When I was very small we lived in a council house in the Penllwyn Estate. My father once gave a coworker a pack of seeds for his new garden. Our garden was full of dockleaves… those were the seeds.

As a teenager I had a very realistic silicon human hand. It was remarkably realistic. My father, then working in the nearby Johnson and Johnson factory, producing J-cloths, took the hand to work one day. He dropped it on the emerging sheet of cloth so it would pop through the rollers to where another coworker was inspecting for flaws. The guy had to go for a long sit down…

One of his best tales was from his days in the mines. He worked at the coal face. Lunch breaks were underground, they took packed lunches with them. One of the other men always had corned beef sandwiches and always complained that it was the same every day. His wife made his lunch for him.

The others told him to be firm, stand up for himself, and tell his wife he wanted something different. Sure enough, at lunch break next day, his sandwiches did not contain corned beef.

They contained fruit salad. He might not have been too diplomatic when asking for a change.

It’s going to be hard to come to terms with a world that no longer has him in it. He was such a gigantic character, there will always be a gaping hole where he once stood. All the things he made are still here though, and he made a lot of things. Including me and my brother.

He lived long enough to see three great-granddaughters. His mind was intact to the end and his wit remained sharp, and he died without going through a long slow decline in a bed. If I could choose, that’s how I’d go too. With a good meal and a beer inside me.

RIP Dad.

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Update: Thank you for all the kind messages. They are appreciated. Prayers are appreciated too even though I don’t believe. It’s the thought that counts.

I like to think that he left one last important message. Get stuff done. Don’t piss about because you never know how much time you have left.

I think he got everything done he wanted done, and I hope that when it’s my time, someone else can say the same about me. So. Back to work.

I currently don’t know when we’ll go to Wales. Can’t book anything until we have a date for the funeral. Hopefully the storms will have become bored with the UK soon and travel will be easier.

Thanks to everyone.

32 thoughts on “In Memoriam

  1. Very sorry indeed Kevin. He sounds like he was a truly wonderful dad… almost more like a grandfather with his “tales of the past.” We can be grateful though that he left the way he did… without some of the long periods of pain and suffering and dementia and problems that so many have at the end of their lives.

    I think that once people get up into their 70s, and most certainly by their 80s, they’ve come to terms with realizing they’re not going to be here for a long period ahead. Yes, they MAY be one of the very lucky few who remain healthy and sharp past the century mark, but the odds are pretty heavily against it, and I think most folks learn to accept it… unhappily maybe, but accept it and, aside from making plans to make things easier for their family afterward, simply decide not to spend their time thinking and worrying about it since no amount of thought or worry is going to really change anything.

    Leggy, here’s a story idea for you if you’re up for it… set maybe a hundred or so years into the future. We’ve reached a level where there is no more cancer, no more failing lungs or circulatory systems, where the only thing that will kill us is very rare and unexpected disease, a terrible accident, murder, or suicide. The nux of the story is how people fall into dealing with that knowledge in their day-to-day lives, now that they know that death in any definable reasonable time frame is no longer inevitable. How many people will truly glory in that road of eternal-but-for-mishap lifestream ahead of them; and how many will instead become neurotically fearful of the possibilities that will deny them hundreds or thousands or more years ahead.

    Heh, of course there’s also the problem of our brains just not being big enough. I’m not quite 70, but I already am feeling at least a bit of a problem with learning and retaining new things in detail. It sometimes feels like there’s just not a whole lot of ROOM left in there to stuff new stuff.

    Our brains evolved in a very simple world with very little stimulation on a day-to-day basis of material that was truly “new” in terms of being significant enough to hold onto for more than a few seconds or a few days at most. Looking at a bunch of trees and leaves in front of us tomorrow isn’t really going to be much different than looking at the different bunch we looked at yesterday. We can be happy that both were pretty… but is there really much more we need or want to remember about them?

    Compare that to the amount of really amazing and fascinating new things we’re now seeing on the internet every single day. Or compare the amount of knowledge we need/want to retain when we’d spend an hour every day just sharpening arrowheads when compared to what we might want to hold onto if we read a dozen new fascinating articles or studies every day. Or compare living in a band/clan of a few dozen people with very very rare interactions with anyone else, with numbers most of us actually DO meet and interact with every year today.

    I really DO think that by the time most of us hit 90 or 100, we’ve basically filled things up between our ears and any new stuff we hammer into our skulls will simply be displacing old stuff.

    So what IS a good age? 80 is certainly desirable, 90 is better, but I begin to seriously wonder about 100+. Yes, we might still get realtime enjoyment from feeling the sunshine on our faces or the hugs from our lovers and friends… but I think it turns into more of a passing thing than an accumulating of experience thing.

    I think I can be accepting of life ending at some point for me in the next 20 or 30 years — heck, I’ll feel very lucky given that I’m almost 70 and tending to drivel on at the keyboard like this most days instead of jogging around a gym; but I’ll still kind of wish (hope?) that I’ll be able to at least sort of float around and watch everyone still alive as they grow and develop and things change.

