Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dad and other observations

Thank you so much for all the kind comments.

Yesterday I registered my father’s death. This seemed a very grown-up thing to do. Of course, one should be grown-up at my age.

I had to stay in the house in the morning for the gas man to come and try to stop our heating system sounding like an aircraft taking off. Then I went up town. As I got to the top of our street, there was a nice shiny van belonging to a car-valeting service. It was parked half on the pavement, near to a hedge, so I walked round it on the road. The side of the van announced that the company was “commited to excellence”. Though I was in a bit of a daze, I obsessively proof-read this in my English-teachery way and wondered vaguely if it said the same on the other side. Popping my head round between the van and the hedge in pursuit of this thought, I came face-to-face with a startled young man, the car-valeter.

Me (feebly): Oh. I was just looking at the spelling on your van.
SYM (looking at writing): Is it not right?
Me: Umm. Well, “committed” should have two “t”s.
SYM: Should it?
Me: The way it’s written would be pronounced “co-might-ed”.
SYM: That’s my designer’s fault.
Me (wishing I’d never started this conversation): Well, I’m sure your car-valeting is excellent, anyway. That’s the important thing.
SYM: Thanks. (Pause) What does “co-might-ed” mean, then?

It was a lovely sunny day. There were lots of tourists on the bus. One tourist looked at Donaldson’s School for the Deaf – a beautiful, castle-like building - and asked a fellow-passenger what it was. “That’s Fettes College,” she replied confidently. I considered putting her right but then decided I wouldn't.

The registrar was lovely. She must have to register people’s deaths all the time, but she sympathised, asking what Dad was like and how Mum was coping. She told me that her father died when she was 11, and that she was the oldest of six children. Wow. But they had a happy childhood, she said, and have all done well. I asked her if she liked being a registrar and I admired her neat handwriting. She said that it was an interesting job, and that she’s careful to sign the certificates legibly, because she likes to think of people in the future seeing her signature and wondering who she was and what she was like.

Very nice, that’s what she's like. I wished I could add a bit on to the certificate to tell this to any future researchers into our family history.

And then I came home. The sun was still shining. Later we noticed that, since the gas man’s visit, we no longer had any heating or any hot water.


  1. it makes such a difference when people in jobs like hers are kind and thoughtful...

  2. Laughed out loud at your curiosity ... rang BIG, BIG bells! Glad you are up to blogging ... I enjoy reading them very much. What does "co-might-ed" mean, anyway????

  3. I think "co-might-ed" or indeed "commited" means "good at signwriting but a wee bit dyslexic".

    I'm not really mocking dyslexia. (Well, ok, I am. A little.) But here's the thing. If I were a bit ropey with my spelling AND WERE DOING IT IN PUBLIC, ON THE SIDES OF VANS, I think I might just check in the dictionary.

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  5. I giggled at checking the other side of the van because it sounded like something I would have done. I'm always the first to notice spelling errors in other people's work, but I'm sure I'm blind to my own.

    I'm glad registering your dad's death was as pleasant as it could have been. And yes, I'm sure the registrar has done many of them but I bet you have a way of bringing out the best in people.

  6. So glad you're back Isabelle -- I do so enjoy reading your insights. And glad you can now check off one more sad thing that has to be done when a death occurs. BTW, I have time for the fiddly (I love that word!) tasks 'cause I don't have a beautiful garden like yours and so far, I've been lucky in that my parents are both still in good health. I'm hoping things will slow down a little for you soon and you'll get some fiddly time for yourself. And I'm completely with your son -- you should definitely get that cat. Then maybe he (she?) and TheEmptyNestChild could exchange messages! ;-)

  7. Glad you're up to a bit of blogging. And so creative a solution the gas man came up with -- "Complain about the noise will you? I'll just disconnect it all!" Hope all is back to working order soon.

  8. It's so good to hear from you and to (as someone else put it) read your insights. They're so warm and wonderful, even during this difficult time.

    I'm not sure anyone ever feels quite grown up enough to register their parents' deaths.

    By the end of your post, I was feeling a little annoyed at the sun for shining so brightly. Couldn't it take a few days off and show some respect by being subdued? But no, there it goes and now there's the gas man to deal with. Something tells me that you didn't want to have your heating noises dealt with by having the system shut off altogether.

    On the positive side, perhaps Mr. Car-valeter will be curious enough about the potential meaning of the word "co-might-ed" to crack open a dictionary.

  9. There should be a big traffic spellchecker at the toll booths for crimes like that.
    Was thinking of you today:
    I had to "let go " of all my bulbs due to the drought.
    Well,they all died because I wasnt allowed to water them last year.
    Today, I happened upon half a dozen freesias coming up.Nothing so grand as yours, mind you, but a nice surprise.

  10. I am very glad you found an interested and respectful person to register your dad's death with Isabelle. Finding a cold and heartless person just wanting to go to lunch would have made the experience even more unpleasant.

    I laughed at your story about the van, my eyes go straight to spelling errors, but like Zara said, I can stare at my own and never see them!

  11. It's taken me - what is it now? six weeks? - to notice that all the climate control panels for our archive repository spell it "Respository". Where things go to respose, presumably.

    The last registrar I met looked at me sternly and asked me whether I wasn't a bit young to be getting married. Maybe they pick them carefully. (And even I can write neatly when I'm doing it for posterity.)

  12. Glad you got someone so nice to register with. We didnt have to do that, the funeral people did it all for us. We recently went to place our mother's ashes into her parents grave, & we got a wonderful woman to help us with payment etc.
    I used to be so good at spelling, but find I now making frequent mistakes, & my sentence construction sometimes screams at me, but I guess age is making me care- less! haha. Sorry if it irks.

  13. Oh, Isabelle! I just returned home from vacation (a "holiday" ;)) and was checking the blog for the first time in a week. I send you my sincerest condolences. If I had your address, I would send you a heartfelt, handwritten letter to let you know you were in my thoughts during such a sad time....I don't, so I'm doing so here. Take care.

  14. I'd read that the death of a parent is the moment when you really grow up. I started feeling quite 'grown-up' when I had my children.

  15. We (as family members) don't have to register deaths here in Australia, it is somehow automatically done. I have lost both of my parents (by age 35) and from what I know, this is done automatically via an attending doctor. For me, personally it would have been quite traumatic to have to go to a building somewhere and register. I'm always pointing out pubic spelling errors to hubby.. I'm glad I'm not the only one! I'm just catching up with your entries Isabelle.. I hope you are doing ok.