I’ve been thinking a lot of my parents leading up to Xmas. My Dad would have had his 95th birthday on the 10th of December – if he’d lived that long. And it will have been fifteen years on the 4th of January since my Mum died. So at this time of the year, I remember them.
Dad was a boy sailor – in his day the choice was either HMS Ganges, or off to prison. He chose Ganges, and from there he went on to serve in the Royal Navy during World War Two. I think about the frightening times he must have experienced as his ships were sunk from under him. Of the men, and women he served with. (Dad spent some time onboard a Russian Ship, running the blockades with them, and he spoke of the brave Russian women, who sailed alongside the men). He was there at Dunkirk, as family legend has it that Dad unwitted a German who tried to capture him.
But Dad didn’t speak of the War to me, he kept it, as with most men of his generation, private. The day my Mother died, he spoke, as he got very drunk, of meeting my Mum on the buses in wartime England. This was the most he had ever opened up. Even during the worst days of my Mum’s fight against bowel cancer, he was there for her. After years of fighting and arguing, it was as if my Mum’s illness had brought them together at last.
My Mum. She left school at seven. That was how it was; and for the rest of her life; she valued an education and saw it as the way forward for all her children – all five of us. She saw the war in Britain, was at one point in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and a bus conductoress too. A very private woman, she kept her feelings to herself, and soldiered on with that stiff upper lip that the British are famous for.
I love both of them dearly, and miss them so very much. And I wonder what they would think of my life. Neither of them met my son, my Mum didn’t even meet my partner. My Dad did and for this I am grateful for. I have a photo taken of me, my Dad and my partner, the last Xmas my Dad lived through, and my son now has this photo in his room. And I always talk about my parents to my son, so that he too will have some of my memories of them to pass on. The tall tales of outrageous behaviour which my Dad excelled at, and stories of my Mum’s quiet wisdom. This is my gift to him, at this time of the year, memories the most precious gift of all.