    Your dad lived to an age that even just a hundred or two years ago was FAR beyond what anyone realistically expected to reach. Today we DO expect it… and hope for more… but we still accept that the chances of a whole lot more earth time ahead and beyond is unlikely. And the best we can hope for is no pain and trouble when the time comes. That is what your father got, and he was luckier in that regard than the great bulk of humanity.

    A toast to your Dad, Leggy! He had one of the greatest gifts a father can have: a son to be proud of!

    – Michael
    P.S. I’ve long said that my life dream is to be shot by a jealous husband on my 97th birthday. It appears I now have a role model to look up to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/02/06/nursing-home-murder/?utm_campaign=wp_morning_mix

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really liked this comment. I am 80 so I understand. My brain is nearly full up, so it dumps some things to make room for other things. I laugh about it these days. I hope that I will go on laughing if I ever get Dementia. If only a few more people did that then Dementia wouldn’t be so scary.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My parents both reached a respectable age, and contentment, and escaped without much loss of dignity. That’s my aspiration too. What more can anyone ask for?

    My Dad was good at everything practical, except electrics. That was my only chance to beat him. So I do electronics.

    Whenever I build anything, I wish I could show him it. Then I remember, he’d only tell me I’ve done it the wrong way. 🙂

    He always thought he was right. When I tell people this, they say, “Well, what a surprise!”

    However long we last, we’ll never know how the story ended.
    Don’t grieve, celebrate his life.

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  3. I was very sorry to read your sad news, but what a blessing it was that he was spared a long bedridden decline.

    Given the state of the weather I hope you have a safe and uneventful journey down to Wales.

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  4. You had few my sympathies, sir. My own father died for years ago, but he ended after a long, slow decline involving cancer, vascular dementia and finally a kidney infection that ended it all. This was, in a way, a kindness song as we’d already gone through the business of sorting out a hospice place for him and were getting ready for a miserable summer watching an old man die.

    It is in my nature to be practical, so I shall. When obtaining death certificates and other things like grants of probate, it is much cheaper to obtain several at the initial be and not subsequently. You will need several of each, since financial institutions are uniformly incompetent at dealing with a death.

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  5. I am very sorry to read this, Leggy, but for your sake, not your Dad’s.

    I have always wanted to just drop dead one fine day, but not just yet, eh God. Presuming that there is A God, He probably wouldn’t have much to do with it anyway.
    I think of all of the people who have lived and died before me, especially those who made wonderful drawings on Cave Walls. They were never irrelevant. They had a purpose.
    I Blog, a load of old rubbish most of the time, but it has it’s own purpose. Your Blogs are wonderful to me and have given me much pleasure through your bad times and your good times. Your Dad and your Mum made you who you are and this is something to celebrate.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So sorry to learn of your & your family’s loss, condolences.

    Many are fortunate to have great memories of their parents. Sadly, many others are less fortunate.

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  7. So sorry for your loss. I can see your dad has left a huge gap in your life. Sounds like an amazing human being who will also have left a vast collection of good memories.

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  8. Sorry to hear this Leggy, my Dad went about twelve years ago, you remember how unfair it seems as there were aso many things you wanted to say to him, and suddenly couldn’t

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  9. So sorry to hear it: as you wrote, better the sudden stop than the awful decline of dementia. I found, when both my parents had gone, there were so many questions only they could answer.

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  10. Sorry to hear about your loss. My dad would have been 82. You have my sympathy and prayers.

    I was on Bob Dylan’s website looking up the lyrics for “Death Is Not the End” and I saw a link for ‘Whiskey’ which led to his whiskey website. A bit of checking suggests they are just about to launch in the UK. I can’t remember if you’re partial to a transatlantic tipple. The price tag of £75 a bottle would have sent me scuttling for the J.D. or Southern Comfort, which I remember being too sweet for regular consumption.

    All the best.

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  11. Very sorry to hear Leggy. 😦

    My dear old dad died eight years ago; in a hospital not being able to speak or move, after a fall.

    My dear old Mum died in September of last year; basically the same thing, after a fall.

    But, in her case (she’d had bone cancer which was getting steadily worse), she somehow knew it was coming. We spent many a night just the two of us for a few months prior to her death with her regaling me of stories from her life in England during WWII and for a few years thereafter (before she and my Dad moved to Canada).

    For what it’s worth, indeed much better to go out with a bang than a whimper.

    Chin up!

    Cheers

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  12. So sorry to hear this, Leggy. It’s always a shock when either of our parents die, even though we all know that it’s going to happen one day and that the alternative – of us popping our clogs before them would be, for them, far, far worse. My own dad passed away just over 12 years ago after a long illness but not a debilitating one until the very end, which was in its way a sort of blessing. A fitness fanatic, he’d stayed extremely active into his 80s, even after his diagnosis, but the decline, when it came, though swift and short-lived, was truly sad to see and we were all torn between the (selfish but understandable) desire for him to stick around with us, and the knowledge that being as wafer-thin and weak and doped-up as he was in his last few weeks would be a living torture for him if it continued for too long. I guess what we all really wanted was for him to get better – but that, we knew, wasn’t going to happen.

    But however they shuffle from this mortal coil – shockingly suddenly, as in your Pa’s case, or slowly and tortuously, as in so many others – they always leave a void that can’t be filled. Love and hugs to you all.

    Like

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