Saturday, 23 June 2012

A Tribute

The daily papers bear obituaries of great lives newly ended. And, daily, great lives end unremarked by the media. Today my father-in-law died. He was 86. And because he was, without celebrity, a great man, I want this small corner of cyberspace to be dedicated to him.

He was vivid character. His hair, boot-black into his 80s, was rarely cut and flapped in a tall, wild halo when he strode the Derbyshire peaks. He would confound waiters with riddles and break solemnly and unexpectedly into rhyming verse. He had a curious allegiance to Izal loo roll and tinned potatoes. He pedalled a frenzied mile each morning on the exercise bike at the end of his bed and when he opened the front door to us he would perform a sweeping bow.

He was an insatiable intellect. He would court opinions on the Winter War over breakfast. Because his mind was never channelled by a national curriculum or a university degree, it ranged freely over arts and science and he devoured books on mathematics and vintology as avidly as the whodunnits of PD James. He taught himself the piano and played his own composition with electrifying zest, his long hair tumbling as his fingers flew.

He was a generous spirit: in terms of money and outlook. His last action before a stroke paralysed him was to order surprise presents for his grandchildren and his first faltering words when we visited in hospital were to ask if they had arrived. His philosophy, when his children were grown, was that any life decision they made was the right one by him, and his sense of honour avoided gossip. If he disliked someone's deeds or character he declined to discuss them - unless they were politicians.

He was a contented soul. Happiness, I always thought, was something you strove for, or was bestowed on you by wealth or circumstance. He taught me that happiness can be extracted from the here and now. His small flat, his sudoko puzzles, his weekly pint and his beloved Peaks were his bliss. When age assaulted him he refused to complain. He gleaned the best in people and he knew how to count his blessings and those infectious skills are perhaps his most valuable bequest of all.

14 comments:

  1. He sounds like an amazing man. So sorry for you all x

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  2. That is a most wonderful obituary and paints a fantastic picture of a man in my head, who must have brought great pleasure to your family while enjoying his life. A sad loss.

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  3. A truly lovely tribute to a one who sounds like a truly lovely man.

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  4. Beautiful. Clearly a lovely person, and a very sad loss for all of you. x

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  5. Good for you. Difficult piece to write and I'm sure you were weeping as you wrote it. Seven years ago I wrote a similar column about my Mum's death and how we told the children. Still makes me cry when I read it but I think I'm more proud of it than any other piece of writing I've done. So as I say, good for you and I hope you read and re-read the tribute over the years ahead.

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  6. Super tribute - very sad news. Pass on my thoughts to Edward xxx

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  7. He sounds like a wonderful man and grandfather. Your tribute has made him so clear in my mind's eye. What a character. x

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  8. What a lovely words. How wonderful for your kids to have known such a great grandfather. You must all be so sad to say goodbye. xxx

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  9. What a beautifully written tribute. So sorry for the loss of a man who was obviously so well-respected and loved.

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  10. It is wonderful you have such good memories. I am very sorry for your loss.

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  11. A beautiful tribute Anna. Take care of you and yours at this difficult time.

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  12. I am sorry to hear about your loss. This was a very beautiful and personal post, and it was a privelege to read it.

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  13. Anna I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your father-in-law. As others above have said this is a beautiful piece of writing, but I think the best thing about it is that you and your family sound like you have all learned a lot about how to live your lives from this lovely man. x

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