Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Life and death

Today would have been my father’s 90th birthday. But he died nearly three years ago.

When he was in his 80s he was seen by a heart specialist who told him that his heart was in good condition. “You’ll live till you’re 90,” the doctor rather unwisely predicted. And therefore my dad, half-seriously, believed that he would do so, “- though, “ he added ruefully, “when you’re 83, that doesn’t sound such a good deal.”

That feeling that the dead are just in the next room is such a potent one. My father was a brilliant man with a forceful personality. Where have all that intelligence and fire gone? Surely not into the heap of dust that we scattered under a tree in Perthshire?

Paradoxically, when the “children” aren’t here, I almost feel as if I’d dreamt them. It was a wonderful dream, filled with love and purpose: I created these lovely young people from my imagination; and now they’ve vanished into the air. I suppose that maybe my dad is so real to me because he was around forever, whereas the children came along half-way through my life. They arrived and now they’ve gone. It seems that they were with us for such a short time.

To combat this illusion, Mr Life and I went to Glasgow on Saturday to spend time with our son. Here he is wearing a Santa hat in the kitchen of his (rented) flat. Not sure why he keeps it there but I’m bidding for the record of posting the first picture this year of someone wearing Christmas fancy dress.

Here’s the view from his sitting room over a bowling green.

We walked to the Botanic Gardens (nice enough but not up to Edinburgh’s standard…) and wandered round it and into the Kibble Palace. This would sound to American cats like a good place, I suppose. ( It’s a very large glasshouse donated by a Mr Kibble.) Then we had lunch and walked back to the flat, stopping for coffee on the way. He regaled us with interesting stories about bowel operations (he’s on Urology at the moment). It was lovely to see him. But where is he now?

On Sunday, the rest of us all went to Daughter 1 and Son-in-Law’s house to have dinner. There’s something very soothing about being fed by one’s children. I suppose it’s like returning to childhood oneself – being nurtured – with the added satisfaction of watching one’s child being efficient and able to provide for itself. Daughter 2 was there too, so at least we had the reality of two offspring. And they’re not in Australia or anything. (Not that I’m suggesting that Australia is a bad place, you understand. It’s just a bit far away. From here.)

Anyway, happy birthday Dad. We’re not forgetting you.
Gosh, life is brief. (Yes, I like to end with an original remark.)


  1. I read on another blog a wise old saying (from the bloggers father) about children: "We only get a lend of them." Sad but true. Thank goodness my lease on my boys has got a few more years to go.

  2. Oh, it's so very fleeting indeed. Have you ever read Einstein's Dreams? It's a series of short little stories about time. It passes differently in each story. In one of them, time passes more quickly, the closer you are to the center of the earth. All of the mothers take their children to the highest mountain tops. If only we had such a solution available to us!

  3. A lovely thoughtful post about people's comings and goings. I remember my brother-in-law saying that their eldest leaving home was like a bereavement.

    But your children are still there, and they obviously love you and love to see you very much. I expect it gets easier...

  4. The best take I have ever read on children is by Kahlil Gibran, see:
    My father died in 1989. We were never close. However, I have all his tools (he was a carpenter and joiner)and the old man is nearer to me when I use them than he ever was in life.
    Yes, Australia is a long way from the UK, but our daughter (HHnB) and husband come over in May for 5 weeks. Which will be nice!
    (Your son has a lovely outlook from his flat)

  5. This post struck a chord. I lost my dad a couple of years ago so I can relate. My children are also grown and feed me occasionally. I'm glad they all grew up to be fantastic cooks. Unfortunately one does live in Australia so we seldom all get together. Your weekend sounds lovely.

  6. Yes, Australia is a long, long way away and my elder daughter, her husband and my two darling grandsons emigrated nearly three years ago. We've visited twice but it's not the same as the closeness and weekend get togethers. The way of the world, I guess.

  7. You father looks great. Your post sent a shiver up my spine just thinking about my old man aging and heading towards his last years (although I hope they are many).

    Must make the most of him and cook many, many more meals for him and my mother!! Luckily I'm going to see them this weekend so I don't feel too bad!

    Lesley x

  8. Your dad looks lovely. I grew up with my father working abroad. He was away for three months at a time and only home for three weeks, when he was more like a visitor than a family member. I still to this day find it odd that he is around and available all the time now. My mother, on the other hand, is finding out first hand how far away Australia is and she is not liking it. I must throw my own children at her more often by way of compensation!

  9. I don't think it ever 'gets easier', as Lucy suggests.
    I miss my children every day, even though one of them is close enough to visit within 5 minutes drive.
    She is a fantastic cook, and loves to feed us.
    The best we can hope is that they still love to come to visit us, and still feel happy to be in our company.

  10. Your father looks like such a nice man. He sort of reminds me of my father. My father died a long time ago but I think of him often, especially when I run across some interesting new gadget that I know he would love.

  11. What a nice view your son has. I still miss my mom after more than three years, though we had a rather difficult relationship. My dad will be 80 this year and I really dread the day he passes away. He's very healthy right now, but I think I'll feel a bit panicky when I don't have a parent. Of course, I still have fabulous inlaws. Still, there's something scary to me about ME being the parent, with no one older and wiser to ask about things.

  12. Where has all that wit and charm and intelligence gone?...... some to you in your genes I guess...seems almost wasteful when good smart folk die.

    NZ is further than Australia BUT my younger son is coming for a holiday from London very shortly. He has been in UK over 9 years now but comes home for a visit every 2 or so. ( might come home for good with partner in 2011 he thinks )

    We only ever share family members young and old and friends as well, but we can have memories!

  13. Good job Love Links can stretch without fear of breaking!

  14. My dad died two years ago today. He was only 64. I agree, that pile of dust just doesn't compute.

    Your son's sitting room view is wonderful! What great people-watching I could do from there...

    I always like to imagine "Kibble Palace" as a huge greenhouse full of exotic plants, with dogs and cats meandering through them, munching happily.

  15. Oh dear, this post just about made me cry. Our little one is not quite two years old and already I want to tell her to just slow down a bit - yesterday she was just a tiny little baby and today she walks, talks and goes off by herself to do things *sniff*

    Your Dad looks lovely. I feel happy for you, because you got to know him properly. My mother died of cancer when I was seven and I think of her almost every day.

  16. A lovely thoughtful post about people's comings and goings. I remember my brother-in-law saying that their eldest leaving home was like a bereavement.
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