Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Eulogy

I thought that the natural thing to do was to post the eulogy that I wrote for my dad here, for safe keeping as much as anything else.  

After rashly volunteering to say a few words here, I began to wonder how I would describe my dad’s life.  It is not an easy task, but my cycle ride to work allows my brain time to mull things over in a way that does not happen at other times, and I finally hit upon the vision which I will now share.

Picture, if you will, a wonderful, golden, sandy beach.  Cliffs on one side, the sea on the other.

The beach is the man, the father, the husband that my dad wanted to be.  Sadly, the beach was all too often engulfed by the sea, which washed over it, crashing against the cliffs, reforming it, threatening total obliteration at times.

Many people only saw the beach, and I envy them.

Others experienced the storms at first hand, and tended to hang on to the rocks for dear life until the tide subsided, revealing the beach once again.  Until the next storm.

Dad was lucky to reach the age that he did.  I am not referring to the bouts of cancer which he fought off with not only great courage, but even a touch of joy.  I am referring to a practical joke that was once played on him.  He was not a fan of practical jokes, and this is the only one that I can remember anyone being brave enough to play on him.

One evening, one of my brothers (who will remain nameless unless Marc wants to own up to this) switched the lights on Dad’s bike, putting the red light at the front and the white light at the back.  Dad, not realising what had been done, did not find it funny when a driver, seeing the red light on the front of the bike, assumed that Dad was riding away from him and not towards him.  A very near miss and heated arguments followed.  Dad totally failed to see the funny side, for some reason!

When remembering people that we have lost, it is natural for some memories to push to the front.  Dad has left us a lot of memories, and I would like to share some of mine with you.  Hopefully some of them will strike a chord with you and raise a smile.

When we were small, one to one time with Dad was quite rare.  One of the things that I often did with him was to stand on Cobbler’s Bridge to watch the trains go past.  I can remember trapping him there for hours – “Just one more train!” until hunger and gathering darkness drove us home.  I am sure that Jim and Marc did similar things.

Pigeons!  Dad kept pigeons for many years, with very mixed success.  He had some beautiful birds, white fantails were a favourite of mine, but many seemed to lack the “homing” instinct – days were sometimes spent waiting for the often greatly depleted flock to return, with (in my memory at least) the most faithful being those that were the most sorry looking ones.  The scruffy looking ones with a few missing toes that had been rescued from the Bus Garage.

There were times when Dad would build things, always using the largest pieces of wood and the longest nails available.  I remember one day when he decided to build a rabbit hutch.  I guess it must have been a cold day, because he built it in the kitchen.  Old doors, chunks of 4x2 and many 6 inch nails were banged together, accompanied by the usual torrent of profanity which accompanied anything that required serious concentration.  The hutch was a masterpiece with only one somewhat serious flaw – it was too big to fit through the door into the garden.  It was dismantled, of course, using the largest hammer available and, as far as I am aware, was never rebuilt.

I remember Dad watching a lot of TV when he was younger – evenings would be spent watching Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey sing, or John Wayne win WW2 or tame the Wild West single handed.  I guess I inherited his ability to rewatch the same movies over and over.

In more recent years, his passion for watching the TV became more patchy, leading to the arrival and departure of a long string of TV sets – TV sets which were without exception the huge and incredibly heavy cast offs of those who had moved on to more modern technology.  These had to be carried up narrow stairs, around tight corners and through doorways which were only just wide enough if you don’t mind losing the skin on your knuckles.  After these Herculean efforts, it was only a matter of time before we were asked to remove the set.  “It’s all adverts!” he would say, so the set would be removed, for a couple of weeks at least.

Finally we come to lawn mowers.  Frequently heard phrases regarding lawnmowers follow:

I just got a new mower, it’s fantastic, cuts the grass like anything.

Can you come and cut my grass?  No rush.

Can you come and cut my grass?  No rush.

Can you come and cut my grass?  No rush.

This mower is broken; can you come and fix it?

This mower is rubbish, it’s not powerful enough for my lawn.

You can have this mower if you like.  Take it anytime, no rush!

Can you take this mower away, it is in my way!

Do you want this mower or not?

Where’s my ******* mower?

So now?  He is in a good place – where glasses, false teeth and lawn mowers are not needed.  Where he is with those who have gone before, awaiting those who will follow.  In a place where the incoming tide is a thing of beauty, not dread.


lotta joy said...

When you mentioned your dad using the longest nails he could, it reminded me of my dad. Raised like an original "little rascal" he was street savvy and made sure to build our first home so that it would last.

Years after he died, I still lived there, but decided to pull down the old PLYWOOD kitchen cabinets I'd lived with for 50 years. They wouldn't budge!!

I had to have several men force them off the walls and discover they were nailed to the studs with railroad spikes that he'd gathered along the tracks.

terri said...

Beautiful. This is such a wonderful tribute to your dad. You did a great job of sharing all of his aspects - his fine qualities and his rough edges - with love and humor.

agg79 said...

Absolutely beautiful. A very touching tribute to a man who gave you so many memories. I think your eulogy for him is spot on.

Riot Kitty said...

This is great. And "no rush" (meaning, "RUSH!") sound just like my dad!

ShadowRun300 said...

A perfect combination of truth, humor, and love! Well done, RC!
Hopefully you two can relax now that the funeral commitments are all over.
(Loved the lawn mower story, btw. Too funny! :)

Rock Chef said...

Lotta Joy - Ah. Dad would have loved those!

Terri - Thanks, that is what I had hoped for.

Agg79 - Thanks. I have re-read it a few times and don't think I would have changed it.

Riot Kitty - Yep - it was far easier to drop things and attend to a "no rush" request than it was to leave it..

ShadowRun300 - Glad you liked it. The mowers had to be included because so many people got caught up with them at various times, both family and neighbours.

White Elephant said...

Was so proud of you doing this for Dad. I had wondered what form it would take and hearing it in the chapel for the first time was very emotional. It was very powerful and had a wonderful effect on your Mum, lifting her spirits when she was so broken. Well done honey.

Rock Chef said...

White Elephant - Thanks baby - with hindsight I am so glad that I refused to give mum a sneak preview, even though I felt a bit mean at the time.

Shrinky said...

Oh hon, you did your dad proud, what a perfect lace of remembrance, love and tongue-in-cheek humour - I'm guessing it helped to slightly lighten the heavy day, and proved a fitting memorial to who was an often complex, but also much loved man. Good job done, RC.

Shammickite said...

Well, I didn't know your dad, and I didn't know anything about your dad... but this painted a marvellous picture of a dad who had his difficulties and usually managed to weather the storm eventually, even though his family might have been swept along in the storm at the same time. R.I.P.Dad.

meleah rebeccah said...

Absolutely beautiful. What a fabulous tribute to your father.