It’s nearly two years since my Dad died. It feels longer. He lived a good life, much longer than he expected, fit as a fiddle and accommodating a chronic lung condition. I could write about how I miss the smile he always had for me, how my daughter resembles him so strongly that I catch my breath sometimes, or how since he died my siblings and I are that much further apart, now Dad is not here to orbit.
But instead, a tribute to his uniqueness – a recignition that I have many more smiles than tears.
My Dad – Martin, or Marty to his brothers and sisters – was born in 1935 in a hamlet near the village of Cloneygowan, Offally in the middle of Ireland. There was a smalholding; my Grandad Martin cut and sold peat from the peat bogs and my Great-Grandad James had trained horses. The house is still in the family, having been passed down through youngest sons…is this a particularly Irish tradition?
Dad was one of 13 children, and was never in good health. He contracted TB and missed much of his formal education, telling me once he didnt get much secondary school education at all. When he was 14 he started manual work, eventually moved to Liverpool then in his early 20s moved to the East Midlands as a bricklayer helping build Drakelow Power Station, which he saw get demolished 50 years later.
Im smiling to myself that I move so quickly to what my Dad did for a living…a measure of my own life and how I relate to people I guess. My Dad would *never* do this. He had no idea what I did for a job (although would smirk that I never really left school) and I never once heard him ask or really show much interest in what anyone did for work. Irrelevant. He would gauge a person from their banter, who they knew and how willing they were to buy a round.
My Dad knew everyone. We would all walk to mass on Sundays through the town and he would know every single person we came across by name. Always a smile, a hail and a joke for folk he knew through work, a drink, church, schools, as neighbours or the domino league.
He was very good at dominos, a demon at DIY, and he loved crosswords. When I was growing up the only book we had in the house was a dictionary. Kept in Dad’s cupboard and having long lost its covers, it was at least 4 inches thick and would be pulled out on a daily basis for the newspaper crosswords. ORB. The first dictionary word I ever learned from him.
These memories are the only thing that connects me to my childhood now. The terraced house that was home to 7 of us is lived in by someone else, I left my hometown when I was 16 and live a life that is unrecognisable from the one I was born into. So, I might not be able to have lunch with my Dad today, but just thinking about him helps smooth out some of the disjoints in my life.
Martin Joseph Young 1935 – 2013