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Used to work for AVIVA offshoring IT to India.  Now retired through ill health, writing my life story as a series of blogs chronologically from birth to current time.  At www.jw-alifeofsurprises.blogspot.com

Friday, 13 August 2010

Hold the Lobster Thermidor - 1979

On May 26th 1979, England was due to play Scotland, in a home international football match at Wembley. Dad was home that weekend and he planned to take my sister Helen, her husband David, Mum, Mark and Monica out that night for Helens birthday. They were going to the Savoy Restaurant, on Prince Of Wales Road and no doubt Mark would have had the Lobster Thermidor! Friday evening, I had stayed at Mark's house and he planned to take me home on Saturday, to watch the game with Dad and my brothers.

My Dad, Earnest Edgar (Eddie) Weaver

Dad had been working in Wales the previous week and had driven back to Norwich on the Friday. Mark, Monica and I headed over to Mum and Dad's around lunchtime on the Saturday. When we got there, Mum told us that Dad was unwell, the doctor had been out to see him (Dr Pearson; about whom I shall share another story on another day), had given him an injection and had dashed off to the countryside to see another patient. Dad was suffering with chest pains.

I went to see him and ask him how he was, "not to worry Jonathan, can you go and get me a glass of water". I loved my Dad and decided that this glass of water was to be the best glass of water in the world, ever! I went into the kitchen, got Ice, Lemon and a straw and ran a glass of water. By the time I had finished the glass of water looked like a cocktail! I went back into the living room and presented my creation. Dad’s reaction was not one I expected as he shouted at me, saying all he wanted was a simple glass of water. He was quite red in the face and I shrunk away, back to the kitchen and got another glass, took it back and went off to my room, in fear of another blast. This was around 2pm and all thoughts of football evaporated as Dad slowly went downhill. Looking back, he should have been in the Hospital already, but this was 1979 and so, injected with probably a clot buster and a painkiller, he sat in the living room of our home and declined and declined.

By 8pm (or as close as that I can figure), Mum, Mark and Helen, (who had come round to find out how Dad was), had decided things had progressed too far. I think they had called Dr Pearson again and he was stuck with the other patient, so they called an ambulance. Richard had gone to Helens and David remained there with him. Julian and I were becoming witnesses to a tragedy, one that was not playing out on the TV, which can be switched off, if it gets too scary.

We were watching our Dad getting more and more ill and I cannot remember at anytime having a conversation with anyone about what was happening in front of us. Try as hard as I can, I cannot remember anything until eventually an ambulance turned up and 2 men came into the house to assess Dad. They gave him oxygen, I stood in the hallway, Dad and the family in the living room, lots of talking, raised voices and one of the men going out to the ambulance and coming back in with a what looked like a stretcher. It was in fact a small frame wheel chair.

I see my Dad wheeled out of the living room across the parquet floor in the hallway; I am stood with my back to the wall between the living room door and kitchen door, below the grandfather clock. “He will be ok”, someone is saying, my Dad looks directly at me, I am scared, so scared and afraid. He moves his hand out of the blanket, I step forward and kiss his cheek, and he looks scared as well. I look at him and he looks at me, then, he moves off towards the front door and tears are streaming down my face. I would like to think that is what happened at that precise moment.

I would like to think I had the presence of thought to capture that moment, like a video memory, one that can be replayed whenever I want, so I can remember him sitting there, I can remember his eyes, his words, everything. The only surety I have of that moment was the kiss. I kissed him and watched him go. I was 14, scared out of my mind, totally bewildered, surrounded by family and utterly alone.

Mark and Mum go in the ambulance with Dad. I sit on the stairs and we wait, Monica, Helen, Julian and I. We wait for the phone call to say my Dad is fine, sitting up in bed and having a cup of tea. Only we seem to wait for what seems like hours, the interminable waiting that occurs when you want news, any news, and time slows as if taunting you. Julian and I had a packet of crisps each and then the phone rings, Monica answers and talks to Mark. The rest of us stand there, trying to understand what Mark is saying, from the responses Monica gives him. She hangs up and says that the doctors are with Dad, he is talking to them and he will call back soon.

I think the phone rang the second time, almost as soon as Monica had finished telling us what Mark had said. None the less, Monica answered again and we stood there again. Anguish!  Monica hung up and turned to us. I remember my sister almost screaming at Monica to tell us something. Perversely and probably quite aptly, Monica said “I don’t know what to say”. I remember Helen screaming again at Monica, and Monica, so brave, so scared, so unwilling to be the messenger, looked at her and said, “He is dead”.

