I visited my dad at the weekend for a couple of days. After Mum's death, I think we had a period as a family where everyone was trying to work out what to do and say. How would we cope without our Director of Operations? Eight months later and things become a little clearer.
I am talking one on one with my Dad more these days. When I was a little girl, we used to wash up together and talk in this way. Or we would go up the park to walk the dog and share our news and views.
What can I say about my Dad? It would be so easy to underestimate Dad as he is to some extent a quiet man who speaks when there is something to say. When I was little, I saw him as my Dad and the one who went out to work to support us. I remember he used to give Mum housekeeping money and how he would treat her to magazines once a week. I used to devour the problem pages of Woman and Women's Own, constantly seeking then as now for wisdom and the meaning of life.
When I was a teenager, I did work experience with a solicitors' firm in Bradford. Suddenly, I realised what high regard Dad was held by senior lawyers and professionals in the city. They spoke of a sharp business brain - this was perhaps the first time that I realised Dad never blew his own trumpet even though he has plenty of cause to for a life well lived.
My Dad served in the Royal Navy during and after World War Two. Unlike his colleagues who would go on drunken rampages, Dad would ensure that he took full advantage of going to new countries, immersing himself in the culture and learning about the ways in which other people lived their lives. He spent eleven years in the Police Force in the Forties and Fifties when community policing was a very real concept. With a rebellious streak that I have only recently learned of, he walked out on the police with no job to go to when he sensed unfair treatment. With no retail experience, he bought a shop and along with mum, made a huge success of it. They did not have childcare for their young sons and this means that they worked around them with my brothers having vivid and amusing memories of that time. He also turned his hand to driving instruction when times were tight to bring in some extra pennies.
Mum and Dad adopted me in 1970 by which time Dad was working in insurance. At the weekend, Dad suddenly said to me "You know, I was the age you were when I lost my Mum". I had known that his mother had died about one month after I arrived at their home. And to my shame, I had never before put my mind to how difficult a time that must have been for him. After two years trying to find a baby to adopt, they had their little girl. However, how sad, that his Mum should die just after I arrived. There must have been some very bittersweet moments for him.
So, I realise day by day, that I am still uncovering elements of who my Dad is. My husband went out for a pint with him and told me that Dad was telling him of how he did some karaoke in the Nineties to amuse older people at a community centre. Dad has won prizes for photography and taught himself to paint and then did a course to improve his standards. He is a good singer and sings in a male voice choir. One of his claims to fame is that he once performed at the Royal Albert Hall. I suppose what I am trying to get across is that because Mum was such a full-on character, she was often my focus. It is lovely to get to know Dad better and to return to how we were before I went off to university in 1987. He is doing OK still telling me when washing up to "watch that knife, it's sharp" and still laughing although weeping for Mum still too. As he tickles my 4 year old at the weekend, I sense a continuation - memories made all the time carrying us forward and strengthening us for the future.