Tuesday, April 17, 2007


[I write this at the risk of upsetting everyone again.]

First of all, take a look at this song lyric.

I like the Rod Stewart version of this song: the slight rasp in his voice is perfect for it. But I also like the Al Jolson [who would now be considered very politically incorrect] version. I still have it and, as far as I know, Jolson's is the only version which has the antepenultimate line as " and when the day is through" rather than " and when the night is new". The lyrics were written, of course, in an era when the word "gay" could still be used to mean "happy" and I think of my Dad whenever I hear this song.
That was a Tuesday, too - the 17th April 1973, the day when my wonderful, gambling, generous, exuberant, kindly Dad died. Until I watched Mum's last illness twenty years later, I thought it was the worst day of my life. Dad was 52 years old and it is only as I age myself that I realise how comparatively young that is. Every year, in the run-up to the 17th April, I get gloomy and wonder what is the matter with me. Then I remember the date. James would say that it is "done" and in a way it is; but in another, I don't think that the people who made you what you are or the events that change you can ever quite be done with. That does not mean that you have to be sad about them all the time or take grief to the extremes that the Victorians did. In time, if you are lucky, you will remember the good moments, and I do.
From my Dad I learnt to love books and dogs and to be tolerant. He also gave me the confidence to sit in a restaurant on my own [I get so annoyed with some professional woman friends who say that they wouldn't do it, even if on a business trip - this, in the 21st century!] an appreciation of quality which may not have done me so much good, upon reflection, and what, in Philadelphia Story, is referred to as a "regard for human frailty."
One of our favourite haunts when I was a very little girl was christened "Buttercup Lane" by Dad: all I remember is that this idyllic, flower-lined oasis was somewhere on the Weston road out of Bristol and at the very end of the lane there was a large, red-brick house which I would gaze at for hours and declare my intention of living in it some day. "Buttercup Lane" is where we spent some of our happiest hours as a family and I wonder if Shani, Pete, Shirl or other Bristol readers have any idea where it was /is? I'd like to see it once more, though I expect that the area has been developed and that the red-brick house has had a Tesco's built onto it!
I have not spent today being maudlin about Dad: I have been to the perfumery , the hairdresser's and the Altro Posto to raise a glass to him, and those are the sort of things he would want me to do. He would also be so glad to know that I am in Italy now.
Dad, I'm not in the "old, familiar places" of the song and I'm a long way from "Buttercup Lane" but I do see you: I see you wherever there is beauty, I see you when I'm with Simi [my dog] and think how much you would love her and, oddly enough, I see you, here in Sicily, whenever we pass a group of twittering sparrows on our morning walk, for you once said, "If these were rare, people would come from miles to see them". And that phrase, I feel, tells you everything about the kind of man my Dad was.
"I'll be looking at the moon
but I'll be seeing you".


Liz Hinds said...

My mother died in 1972, at a time when i felt I was just beginning to get to know her (she had to go out to work so I was brought up mainly by my gran). She had a brain haemorrhage and was in hospital for a few days before another massive one that killed her. During that time she didn't recognise me - but she said I smelled nice! I was thinking about this after your previous post and I believe that, although sudden death is a great shock, it is much better for the person and the family than a long painful illness of whatever sort.

It is so good that you have such wonderful memories of both your parents. I hope today has been good for you and that with your glass at Altro Posto, you were able to lift your heart and smile in memory of someone who must have been a wonderful man.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Liz. It's terrible when your loved one doesn't recognise you but what she said about you smelling nice indicates that she did, in a way. Sudden death must be terrible, too, but I agree with you that what you don't have is the distress of watching the person suffer dreadfully. But sudden violent death, as in the USA yesterday, is another thing altogether. I can't imagine the horroe of that. Yes, I am lucky to have good memories of them both and I haven't had a bad 17th April, thank you. I lifted my glass to him indeed.

Lee said...

I love that song, Welsh. And I love this post.

I, too, am not perturbed in dining in public alone...I've been doing it for years and years and it doesn't worry in the least. If it concerns others, so be it. That's their worry, not mine. I think I'd shock the pants of my friends if I appeared at dinner or luncheon at their homes with someone on my arm. Dining in restaurants alone has never bothered me.

I actually prefer going to place, no matter where, on my own...that way it means I have total control over the situation and can stay as long as I like or leave as soon as I like (or not go at all, if that be the case!)

Never lose the good memories, Welsh...the sad comes with them all and I guess makes you appreciate the good ever more. :)

jmb said...

Well 52 is far too young to die. That must have been really hard on your mother too.
But you are lucky that you have good memories of him and that he influenced you in such special ways.

