This time last year I was in Australia having received the call I knew must one day come. The call from family to say that Max, my father, was gravely ill. On his last day I sat beside him reading Guernsey Press newspapers aloud. He could not tell me the mistakes I was making in pronunciations but I know he could hear me. He passed away early the next morning – 27th January 2012.
During this past year there have been many times I’ve wanted to ask him something; tell him a story; send him a photo; talk about the world. I wish he was here to share things. Some thing. Any thing.
I wasn’t finished learning from him.
I miss his daily emails. In winter he would sign off by reminding me to keep my chest warm to prevent pleurisy or pneumonia, which I had in 2002. He sent me two pashmina shawls to assist in this. In summer he would remind me to put sunscreen on, and a hat to prevent sun cancer. He did not send me a hat though.
I’ve had days where I have not thought of him at all; and then felt guilty when I realized he hadn’t crossed my mind. I’ve had moments where something seen or heard has prompted sudden unexpected tears in inconvenient places like a crowded train. There have been times when I’ve been angry with him for going too soon; and times of incredible sadness thinking of the battles he fought.
A determined, proud and impatient man; he couldn’t stand carelessness or stupidity. He could, and would, talk to anyone. Strangers were treated the same as friends.
He had a terrific sense of humour, a twinkle in his eye and he could charm anyone. He was sociable, but equally as happy with his own company & some music. Back in the day he played a harmonica and the piano accordion though he could not read music. He’d hear a piece and just be able to play it.
His greatest loves were his family, his dogs and music. He was stern but fair both as a father and a master.
I brought some of his ashes back to DC with me. He came back in my suitcase in a glass jar with masking tape securing the lid. I’m not sure what the jar originally held, I got it from Jane who was the keeper of the ashes until we scattered them on the river. On the lid it says “Refrigerate After Opening” and “Best by 30/5/13” . I intend to scatter him about before then – I just haven’t decided where.
This clear glass jar is sitting on my dressing table slightly above the clutter of perfumes, lotions & ornaments. I know that’s not quite “normal” – it’s not an every day cremain receptacle.
Often, as I get items out of the drawers, put earrings on and spritz myself with perfume, I give the jar a nod and a smile and imagine dad would laugh over his current situation. He enjoyed off-beat things. There’s something oddly comical in a middle aged woman keeping her father’s ashes in a clear glass jar, topped with thick grey tape, sitting amongst her pretty things.
The last song of his service was Tony Bennett singing “Fly me to the Moon” as his grandsons carried his coffin to the hearse. It therefore seems incredibly fitting that, on the 1st anniversary of his death, I will be at a Tony Bennett concert. Dad would have loved to have seen Tony Bennett sing. I suspect his spirit might be in the audience with me.
I miss you dad.
Dad and I – Circa 1980