My Dad passed away last Sunday. Over the past week I have spent a lot of time thinking about the things that made Dad special.
He had a kind and gentle nature; a great sense of humour; and eyes that sparkled when he laughed. And he was a great storyteller. He could do all the voices - you just had to close your eyes and you were there. I owe my love of books and reading to the treasured times Dad and I shared, exploring books and stories as I was growing up.
Whenever I see a copy of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories I can hear Dad's voice rumbling "...on the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River; all set about with fever trees." Some of his other favourites were Mistress Masham's Repose, Gulliver's Travels, and The House at Pooh Corner.
He would regularly recite passages from his favourite stories and poems - with Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses; T S Elliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children being his favourites to share with me.
He was a man for whom words held a special power. In his flight log book was a neatly typed copy of the poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee. A book which held a special place in his heart was The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He carried a small copy of the Rubaiyat in his flying jacket, on every mission he flew for 75 (NZ) Sqn during WW2. That book was one of his most treasured possessions.
My only regret is that my two children have never really been able to meet the man I knew as my Dad. You see, Dad suffered from vascular dementia (which has basically the same degenerative effect on the brain and memory as Alzheimer's) and his memory was already failing him before my son was born 11 years ago. They missed out on those amazing storytelling sessions, and getting to know him as the wonderful, kind-hearted gentleman he was.
I'm sure that by now Dad has found himself a comfy chair, an endless supply of good books, some good bread and cheese, a gin and tonic close at hand, and no doubt a couple of cats to keep him company.
So long Dad. Ake ake kia kaha.