When Father Died

When my father died in May 1996 at the age of  81 it came as a shock. He didn’t look as if he was that age more like mid seventies. It was also almost a shock  that he was actually that age. I can still see him in my mind when he came back from WW2 as a youthful 30 year old. We were not close. But that isn’t surprising. There must be thousands of war babies like me who didn’t know their father because of the war. It must have been a difficult time for parents in those days, never knowing whether they would see their loved ones again. We can’t begin to know how it was for them.  The other complication in father/son relationship is that his father left home when he was three years old so he lacked the role model that is so necessary for bringing up a son.

He was a good husband and a good provider for his family. He worked hard at his job as manager of a grocery store and eventually as area supervisor of the groups’ shops in Yorkshire. Melias was the name of the group. The biggest competitor was Liptons. Both are long gone since the advent of the supermarkets.

In 1956 he was offered promotion as area supervisor for the South of England stores so the family uprooted and moved south. It didn’t quite work out however, and after a period of managing a supermarket in Drury Lane, London, he eventually bought his own grocery store near Slough in Buckinghamshire.

He ran that for many years and made a good living. He was always a hard worker and was never out of work. When he sold the shop just in time before small grocery stores were to be wiped out by the supermarkets he took a job in a factory. He was prepared to do anything rather than be out of work and it must have been a huge culture shock for him.

He and mother moved to Paignton in Devon to prepare for retirement. He still worked – at a local cash & carry – until retirement age. Unfortunately his health declined after a few years of retirement and it was not an easy time for either him or mother.

I am still haunted by the sight of him in the ‘dying’ room in Torbay hospital. He had been taken in because he couldn’t pass water. He had a tumour on his bladder that appears to have been cured by radiotherapy. The treatment had shrunk the bladder. For some time he had a catheter fitted but now even that wasn’t helping.

He went in for tests and further treatment but the doctors decided there was nothing they could do – recent evidence suggests that he wasn’t given treatment because he was over 70. It seems that the NHS operates a “death penalty” for patients over 70 these days. I have heard of bladder bypass operations just as a colostomy can bypass the bowel. If we knew more then and didn’t just take the doctors “nothing can be done” he could have gone private. On the other hand they may have not been telling all the story. A second opinion must be worth taking – he could have lived for several more years.

He knew he was dying but he was doped up with drugs so hopefully he didn’t suffer. He drowned in his own fluids.It was heart rending to watch.

We hadn’t been close like he was with my brother, but then he was around when my brother was born and he saw him grow up, unlike me, so I suppose that is understandable.

During a conscious moment, as he lay on his deathbed, he beckoned his two sons over. My brother went to him immediately but I hung back because that’s the way it was. I didn’t think he meant me as well. With my brother at his side he beckoned again for me to come.

I went over and held his hand with tears streaming down my face. I felt at that moment, for the first time in my life, that my father accepted me. It’s a pity it had to be just at the very end but I do feel better for that nonetheless. Yes, I’m still haunted by that.

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