I don't mean funny as in strange, but genuine funny, the kind of person who could make you laugh. Not that you would have known this from the man that has been with us for the last few years.
In the funny way my relationship went, I can quite happily say that I knew him for over twenty years, but the links between us go back a lot further than that. He sold his family car, a Morris Traveller to the accountant who did the books where he worked. The accountant was my uncle who says that his best memories of accounting were when he went there to work, because it was such fun.
But I digress. My father-in-law was funny. I first met his daughter (my wife) when she started working with me at a ‘Business Transfer Agency’ (that’s BS for Estate Agents that sell businesses). There was no romance back then, but we were friends and every now and then went out together in a group, and after office functions it was not unusual for him to give us a lift home - I only lived a village over.
The car might have been filled with smoke, but there was always humour, something that made him instantly likeable.
Back then I used to cycle to and from work and apparently he always had a quip about my cycling shorts, and was always intent on seeing how far I could get before they caught up with me. He also apparently used to joke about knocking me off the bridge into the sea.
At least I hope he was joking.
To say life had not been kind to him over the last few years is an understatement. He loved cars and had worked as a car sales man, something he had almost fallen into by chance, but something to which he was eminently suited. Through mismanagement by the ownership(s) he was rendered unemployed far too early, his retirement coming sooner than it should have.
But he had an artists eye, and turned that to various projects, some of which might have seemed a little different, but there is no doubting the skill involved. The miniature houses he built and lined the walls of his house might have been a slight source of annoyance for everyone else, but considering the materials from which they were made were masterpieces.
When events beyond his control stripped him of many of the things he had been hoping for in retirement, he faltered, suffering an illness that seemed to culminate in a breakdown.
He recovered from it, but was never the same. The man that used to have a laugh as he dragged on a cigarette, who had sent me off on my first date with a twinkle in his eye and making sure I had plenty of beer, the same one who told me when we announced our engagement that I did not need to ask his permission, I could take her (with a wink), was reduced to someone who seemed to be scared of his own shadow. Nervous all the time, uncomfortable when he was away from home, almost too afraid to make a commitment to anything.
That is perhaps, why I say he was an incredibly brave man. It has been said that any man who has courage is not really brave. They just do what they do because they can, but true courage, that comes when you are terrified of something and still find the strength to do it.
I imagine he was absolutely terrified when he had to give my wife away at our wedding, and when you see pictures of him, he looks it. Being close to the centre of attention, and while all eyes were not on him, they would have been looking in his direction, he did it anyway. The strength and love for his daughter that allowed him to do that is something that might often be overlooked, and it should not be.
And although he might not have been an active grandparent, he had a positive connection to both of my boys; the oldest loved him reading him stories, or drawing him pictures, and although the youngest is too young for these things it is telling that one of his first words was ‘grandad’
The last five years have seen him quiet, almost a shadow in the room, only lighting up when he was with the boys, or the odd moment when the old humour shone through. I’d quite often sit next to him and just chat, about nothing but he seemed to like it, especially when I talked about cars - something I knew little about but he loved. (He once helped me clean our limousine and gave me an excellent tip for blackening tyres in a pinch - use shoe polish!)
It seemed that he had fallen into a negative world view, seeing his life as a failure, that everything he turned his hand to was rubbish and old tat (referring to the model houses he had built), only showing a glee when he was distracted - like when I de-constructed the Summerhouse in his garden on my own. He thought that was epic!
But he could not see just what a positive effect he had had. He raised three kids into something to be proud of, put them through whatever education they desired or needed, and ended up with a doctor, a countrywide area manager for a huge international retailer, a daughter who worked her fingers to the bone and took the weight of her parents on her shoulders to pay the bills and mortgage when they were unable. He would probably have said that it was just them, totally unwilling to accept that they would not have been put in that position if not for him.
Of course his daughter also married well (;))
Two months ago he was taken ill again, and it looked initially as though he was having a similar ‘turn’ to the one he had years previously.
It turned out to be something a lot more serious, myeloma, in simple terms a blood cancer. It’s impossible to know how long he had been carrying it, but it could have been years, and by the time the diagnosis came there was very little left of him.
He had his options laid out in front of him, but ultimately chose not to fight.
At the time of writing he passed away quietly in his bed at home with his family around him, and strangely it does not seem to matter how quiet and withdrawn he had become over the last few years, the world seems slightly quieter still, and the twinkle that never really left his eye has at last gone out. here to edit.