April 17th is a happy day for me, because it's my only grandchild's birthday. Today she's 4, but so far away.

James Higham said...

James would say that it is "done" and in a way it is; but in another, I don't think that the people who made you what you are or the events that change you can ever quite be done with.

No, I wasn't suggesting, Welshcakes, we should forget. I don't. But it might be better not to torment ourselves with 'what we could have done', 'could it ahve been different' and so on.

I'll be back affter work to read the rest.

elleeseymour said...

Another touching and poignant post with special memories, I wonder what your father would have thought of Sicily. I'm glad he helped mould you to be strong and independent and gave you an appreciation of books and dogs.

I love that song too, I have a couple of those Rod Stewart CDs where he plays the old songs, Mr Bojangles is one of my favourite, my son sings it beautifully too. I play some of these songs on the clarinet, or try too, I must practise today.

It's a lovely sunny morning here again. Have a lovely day Welshcakes.

Poor Liz, I don't know wheteher sudden death is easier to cope with or not. My father had bowel cancer and although we knew he was slipping away, it was still a terrible shock, something we weren't prepared for. He died at home sleeping next to my mother and I had to wake her and tell her, and nothing prepares you for that.

Sally said...

I loved my father beyond belief, I miss him still, I loved his enthusiasm and appreciation of anything good that came along, his patience when goaded, his generosity of spirit. His faults - and they existed - don't matter a jot. Just thinking about him still makes me feel a bit choked, he was the parent who taught me how to love.

Whispering Walls said...

April is the cruellest month. Poor you - I hope your spirits pick up in May. A walk in the orange groves might be therepeutic

Anonymous said...

A very nice post.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Lee. I'm with you on control, being able to leave when you like, etc. Yes, eventual sadness is the price of happiness because everything has to end one day. Jmb, yes, it was hard on my Mum, not least because in that age group, she didn't have other widows to be friends with. Only now do I realise how lonely she must have felt. Your grandchild must be a delight. Hi, James. I see what you mean. No, I don't torment myself - not any more, because there is no point. But I do remember, as you do. Hi, Ellee. I think my Dad would have loved Sicily, especially the heat and the countryside. I've got the 2 Rod Stewart "Great American Songbook" CDs and am playing one now. How's your clarinet practice going? Death, whether expected or not, is always a terrible shock. That must have been awful for you, having to tell your mother. there is no "good" way to break bad news. I hope you don't dwell on it too often, but it's hard. Glad it's a nice day there. Dear Sally, I think I feel about my Dad exactly as you do about yours. Thank you for telling us about him. WW, thank you. Eliot was right there, because there is new growth all around and it is a poignant contrast when you have had a bereavement. I'm fine now - I pick up after April 17th. Heading for the orange groves right now! Thank you, kind Steve.

Ruthie said...

How lovely, and yet how sad.

It made me cry (again) and I was in class when I read it. I think I still haven't come to terms with death. Maybe that comes with age.

But still, thank you for writing this and sharing it with us, it's so important to remember your parents. He sounds like he was a wonderful man.

Newmania said...

Brilliant and inspring WCL I just posted along appreciation and it went into the ether.

Sorry abaout that ..but you are fabulous


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Dear Ruthie, I'm so sorry I made you cry again! My heart has been , and is, with you and all Americans today, and will be in the ensuing days and weeks. No one should have to come to terms with death when they are young, Ruthie.. however it happens. There is enough heartache in this life when we are older. I am not saying what I want to say very well, so I will stop now.. Love from Sicily.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Mr N, I know all about stuff we write going into the ether! - happens to me all the time. Thank you. You are fab., too xxx

Bill Haydon said...

Beautiful post again, WL. It is a feeling and a situation I can't identify with yet, but your feeling shine through with your underlying positivity and hope.

Write a rubbish post, WL! Just for once! Give the rest of us a chance!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

tin drummer, thank you. It is good that people are living longer and so we can hope to have our parents around - and healthy - for a greater part of our lives nowadays. I'm sure I've written plenty of crap posts, especially in the dead of night!

Ballpoint Wren said...

WL, this has been such a tough week! It's posts like this that I wish I could change my avatar to something less smiley.

I, too, will always remember my dad. I miss him terribly. My bad day is July 14. Cancer took him at age 56 and I understand exactly what you mean when you say you realize how young he was.

Here's his picture.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Dearest Bonnie, I've been worried about you but guessed you weren't posting because of the terrible events of this week... Thank you for the empathy. That is a lovely photo of your Dad. He looks such a kind man. Thank you for sharing it. Love from Sicily.


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