Monday, November 19, 2007

Saying Goodbye to 'Lucky Dave'

Last week the world lost a true gentleman. My father-in-law, referred in this column in the past as ‘Lucky Dave’ passed away last Thursday at the ripe old age of 81.
Chances are that if you are reading this column on Friday morning I’ll be attending his funeral in his native England and listening to my niece and nephews, and also my husband, pay tribute to a man who remained somewhat of an enigma in my life.
Being a typical Derry woman, when I first met my husband I was determined to impress his family. I knew, like many a good woman before me and since, that you don’t have family on your side you are beat from the start. But being the shy and retiring type (which honestly, I am) I was a bag of nerves.
I had two sisters and a father to impress and if all accounts from my then boyfriend were anything to go by, they would need some impressing.
I was a lowly student, living in the most godforsaken hole of digs in Belfast studying for a career in journalism. Money was on the non-existant side of tight and added to this I had a broad Derry accent, with a distinct Belfast twang which they - being very cultured from Cheshire - would struggle to understand. I met my prospective father-in-law at his daughter’s wedding.
I don’t think I opened my mouth to him apart from to offer to buy a drink and say hello (not in that order, mind). I immediately found myself in a situation where I did not know how to address him.
Of course, he told me his name was David and I was to address him as such, but he was older than my own grandparents and it seemed rude not to refer to him as Mr Allan - and yet, that seemed too formal so throughout the next 10 years of our relationship I rarely addressed him by name and just smiled a lot instead to get his attention.
If I’m honest, in my own way, I spent the last 10 years trying to show him that me, and the husband, could make a success of ourselves. He was the first member of my husband’s family to visit our house when we bought it. At the time we had furniture for just two rooms and had to hastily buy a bed and curtains for the spare room to make it habitable before his arrival.
Things went swimmingly during that first visit, we had a lovely lunch in Pitchers and he played a round of golf with my other half and then - later that evening - we went to Badgers for a quick drink as it had been recommended to him by someone in Florida, of all places.
We returned home, on that biting January night, to find the oil had run out and my husband quickly lit a fire which we huddled round until we could get an emergency top up of oil on that snowy night. I feared then that David/ Mr Allan/ the man I smiled at instead of addressing by name, would never venture to our badly run home again. But he did, when our son, who we gave the middle name of David, was just three weeks old and now one of our most treasured possessions is without a doubt our photograph of three generations of Allan men.
But when it comes to memories, perhaps our most precious will now be of the Christmas we spent in Cheshire just before Joseph turned two.
It was well documented in these pages that I didn’t really want to go. I’m a homebird and as far as Christmas is concerned I want to be by the banks of the Foyle and in driving distance of my mammy’s home baked applepie. But we went and spent our Christmas day at my father in law’s house in an idyllic setting by the River Dane. Along with his wife Kay he cooked up a storm and all the grandchildren played nicely with Joseph while we enjoyed a relaxing day playing games, eating great food and enjoying the fresh Cheshire air. We even had our very own Tiny Tim moment when, just as we sat down to eat, Joseph piped up with “Merry Christmas” in his babyish voice.
The following night, at my sister in law’s house, Joseph wanted to see the stars so as I stood in the back garden with him singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’, David/ Mr Allan/ the man I smiled at instead of addressing by name came and stood outside with us. We chatted for a little while before Joseph, again in his babyish voice, told his Grandpa he loved him “Oh Grandpa loves you too,” my father-in-law replied. “Very much”. And it was true.
His life was most enriched by his family, and especially his grandchildren James, Ashleigh, Ben and of course Joseph. We’re all saying goodbye this morning, and it was never going to be easiest thing in the world, but at least we have many happy and warm memories to keep us going. My own dearly departed and much loved Granda would have said, TTFN David, Ta Ta For Now.

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