A Road Less Travelled

I’ve been for the last official goodbye to my Dad. Down in his home town of Newark for a memorial service. Below are my final thoughts, the ones I shared at his cremation.

When Dad lived in Newark and would come to visit us in Campbeltown he loved the  440 odd mile drive up here to see us. And he used to have his own way of getting here, often avoiding motorways and taking smaller roads in the general direction of The North West. After crossing the Scottish border at Gretna he would always come off the M74 and drive on the B7076 which, along with other B roads, follows the motorway most of the way to Glasgow.

Last week, with Ineke, we were driving home ourselves, from Manchester, and on the way I decided I was going to follow in Dad’s footsteps so to speak. We left the motorway at Gretna and took his journey on a lovely,  quiet road for about 70 miles. I’m glad we did it. I think we’ll be doing it again in the future.

It was a nice way for me to make a connection with Dad. That was something I had always struggled to do. I was very different from him, and he probably struggled just as much connecting with me, especially after I lost my faith. I know that was a disappointment to him. But I like to think that he respected the fact that I was not just believing something out of a sense of obligation, but that I was genuinely trying to find the truth as it made sense to me. Whether that is the case or not, I know that the one thing we had in common, if nothing else, was an inclination to follow that road less travelled.

Dad, as you know, trained as an accountant. And to be honest, there was nobody more cut out to be an accountant than Dad. If you asked him, in later years, for memories and anecdotes from his childhood, you would struggle to get anything. On the other hand, he could still remember the telephone number of the neighbour who lived next door to them at Parkdale Road in Nottingham when he was boy.

Dad and Numbers went together like peas in a pod.

And yet….partly because of his faith, and partly i suspect because he married Mum, and maybe  also because he himself had a hidden anarchic streak, he ended up doing things and being things that were almost at odds with what appeared to be his fundamental character.

I suspect his adult life must have been a challenge to him in ways that we didn’t always appreciate, and though we, of course, weren’t privy to all the decision making that went on, I do think, in retrospect, that it was an unusual life journey for somebody like Dad to take.

Firstly, he left a potentially long, lucrative and secure career in accounting to go to Bible College. Doing things like singing and preaching in the streets of Birmingham. Afterwards moving in with another family for a while near Wolverhampton. Then to suburbia in Toton, Nottingham where he became a lay preacher in the Methodist church and  returned to accountancy in a self employed capacity. He was always a generous man, and I’m pretty sure many of his clients then were people who couldn’t afford a more  usual accountant.

In Toton people came and lived in our house with us at times. We got a car, a Ford Corsair, which my Uncle Peter, as well as fixing the engine, painted bright Dulux green on each cigar shaped side, and splatted with a big “Hallelujah” sticker on the front bonnet. There weren’t many of those kind of cars in Toton. Just the one in fact. And, again, my Dad would have been the last person you would have thought to be its owner.

And later still he became a full time minister. This time in, of all things, a Pentecostal church. I say “of all things” for the very same reasons. Our formal and proper father didn’t seem the obvious choice for a church denomination where they notoriously swing from the chandeliers. Never the less, Dad took that step too.

And he learnt to swing in his own way.

For most of his later years, Dad worked for the pentecostal Assemblies of God denomination as their accountant. That might have been a case of all his passions coming together. During that time he lived and worked in Newark. He retired while he was there. And then, quite soon, he had to take care, for a number of years, and with very great dedication and love, of our Mum, while she had dementia.

Finally, Dad himself became in need of more care. And he came to live with us in Campbeltown, with my sister and her family close by as well, who provided so much help.

In his 8 months living here he settled in well and became a known face in Campbeltown, and a part of his new community. I’m personally so glad he was here for these final few months, and that the end didn’t come when he was alone in his old house with all of us miles away. And, in reflection, I’m glad for his sake, that after he went through the trauma of breaking his hip, and the long day of procedures and travel to Glasgow, that the end, in the end, was quick.

In our last conversation together on Saturday morning four weeks ago, he made a joke about me missing his mouth when I tried to give him a drink of water before he went down for the surgery.

And that was it. Two hours later I got the news, and I was spending my final half hour alone in his company. It was good to have a phone call with my sister Julie, allowing us to share those initial painful moments of shock and grief.

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has loved and supported Dad over the years, and to those who have expressed their gratitude for being loved and supported by Dad.

And thank you for loving and supporting us now.

Life is a wonderful and special privilege and our Dad definitely spent his life on
A Road Less Travelled.

I plan to carry on, carrying on that tradition.

Discover Fee’s Journey To The End Of The Earth

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