My old Dad

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Having told you about my Mum, in the interest of gender equality I think I should tell you a little about my old Dad. He was a quiet man – “anything for an easy life” sort of chap. To be honest he was a bit hen-pecked, but would stand up for himself when he could be bothered. My parents did bicker a lot, but there was no doubt that they were devoted to each other.

Their relationship started in a novel way (and I am sure there could be a novel in there somewhere).

Mum became pregnant following a relationship with a soldier in 1947. I don’t know the details, but I believe he was Canadian and returned to his wife and family, probably not knowing the dilemma he left behind. Mum would have been twenty-two and had brought disgrace upon the family. She was not allowed to have the baby (my sister) at home and was forced to put her with foster parents. Mum was devastated not to be able to look after her adored baby full time and set about working very hard so that she could save enough money to leave the family home and rent somewhere where she could care for her child. In March 1949, when my sister was eleven months old Mum had saved enough to put her plan into action. She advertised in a local paper seeking accommodation for mother and child stating that she was widowed because there was such a huge stigma attached to unmarried mothers.

My father answered her advert. I had always known that their relationship started this way, but it was not until after my father’s death (six months after my mother died) when my brother and I were sorting through the contents of their house that I discovered most of the letters had been kept, tied in the inevitable ribbon.

The first letter that my father wrote in response to the advert was missing and my Mum’s reply was somewhat curt, suggesting that something in his letter was deemed inappropriate. But my Dad persisted and was so eloquent in his writing, as I had never known him to be in later life. I always knew my mother was a mistress of the English language but my Dad was a man of few words. I was amazed at his writing all those years ago.

They had a lot in common. Both were politically minded, of a socialist leaning. My Mum was a keen amateur dramatist and Dad was a youth worker for the Cooperative society, overseeing many youth groups in London.

Mum found lodgings with a kind landlady who could look after my sister whilst she went to work. Meanwhile Dad persisted in his letter writing and finally engineered a first meeting with Mum and baby around about the time of her first birthday on 18 April. They fell in love during that first meeting. They were married on 2 June 1949, just six weeks after meeting. Life was not easy, money was tight, but they lived happily together for fifty seven years, bringing up their family that grew to include my brother and me.

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They were good hard-working people. Politically active and great believers in a better life for all. They supported each other absolutely.

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When my Mum died in 2006, Dad had been suffering from vascular dementia for a while. His short term memory was shot, probably due to his daily 40+ nicotine habit. He found it difficult to understand that Mum had died and clung on to a photo of her.

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Just after mum died my house sale completed and I moved to a small property that Dad couldn’t have coped with, due to the stairs. I think he could have been happy in an old people’s home – he loved chatting to other old codgers about nothing in particular. But my brother wanted to look after him, and Dad wanted to go to stay. After only a short period, maybe less than a week, Dad suffered a fall and broke his hip. For various reasons they did not operate straight away and Dad’s health deteriorated. He was eventually moved to a cottage hospital close to my brother’s home where he continued to be neglected by the staff and was released into my brother’s care with support from the district nurses. He died within the week, just about six months after Mum, just short of his eighty third birthday. He shouldn’t have died, he could have lived a happy life for years. The system let him down. And I always felt that I let him down also. He was a good man, he should not have been allowed to waste away.

However, I guess he lost his way when he no longer had Mum to boss him around. He didn’t know what to do with himself. I felt much sadder about Dad’s death than I had about Mum. She fought until the last; he just gave up on life.

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Mum was the driving force in the family, but since his death I have realised what a great influence Dad had on me. I use so many phrases that were his, say things in the same manner as him. I am constantly reminded of him and only after his death do I realise how much a part of my life he was and is.

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About magwood

Trepidatious Traveller - camino blog is about preparing for and walking the Camino de Santiago. Many future pilgrims have found the blog useful and inspiring, and many who have no plans to walk the camino have simply enjoyed the dialogue http://www.magwood.me
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12 Responses to My old Dad

  1. Heather says:

    Choked Maggie xx

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    • magwood says:

      It is great that we both have such fond memories of each other’s parents. Proof of a long and enduring friendship, that I treasure greatly xx

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  2. Rosie says:

    Mum this made me cry, it is really lovely and they would both be very proud of you. I love and miss them very much and they both had a big influence on me. I wish so much that Mikey could have known them, I envy people my age that still have their grandparents they are very special people and I think of them all the time. I hope Mikey has the same relationship with you and dad as I had with them, I learnt so much from them and loved them so much. As you say they were both really good, honest people and so kind (people like this seem few and far between these days!) I see a lot of them in you, and in me I find myself doing and saying things they way they did. Love you millions, I hope the weather was better for you today, I have just sent you the pictures xxx

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    • magwood says:

      Thank you my darling. Your dad and I already see a lot more of Mikey than grandma and grandad saw of you when you were young. It is quicker for me to get to Bristol than it was for us to get to visit them. I started singing ‘oh what a beautiful morning’ today and realised that grandad would have done the same thing. I shall continue to teach Mikey to sing ‘daisy, daisy’ next time I see him and he can carry on the tradition of silly songs. Thanks for the photos, Love you xxx

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  3. Christine and Malcolm says:

    Oh Maggie, that is so lovely what you have written about your Mum and Dad. Malcolm x

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  4. Ah maggie how lovely what you have just written about your love for your dad,i had the priveledge of knowing him for over twenty years and was very fond of him he was a really nice man,mandy,jodie and my grandchildren loved him dearly and your mum of course goes without saying,i said to your mum once i wished she was my mum and she replied i was her third daughter and i burst out crying,never knew how your mum and dad met so was lovely to find out about ther life together,always thought very highly of you maggie and always will my girls love you and your girls and little mikey is so gorgeous,take care on your travels with ella and i can assure you no one would ever think you let your dad down especially him,love elaine xxxx

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    • magwood says:

      Thanks Elaine, lovely comments. I know my parents thought of you and the girls as family and they loved seeing you all. We all have wonderful memories of the times we spent together. I hope we can get together next time I am back in the uk. Rosie, mike and Mikey are coming to Spain 2 June for a week so I won’t be back until July probably. Love to you and the girls xx

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  5. Maggie Gardner says:

    Maggie I am thoroughly enjoying your daily reports, I feel I am doing the journey with you from my computer but without blisters and a comfortable bed to sleep in each night!!
    I love this story of your Mum and Dad. Maggie x

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  6. Maureen Gillespie says:

    Hi Maggie, saw your piece in The Grapevine a couple of days ago and am now hooked on your blog! What a fantastic experience you’re having. V inspiring. Would love to do it myself one day. Also enjoyed accompanying you on your walks around Canillas.

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    • magwood says:

      Thanks Maureen. I am delighted that people re enjoying the blog, I did it primarily as a personal journal Nd am really enjoying writing it.

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  7. Cindy Jones says:

    Love the story about your Dad, thanks for sharing it with us. Cindy xx

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