Thanks Dad

When my Dad died I wanted to stand up and say something about him at the funeral. Unfortunately I knew only too well that I wouldn’t be able to get through such a speech without dissolving into a blubbering wreck and spoiling it for everybody. In the end I wrote a short poem that tried to convey what he meant to me and what he would be leaving behind once his physical presence had gone. I still couldn’t read it out and had to give it to the priest to read on my behalf. I was thinking about him this morning and for some reason, sixteen years on I feel like sharing it, and him, again. This is what I wrote.

Hey Dad, me bike isn’t working,
I can’t get it into third gear,
“Well go and fetch me tools lad,
And bring your bike over here”.

I’d pedal away with me mates,
Having carefully watched what he’d done,
Another small part of his knowledge
Passed quietly from father to son.

All through our childhood, the lessons went on,
Showing us just what to do,
From mending a bike, to making a kite,
With scissors and paper and glue.

As I grew older, he taught me much more,
The subjects were never the same,
Now it was woodwork, and how to use tools,
A hammer, a chisel, a plane.

And so I left home, with skills of my own,
To get me through every day life,
The seasons came round, and I settled down,
With two boys and a wonderful wife.

I thought Dad had finished, the lessons all done,
So it came as a little surprise,
To find when I met with a problem,
He was there in my head to advise.

The lessons were different, not practical things,
Like tipping a new snooker cue,
But patience and wisdom, honesty, truth,
And knowing the right thing to do.

To love and to care, to listen and share,
To know when to guide, when to steer,
These are the things that you teach me now Dad,
And it’s wonderful having you near.

So keep looking on Dad, as I try to do right,
And when you think that I’m making a mess,
Say, “Excuse me son, would you like some advice?”,
And I promise I’ll always say yes.

Thanks Dad

Happy families

I’m the fat one on the left

You can’t beat a good wake

I like a good wake if I’m honest. Not least because unless I am driving it’s a rare excuse for a couple of drinks in the middle of the day which often happens to be in the middle of the week. Its got that slightly naughty feel about it and the alcohol helps with all those awkward moments when we find ourselves talking to somebody whose name you can’t remember, let alone whether or not we are actually related to them. All that changed today because our health conscious government has decided that we are all drinking too much and they have issued us with new lower limit guidelines. A couple of pints or a large glass of wine to oil the social wheels at such a gathering now has serious implications for how much of our allotted entitlement we have left for the remaining week.

We have been told, like so many irresponsible children, that we must cut down on our drinking in order to reduce the risk of life threatening conditions such as liver disease or cancer. Now, so long as we do as we are told, we can look forward to living on to a ripe old dementia riddled age instead.

As it happened I was driving to and from today’s funeral so my quota is safe for now. Aside from the alcohol issue I stand by my opinion that you can’t beat a good wake. For a start everybody is in a good mood. I know that might sound a bit odd having just buried a loved one but the whole point of the funeral tea to me is to finally let go and release all that pent up grief and emotion that the death has created. There is a kind of collective sigh of relief as you enter the pub or restaurant and I am always slightly taken aback by the sound of laughter so soon after the tears but it’s always there. The rest of the afternoon is usually divided between remembering funny anecdotes involving the deceased and catching up with seldom seen members of the family. At some point somebody will always say, “lovely to see you but isn’t it a shame that it always has to be at one of these occasions” and that is generally followed by promises to get together more often which rarely come to anything. Nothing changes.

I find at a wake that there is a sense of letting go of the one that has passed on accompanied by a gentle reminder to cherish those that remain. It’s a nice warm feeling that reminds us of our own mortality but also of how important it is to make the most of whatever time we have left. I said to somebody today that we should live every day as if it was our last one and she corrected me immediately by saying, “no, we should live every minute as if it was out last one”. I’ll drink to that. Or maybe I won’t. Or maybe I shouldn’t. But hang on, this might be my last minute. Pass me that bottle opener.