Celebrating my Dad

I noticed that Wednesday falls on what would’ve been my father’s birthday, and while it’s not a notable birthday, neither ending in a zero or a five, I thought I’d share a bit about him.

The second of three generations born in India, in Darjeeling, a hill stations where the government of the Raj retired during the hot season. He went to prep school until being sent to the UK to attend a private boarding school in Cheltenham, flying to the UK on an early flying boat, and spending holidays with a variety of maiden aunts. It’s unlikely he’d have been able to make more than one trip a year home to India but, as the war broke out, even that one trip was ruled out, and it was many years before he was to see his parents and younger brother again.

As a result, his first roots in the UK were put down on the south coast in a little town called Hove, where his favourite of those aunts lived. It’s where he met his lifelong friends – two other Johns and Francis, and was where he developed his liking for British pubs, for tinkly piano jazz, and for jive. He and Francis were mesmerising on the dance floor, even into their later years. Francis married one of the other Johns (whose jive was rubbish) but she and my father remained the best of friends until her death. Sadly, there are no photographs of that time.

National service was spent in Gibraltar where he split his time working the big guns and keeping the apes at bay. A period of management training followed, before a posting back to India where, with his excellent spoken Hindi, Bengali and Urdu, he was to remain for long enough to meet my mother, have a flash society wedding, and have three of out four children. India was very much home, not least because every single member of both my father and mother’s small families were present during these happy years.

Postings in Nigeria and Bangladesh followed, where the alcohol flowed freely, where war and civil unrest became part of everyday life – along with beaches, boats, swimming and silliness (yes, that is my father doing the dance of the sugar plum fairy for a charity event along with a group of friends).

Finally, a return to the UK, to a home which only my father had really known, where my mother felt an alien, where us children had spent time in boarding school and felt varying degrees of at-home-ness or outsider-ness. To everyday life, family Christmases, weddings, significant anniversaries, and grandchildren.

We lost him 6 years ago this Christmas after a struggle with heart failure, alzheimers and vascular dementia. But he touched our lives in the best of ways – teaching us responsibility, commitment, professionalism, and how to laugh at life and ourselves. He kept his opinions to himself regarding our life choices unless specifically asked, but was an unfailingly support whenever needed and in whatever form that took. He was a great company and a wonderful raconteur, a true gentleman, irreverent, scrupulously fair and, as my brother described him during the eulogy he gave – a lovely man. We all miss him, but know our lives were enriched by his presence. As a result, we raise a glass to him on his birthday, and a champagne cocktail on the anniversary of his death – a skill he shared with his children, and which has been passed on to the next generation much to their delight.

I’ve been putting together a family memoir and my mother’s portion has the working title of Indian Duty, Catholic Guilt. I’d really love your ideas on a title for my father’s portion. Also any other suggestions, or recommendations, on memoirs.

© Debra Carey, 2022

24 thoughts on “Celebrating my Dad

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  1. I think a title with “Jive” in it would be fitting. “Jiving with Two Cultures, perhaps.

    That’s quite a nice eulogy. And a solid reminder to avoid commenting on your children’s choices unless invited to do so!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Me too LA, hence the question 🙂 But, thank you, I’ve always thought he lived quite the life, but then I’m biased!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh thank you Sarah, that’s such a lovely idea. I’m going to try and use it in some way x


  4. Thank you Jane, I’ve wanted to write about him for a while, but not felt ready to do so, until now.


  5. Thanks Autumn, yes I think the jive needs to appear somewhere and I think I am seeing the start of something already… And yes, he was wise like that, fortunately 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this, Debs. Your dad sounds like a kind, practical, talented, and fun-loving man who lived the kind of life the rest of us consider fascinating and romantic.

    Titles are hard. I think I was more successful with my first novel than with the second. But Autumn has some good ideas.

    I haven’t read many memoirs, but I’ve read a few good ones recently. I like a memoir with a good central theme and one that is honest and deep.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed reading this. Your father lead what seems to me like a unique life, filled with intrigue and education. He ventured far from home but never lost his connection. He sounds delightful, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you Nicki. Obviously I think highly of him, but the kind words I’m reading in the comments are so touching.

    Yes, I’ve already got some ideas popping up and will – hopefully – know the right one when it appears!


  9. Thank you Christie, my decision to do so was triggered by being on the receiving end of some old photo albums when my photo relocated to the US. And yes, I really must get back to writing it!


  10. Thank you Ally, I’m so glad I went ahead with this spur of the moment decision – you lovely people have said such lovely things about him ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your dad and your family have lived very interesting lives. I wish my dad would have told us more about his life. I have more stories from my mom’s side but even then, no one wrote them down or told me when I was old enough to really appreciate them. You got to see and experience a lot of different things. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really, REALLY enjoyed this, Debs. Thanks for sharing such wonderful stories and pictures. I wish I could think of a title…. but I’m coming up empty! Wonderful post. The picture of your dad with the dog is especially sweet. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you Zazzy. My Dad was a great raconteur and my daughter tried to get him to tell his stories onto tape, but he felt uncomfortable doing it cold and outside of a social situation, so my family have to rely on our imperfect memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks so much Marty. I only came across that picture in the last batch which was copied electronically by a patient family – I have absolutely no memory of seeing it before and I just LOVE it, and I’m so pleased you appreciate it too.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. When we go to vintage shops, I’m the one usually rummaging through old photos of strangers. There’s something always fascinating about how people lived. Glad that family member of yours found it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Champagne Supernova Burning Bright.

    And yes, I did listen to Oasis yesterday, but that’s neither here nor there. With all your dad’s rich accomplishments, coupled with free-flowing alcohol and your annual champagne toast, I think it fits.

    In any case, thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m the same, just love old photos and am always imagining the lives they must have led. Yet another one of those parallels eh Marty 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Do you know Caroline, I’d not considered that, but I can see the parallel. And thank you for the kind words – I was a daddy’s girl, so I especially appreciate them even now I’m an old bird!


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