It is still hard for me to believe that my Father is not with us. He was always there.
I wanted to bring my family with to his funeral. But for obvious reasons, that was not possible. I asked my kids if they’d write something for this service. Paloma said it was “too hard” to write anything.
Ronan (my 7 year old) also found it very hard to write anything. Though he did come up with this:
I had fun at grandpa’s house. He had a beautiful garden. We would play in the backyard. He has lots of books to read. He had Mini bonbells and I love Mimi Bonbells. I miss Grandpa because we also had fun together. I wish he could have stayed alive longer.
My father come from the “The Silent Generation” as sociologists labeled them: a generation that didn’t talk much about their feelings. They lived through the 2nd world war and then went to work, put the world back together again, and gave birth to the Baby boomers.
My father epitomized this generation and was an English Gentleman to the T. He would never talk about himself, how he felt, or his accomplishments. He believed in the British “Still Upper Lip”. As recently as the month he passed away, he would tell Claire (whom he married after my Mother passed away) to have patience and courage rather than thinking of himself.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I thought I’d boast a little about my father because he certainly never did. I loved him. He had an awesome life. And here are a few highlights.
Born in 1920 in the North of England to a relatively poor family – his Dad had a variety of jobs including post office delivery person and coal miner – he spoke with a strong “Jordy” accent – that I can’t possibly imitate – until his late teens possibly into his 20s. And then the 2nd world war broke out. He of course signed up, but got Tuberculosis. And was sent to a farm in the countryside to convalesce. Once recovered, he joined the army and served in Italy in the communications corps where he learned morse code, and how to use, repair and build “wireless radios”.
At the end of the 2nd world war, he wanted badly to go to University. But he had no money and he just couldn’t make it happen. He got a job working for the government in the civil service as a mail delivery person. He went to school at night to get a diploma in government administration and moved from the mail room to the lowest wrung in the Civil Aviation Administration. Over the course of his career rose from there to become a diplomat.
Before he met my Mother, Dad was stationed in a variety of places: Libya before Quadaffi is one that stands out to me. And from 1966-1969 we lived in Beirut Lebanon where Dad was Civil Aviation Attache to the Middle East and Lucy and I learned to ski in the Cedar Mountains.
In 1977 he was promoted to the most senior diplomatic post in Civil Aviation in the UK: he became the UK representative on the International Civil Aviation Organization based in Montreal. We all moved to Canada in 1978 and became Canadians.
He met my Mother in 1960 when he was 40. And had his first child (me) in 1962 when he was 42. Very late in life for someone of his generation. The reason he was so late in starting a family? Because up until then he was having a VERY adventurous life.
He was an avid sailor and took part in many sailing trips and regattas around England.
He was also an avid skier – that’s how he met my Mother – they were both skiing in Austria and she broke her leg. Dad gave up his room – ever the gentleman – so that she could stay longer and heal.
And he was a mountaineer. I remember when I was very small – 4 or 5 – his going to climb Snowdon – the tallest mountain in the Wales. After his marriage and children, he continued the sailing and the skiing into his 80s, but gave up the mountaineering. I believe that my Mother was not too fond of him putting his life at risk in that way.
One of the most spectacular things he did – especially given the time he did it in. Was to travel to Tunisia – in the 1950s. I’ve no idea how he got there. He climbed the Atlas Mountains. As if that wasn’t enough, he climbed them – with a group of friends and they carried up their skinny, wooden, long, bear-trap binding, skis with them. And then skied down. No gore-tex, no light weight materials. Just warm wool and leather boots. He flimed it. We still have the footage.
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