My dad is dead.
He died ten days ago. Funny thing was, we didn’t even know that he was seriously sick at the time. He went for some blood test results on the Thursday and they were concerned that his liver was enlarged and so they sent him to the local hospital. The doctor’s decided to admit him for a few days to complete follow-up tests.
At 3.15 on Sunday afternoon, we were told that he had cancer that had spread to his liver and kidneys and at 07.40 on Monday morning, he was pronounced dead.
Surprisingly, I have not become the heartbroken automaton that I expected myself to become at this event.
For one thing, Daddi went out the way that he preferred: with no long period of suffering or increasing frailty.
At age 74, he went to the gym four or five times a week. The doctors explained that he was so fit that his body compensated for the cancer – which is why it took multiple organ failure to realise anything was wrong.
Although his death was sudden, I can’t seem to sustain any deep sadness because ultimately, we had our time with him. That dazzling and beautiful creature that drew others to him because he made life seem like the greatest of adventures, he was ours and we had our time with him.
He was able to see us grow fully into our personalities and we got to experience him in his fullness: to know him as both children and adults – and discovered that he became more fascinating the older we got.
It made for a powerful personality because he was fascinated by people, places, behaviours and words. And he used both his and others’ experiences like a magnifying glass to explore the world and what the fact of living actually meant.
The Johavah’s Witnesses round our way learned to fear him. The man would happily take any leaflets being distributed, and not only would he read them and think about their contents, but he would return later holding editions of Watchtower and Awake! magazines that he’d written notes all over. He would spend hours discussing the Bible with them – and considering we come from a family of preachers and teachers, the man knew what he was talking about and could quote verses with the best of them.
More than that, he also studied the Qur’an and Torah and enjoyed discussing their contents with the various religious representatives that crossed his path.
“Listen with both your ears and all of your brain.”
Daddi believed in learning – both in and out of the classroom.
He never signed my Homework Book until he had seen the completed work, read through it and if he felt it wasn’t up to par, he’d make me redo it.
My teachers quickly learnt to recognise him at Parents’ Evenings as he attended with written questions about the curriculum.
When a Year 8 teacher mentioned that I had a tendency to zone out during their class, Daddi’s swift response was “You have my permission to beat her when she does that”. The horrified teacher quickly informed dad that he couldn’t do that; to which my father replied “Do you need written permission?” and proceeded to take out his notebook to start writing the permission slip there and then.
And I’ll never forget the mock exams he structured at home using the Times Educational Supplement.
Let me tell you; once you’ve survived exam conditions at the kitchen dining table with Mum preparing dinner around you, Dad settling the younger siblings for bed and the room slowly filling with the scent of spinach stew and yam, the 2-hour German Exam is a walk in the park.
Daddi made friends wherever he went.
We were on our way home having dropped mum off at the airport when we came across a large crowd surrounding St Paul’s church. Daddi stood me by a police man and said he was going to find out what was happening.
Next thing I know, he’s back, grabbing my hand and pushing his way through the crowd.
Then he pushes a bunch of flowers into my hands and says “Give it to the lady”. And all of a sudden, I’m taking photos with people I do not know (Can you tell?)
The lavender-covered woman to my left turned out to be the Queen Mother.
To this day, I don’t know how Daddi managed to get hold of a bunch of flowers and push his way through a police cordon to get this shot.
Another time, Daddi came home and mentioned meeting some “lovely boys” who came to do some filming around his building. He said “They even came and found me to say goodbye before they left and we took a photo. They said they would send it to me.”
Yep. That’s my dad. Surrounded by the band members from Blur.
Daddi never shied away from the difficult conversations.
When I was twelve, my dad sat me down and explained about racism: how some people would have a problem with my skin colour and try to limit my options or dislike me because of it. He explained how important it was to deal with the person in front of you and respond to people based on their actions and attitude towards me.
His words put a difficult subject into clear focus and made me capable of making friends with people of all skin types; and venturing to places where I was the only darkie for miles.
Then my father finished with the words:
“And if anyone asks you where we’re from, tell them we’re Scottish: and part of the McWog clan”.
From that time onwards, whenever any of us went away, we’d send home postcards addressed to ‘Papa McWog’ and the ‘McWog Clan’.
Daddi never took himself or life too seriously. He had a playful – and often naughty – sense of humour
Like the time I exited my graduation ceremony to be stopped by an usher who told me, “Your dad said to meet him in the pub around the corner”. I got there to find him and my mate Gus chilling over drinks.
Turns out Daddi got bored during the speeches and talked Gus into skipping out. As far as he was concerned, he’d seen me get up to collect my certificate and everything after that was just decoration.
Simply put, I had the best father. And many of our friends would agree with my sentiment.
A friend wrote “Although we only met him a few times, we always felt completely at ease in his company”.
And another wrote “I am grateful I know your daddy. His voice, his words and his annoying ability to look further than us all shall always be my enduring memory of him”.
Rest well, Tuesday Sterlyn.
Goodbye and thank you for the example that you set.
And for making the best jollof we have ever tasted.
Related Posts: Other celebrations of my father
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AUTHOR: I am might war. I have a love of music, the written word, travel, Anime, polar bears, people and “sticking and colouring”.