"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

last dance


I must be losing it.  I spent about two hours last night writing a blog post about my Dad.  He has been on my mind lately so sometimes the best way to sort out things in my head is to write about what goes on in this crazy head.   Then as I was thinking about a title for the post, I thought to myself  "Jennifer, I am sure you have written something like this before".  A quick search in my archives and I had and here it is (if you too need to remind yourself or if you have not been following me for very long). I know Aunty Norma will need no reminding and would have caught me out had I published last night's efforts.  The story from last night was much the same as in April last year, maybe a bit more light hearted but it was repetitive in parts so I pressed the "Delete" button and started all over again.   

I think of my Dad more in February than at other times of the year, it is around the time of my birthday and the anniversary of his death (very considerately the day after my birthday) that he seems to be around me more than usual. (His ashes are still gift wrapped and placed very regally in the fireplace in my office).  After the death of Margaret last month (who was all alone and did not have any children) I was even more saddened remembering the lonely end my Dad had to his life (and he did have children - Dalene and I and then two stepchildren and a son of his own from his second marriage).

Back to February - on 7 February 1959, the story goes that he phoned the nursing home during tea time of his cricket match and was quite surprised to find out that my mom had already delivered me and that I would be a Jennifer (and not the expected "Stephen").  He popped down to the Mowbray Maternity during his lunch break to check that everything was OK and that there was had not been some awful mistake.  By 1.45 he was back on the field for the afternoon session (and did not miss an over).  

It is sometimes hard to remember my Dad in his glory days before Alzheimer's claimed his brain.  However, I do remember:-

his giggle and cackle and the way he laughed 
until he shook 
and how the tears would fill up in his eyes
his very distinctive lovely hands 
(which both Nic and Kelly have inherited)
his beautiful handwriting and perfect printing 
and how being left-handed never hampered 
his writing and drawing skills
his china blue eyes and freckles on his back 
(which I thought looked like Post Toasties)
his love of the sea and teaching us how to ride a wave
on our lilos
and how to catch a wave to bodysurf 
holidays and the sea in
Port Elizabeth, Margate and Port Alfred
his love of music
(Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, Trini Lopez, Tom Jones 
and some obscure group called Shakatak) 
and of him trying so hard to teach me how to waltz 
to follow his feet and not try to "lead" him
"1-2-3 and 1-2-3 and 1-2-3"
(I still don't know exactly what that means)
This picture gets me all choked up.

I remember the last time I danced with him was on his 70th birthday.  He could no longer hold a conversation but he danced with both Dalene and I in his sister's small and smokey kitchen (and he did not (and could not) complain that I still did the "leading").  

father daughter dancing

Unfortunately I do not remember having any deep conversations with him.  He did not speak about feelings or love or relationships or what made him happy or sad.  He preferred to chat about sport and particularly cricket.  He would also prefer be in a corner or around the fire with the men (and boys) rather than chatting to the ladies.

But he did teach me about music and tried his best to teach me to dance.  I also had a bonus of learning lots about the rules of cricket and golf from him.  At the end of the day I think I scored by being Jennifer and not Stephen.  I cannot imagine my father teaching Stephen to dance.  It just would not have been the same.

 Daughter-Father Dancing Shoes: So cute!  Tiny clogs and big clogs all in one to facilitate father-daughter dancing
Slippers that may have helped Cyril to teach Jennifer to dance in 1963

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