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.
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.