In sitting down to right this eulogy, I have tried to think about the ways in which we might best collectively remember than man I called ‘dad’. I have so many personal memories of him. We had so much fun together and so much of who I am is his work but ultimately these memories are deeply personal and perhaps only mum, Alex and I would feel connected by them.
I will get to these memories in a moment. For now what we need is a shared memory by which we can all connect with the man that Alex and I called, dad, you called Jeff and my mum used to like calling ‘jeffery bobbles bom bom’.
What might that thing be, perhaps we could start with some well-loved catch phrases.
Are you alright? No I’m half left
How are you? Not three bad
It’s been ages, how are you? All the better for seeing you my dear
And of course who can forget
How do you feel dad? I’ll let you know when I’ve recovered
How poignant that one now sounds. I guess not this time dad.
We might consider his little routines and obsessions. For example, no matter how many times we talked about turning off all the lights, making sure the TV wasn’t left in standby mode and that the front door was properly locked before we came to bed, dad would still insist on giving us a full run down of this routine whenever Alex or I would visit.
We could also rely entirely on things like shoes, keys and wallets not being where we left them. Dad would insist on moving these things to somewhere safe, from what they were at risk of always eluded us but it was always a fun to play, ‘where the bloody hell has dad put my keys and wallet now?’
Again it’s poignant and ironic to acknowledge that this creeping obsessive compulsive like behaviour was perhaps the earliest sign that something wasn’t right, as were the bad jokes, the punchline of which you could see coming from a good weeks before it was delivered.
But this is not what I remember him by. Those memories, though funny in some respects are also difficult. Better then to remember the man who made Alex and I who we are. Here are some of those memories.
I’m two years old. I’m wearing a dark blue parker jacket, tartan trousers (this was the 70s) and wellies. There are two buckets of soapy water next to a dark blue Volkswagen Beetle and apparently, we are supposed to move the water from the bucket and on to the car via a sponge in a broadly circular motion. But somehow, far more of the water has ended up on me rather than the car. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for dad, quite the opposite in fact, but mum isn’t seeing the funny side and seems to think that dad has failed somewhat in his fatherly duties. As I am inside getting changed, I think dad is cool.
Dad is teaching me how to use a camera. He’s explaining about shutter speeds and what aperture is and how the hole gets exactly twice as large as the numbers get not quite half as big. I’m only eight so this doesn’t really make any sense to me, but I am quite interested in his copies of Amateur Photographer as they have lots of nice pictures of women with boobies in them. I think dad is pretty awesome.
Alex and I are both dangling from ropes off the side of Windgather Rocks. We’re wearing hemp cloth britches made by mum, big angry red socks and walloping great walking boots and basically look like we’ve just stepped out of an L. S. Lowry painting, but we don’t care because how many other ten years olds get taken rock climbing by their dads?
It’s 9 O’clock in the evening. Dad, Alex and I are lying in a tent in a campsite in the Langdale Valley. Earlier that day Dad, Alex and I were perched high on the side of Pavey Ark having just climbed up Jakes Rake. Dad has taught us all the verses of The Manchester Rambler song and we’ve just had dinner of Cumberland Sausage and chips in the Old Dungeon Ghyll. Alex and I had Coca Cola because we are only ten and 12 but dad has had quite a few pints of his favourite beer ‘Jennings’ and is now telling us all about Eskimo Nell and how he would hitch hike up to the Lakes as a young man to go walking and climbing with his mates. Once they had a bbq in a cave high up on the side of one of the valleys; they’d spent all day hauling beer and food in rucksacks up to it. I think dad is basically god.
We’re still ten miles from home on the run back from the café stop at Crannage. I’ve got the bonk and we’re riding into a headwind across the Cheshire plain; my legs are dead and there’s nothing left in the tank. Dad’s hand is gently pressing on my lower back as he coaxes me home.
I’m sitting in mum’s car with everything I own packed into it. I’m 18 and about to leave home for the first (but not the last) time. I’m only going down the road to Altrincham to work in a bar during my year out so it really doesn’t occur to me that this might be something of a big deal to dad. Mum comes out of the house and looks at me. I give her a look that says ‘come on let’s get going’ but before I can voice this opinion mum tells me that dad is sat inside very upset because I’ve left without even saying goodbye. It then dawns on me that this is a big deal.
I get out of the car and give you a big hug and tell you goodbye dad.