It is Father’s Day, 21st June 2015. I am visiting Dad and have brought the kids with me this time. It is the first time they have seen him since his amputation. They are both understandably subdued. A man on the ward snores loudly, making me giggle, but even this does nothing to lift the kids’ spirits.
Dad, despite large doses of morphine making him rather woozy, immediately embarks on a story of a time he spent in hospital when he was my son’s age: fifteen. He had gone in for an appendectomy and was on a general ward with people a lot older than him.
‘One of them was a snorer – it was awful!’ Dad remembers. ‘One night, when he was snoring, none of us could sleep and we were all talking to each other in a whisper. I said I had an idea of how to stop the snoring, but first I needed to know if the man was married. No one knew. I decided to try out my idea anyway, so I crept up to the snoring man and said, in a high-pitched voice, “Darling, you’re snoring again!” at which point he snorted loudly and then stopped. The next day, someone asked him, “Excuse me sir, are you married?” to which the man replied dolefully, “Yes, for forty-nine years,” to which everyone on the ward erupted into laughter!’
The kids visibly relax at this: here is Grandpa being Grandpa. Here is the man they know and love: a man who likes nothing more than to be surrounded my his family, telling silly stories, making people laugh.
That evening, he sends my sister a text in response to good wishes for Father’s Day:
‘Thank you, sweetheart. I have the most devoted daughters in the world and in another age would have been on Solon’s list of happiest men.’
On Father’s Day 2016, I decide to find out a bit more about this list of men. I discover that one of them is Tellus, an Athenian statesman who, Herodotus tells us:
‘…had both beautiful and good children, and he saw all his grandchildren from birth and all remaining alive… And the end of his life was most brilliant… he died beautifully, and the Athenians … honoured him greatly’
This seems rather an apt way of remembering my dear dad on this special day. Happy Father’s Day, everyone.