It really is a surreal moment when told that your father is dead, well, surreal when you at 14. I did not know how to react (is there a way to react?), I saw Jules throw his crisps at the wall at the bottom of the stairs and I just stood there and thought, he’ll be in trouble for that. I thought I was supposed to cry, but don’t remember doing so and now looking back, know the last time I saw my father was when he was being wheeled out of our home, both of us scared and both of us going to suffer in different ways.

We then waited for Mum and Mark to come home. They eventually did so, but I cannot remember any comforting words expressed to me, no warm hugs, no one seeking me out. The family probably did and we all very likely cried and hugged one another for quite some time. Dr Pearson showed up later, we sat all of us, together in the front room. He spoke of massive heart attacks, of there being nothing anyone could have done and he was in all probability correct. I remember looking at him with total disdain, why had he not come back earlier? Why was Dad still at home and not in hospital after he had been to see him? I sat on the Ercol settee in the front room, next to my Mum, silent and devastated.

I went to bed that night and woke the next day, to a changed world. I walked downstairs, the house silent. I went into the kitchen and was met by my mother, stood at the sink, looking down the garden. I did not say anything and waited for her to notice me. I wanted to hold her, wanted her to hold me, to tell me he was alive and that my dream was a nightmare. She turned and she looked at me, put her arms out and I walked into her arms and I cried.

Sundays were never going to be the same again, nor any day of the week. I left the house and walked up the round to the home of my friend, Andrew Bunn. Bunny’s Mum and Dad were there and I went in and sat in the kitchen. I remember saying, “My Dad died yesterday” and Andrews Mum, Barbara, looking at me aghast and in shock, asking what I was on about. I told them the story and she rang my home, to tell them where I was, I expect.

I wanted someone to feel sorry for me. Is that selfish? Is that what you are supposed to do when confronted with this sort of thing at 14 years old? I stayed at Andrews for a while and then walked up the road to Gary Harrison’s house. His Mum (Coralie) and Dad (John, who was a Fireman), got pretty much the same story. I went home and don’t remember anything until the day of the funeral, only that we were off school all the time.

And the funeral? Big cars, lots of people, I mean LOTS of people. I was later told, possibly a couple of hundred, crammed into the church. Then the long walk down the centre of the church, behind my Dad, behind my Mum, with my brothers and sister. Sitting there for a while, in the pews, some singing, I remember the singing; getting back into the cars; here comes Mr Potts, the headmaster, appearing at the car window, offering his condolences and saying no need to rush back to school, and the drive to the crematorium. Lots of people back at our house, all my Dad’s brother and sisters, my cousins, my Dad’s friends and colleagues, lots and lots of people and no deep abiding memory of it.

No memories of talking to people, of Uncles taking me to one side, of Aunts covering me in kisses, and in our family, kisses were always the order of the day when family came over. My Dad’s sisters were all big kissers, one, Glady’s, had a mole on her face, I think her cheek, could have been her lip and for a long time I was scared of that face, but as I grew up, she turned into a wonderfully warm lady, she was big and cuddly and her face was a face of love and kindness.

I later learnt from Mark, that Dad had a massive heart attack in the ambulance, not half a mile down the road from our house. The medic was working on him continually all the way to the hospital, but that he had probably died in that ambulance. When they got to the Accident and Emergency, he was swept into a resuscitation room and they actually carried out some pretty strong procedures to try and save him. Nothing worked. It was while he was in that room, getting worked on, that Mark had called us. The Doctor had then come to see Mark almost as he put the phone down. He told me that all he could say to Monica was, “He’s Gone”.

Mark later went to see Dad at the Chapel of Rest, as we wanted to go and see him, to say goodbye. Mark came back and told us that, “No, that was not our Dad in there”. He later told me that he looked bad, his face was purple and bloated and that he could not in all conscience let us in to see him. I was angry at the time and for some years later, as I felt I had been robbed of something. I did not then think I’d had a chance to say goodbye.

But I had done so in the hall and have done so many times since. Later in life, living in California, I would write long letters to my sister, saying how much I missed him, how I felt cheated of all those firsts; those things that son’s get to do with their fathers; first pint, first car, first time pointing out a beautiful woman on the beach and having your Dad nod his head, instead of clipping the back of yours!

So, the Seventies ended in despair and disarray. Is the person I am now, different from the person whom I might have been, had he lived? I only know one thing for certain, I had my Mum and she was to become someone who she probably never would have been, had he lived.

Oh and England beat Scotland 3 – 1.

1 comment:

  1. A sad story, but he would have been proud of you JW.