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Welcome to the world of the Vincent D'Onofrio obsessed - and a bit of real life thrown in.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Late Dad

It's 20 years ago today that my father died. He was 46 when I was born, so he'd actually made it to 81 when a final stroke killed him.

He was born in 1906, to a German family, and though they were not interned during WW1, he was held back in school for four years, so although he was bright, he had no real chance of an education. Not that many working class children did then.

He learnt his father's trade of baker, though the shop was passed down to the eldest son, and dad was only ever employed by others. He joined the Merchant Navy as a cook and sailed around the world, visiting Australia, Argentina and the far east.

My mum's brother was my dad's best friend, which is how they met, but mum was 12 years younger. He was sure of his choice, however, and when she was 20 they married - just months before the Second World War. They decided not to start a family till the war had ended, which is why he was an older parent.

Being a baker, dad was in a reserved occupation, and did not have to join the forces. As dockers, my mum's brothers were in the same situation. My immediate family was unaffected by deaths in the conflict, though they did spend months on end sleeping in the air raid shelter in the garden. Dad was an air-raid patrol warden, however, so not only did he have to start work very early in the mornings to bet the bread baked in time for people's breakfast, he was also on patrol for many hours a night, checking that people applied the blackout properly.

In 1946 my parents produced a baby boy, but he was stillborn. The next year, my sister was born, then five years later I came along.

Bakers' pay was low in the small local shops dad preferred to work in (he hated the big factories and shift work) and he worked very hard to support his family, six days a week getting up at 2am, working till midday, going home to lunch, an afternoon nap, evening with the family, then bed at 9.30 to be ready to rise early again the next day. Even at Christmas he was in bed early to be up in time to make the early morning dough.

I've always felt that dad didn't really have a life. He never complained. He handed his pay straight over to mum each week, and she budgeted every penny to make sure we could afford the necessities, and a few modest luxuries. I owe them both so much.

This Christmas photo was taken in my aunt's living room. It must have been about 1979 or 1980, judging from my curly hairstyle (I'm on the left, with my parents next to me).

This photo was taken in the back garden of the house where I was raised (I was actually born in my aunt's house next door to the right). I seem to be about 5 or 6, so it must be the late 1950s.

This is dad's entry in the Book of Remembrance at the crematorium. The badge is the emblem of the Bakers' Union. Dad was a lifelong union man, not that it did him the slightest bit of good.

On the outside wall of the crematorium is a place for plaques, and I added mum's name to dad's.

I wish dad had lived to see me contact his family in Canada. I wish I could ask him about the ones he'd known but never mentioned. I don't believe he and mum are up there looking down but sometimes I wish they were.


BobbyG said...

Very nice tribute to your dad, Val. My dad passed away on August 19th...16 years ago and I've been going over in my mind the things I want to mention about him on my blog on Tuesday. Your dad sounds like he was an honest, hard working, dedicated family-man...a good man. Thanks for sharing him with the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

'To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die'

JanetOOO said...

What a nice tribute. My own father passed at the
age of 58. I was 21 at the time. He was a railroad
engineer. It is now 28 years later and I still
remember the sound of his voice and smell of
his after shave. Diane is right, if they are still
in your heart they are still with you.

Eliza said...

I think Diane said it perfectly.Thank you for sharing with us,your dad sounds like he was a good man.

jazzy said...

i hope you don't feel so sad today, val!
it sounds your parents had a very interesting life; thank you for a insight into it. especially your dad's generation got so much to tell!

Claire said...

That was certainly the way things were done then. My mom is Italian and her dad was a stone mason. Also another hard working man.
Men did what needed to be done then and didn't complain about it.
I'm sorry for your loss Val. I respectfully think he must be in heaven with your mom. And yes, they are smiling down at you too :)

SnarkAngel said...

Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful insight into your lovely family. A very special tribute, indeed. And that plaid skirt you were wearing in the one photo really takes me back! LOL! XOXO

Goddessdster said...

I'm sure if your dad had been asked, he would have told you he did have a life. It was to provide for his family and see to their health and comfort. Men were raised with simpler goals when times were tough.

Your father sounds like a gem. I love all the photos!

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