Recently, I found out that someone who had a large impact on my formative years had died. I read the obituary and was frustrated by the brevity of the text:father of…. Loving grandfather of Fond father-in-law of…” His work was summed up between two dates and the locations were of his birth, death and funeral.
And yet with all this brevity a range of memories and images came tumbling back – jostling, it seems, for attention. A farm in a rural hamlet, hens,brown eggs, a kitchen farmhouse, a ‘secret staircase’ a white down stairs bathroom,spiral staircase to an attic study, cubed 1970s furniture, lots of emerald green, a downstairs dining room with deep shag pile carpet, a balcony over looking the bay, a long lawn with a cardboard box that scared this man half to death as it rolled about the grass propelled by two mischievous children.
A coal bunker, gas fires, a yellow kitchen – the cook, his wife wearing high heels straight from work. My amazement that this man walked to work, a battered brown leather briefcase, red biros, papers tumbling, secluded in the dining room with marking, sunday lunch, sunday school, saturday morning elevenses with milky coffee heated in a suacepan and chocolate digestives, forays to the then (1974 ish? ) new Tesco, Mini 1000, and austin metro, window boxes with geraniums, wild strawberriesin hedgerows and sucking the stamens of honey suckle flowers, hot summers, and then holding me tight on the day my father died in the path alongside the house. Saturday afternoons watching Grandstand in black and white, his effortless way of explaining rules and summing up problems succinctly.
We lost touch over thirty years ago, and if I remember these things, how many more memories do his family have? And how right it is that he was a loving husband of…, father of…, fond father in law of…, grandfather of… , and brother of…
My only claim is to the memories evoked in me, how he made me aware of the world of education for it’s own sake, his simple self-effacing explanation of how he was appointed to his post, his love for his family and his heritage.
Some weeks ago a gentle, modest man died among his extended family and how much richer we all are for knowing him.