Farewell to Dad

In a change from the usual running posts, this one is about my Dad who sadly passed away on 5th November, which the nation marked by lighting fireworks. 
Whilst I view two wheel transport as basically cheating, he was a keen cyclist and as a young man was a sponsored rider in a local cycling team way back in the early 1950s (Dad was born in 1933, grew up during the war and was one of the final young men sent to do national service, despite the war being over by that time). I still have one of his winning cycling trophies on the shelf from 1951. It’s old and tarnished and a little battered but authentically so. I’m told his winning time would still be considered impressive in these days of carbon fibre, aluminium and lycra. It’s likely his front forks weighed more than an entire road bike today, and the nearest to an energy drink he saw would have been a strong Ribena. Whilst we chose different sports and I’ll never win a proper race we both pushed ourselves on endurance events where sheer perseverance is rewarded.

Dad was stubborn to the point of pig-headed. He passed that on and aside from a cast iron stomach and fat reserves suitable for a polar expedition it has been the main quality to keep me going through many a painful mile. He always finished what he started, so must I.

In many ways he’s to blame for my running. From an early age he imparted an appreciation of the outdoors. Despite doing my best to bury this beneath a veneer of inactivity, eating, binge watching and computer games it broke back through in 2011 when I started running and some of the happiest times have been running up hills or through woods in all that the British weather has to throw at me, good or bad. 

On what turned out to be his final morning after nearly 84 years on the Earth, I went out for an early morning run with friends whilst killing time before hospital visiting hours. The weather was cool but idyllic. We followed the footpaths around Woburn and skirted the safari park to add wolves, zebras, kangaroos and antelopes to the list of animals seen on route, along with the more usual deer, squirrels and muntjac. It was the sort of route he would have loved to walk, armed with a walking stick for the steep sections and accompanied by a faithful dog it would have been the high point of his week.  

Sadly as the cancer returned for a third time he gradually slowed over the last few months but still left the house most days. Even the day before his death he grew so weary of being confined to the bed (only his second day in hospital) he demanded I walk with him around the hospital ward. The walk was slow and short but he felt good to be up. As much as it pained him to admit he needed help I supported him patiently as he walked on legs not quite under full control. As he had held my hand on my first tentative steps in the world so I helped him on what proved to be his last. He thanked me when we left and choked back emotion. Billy although only 7 noticed this and on the walk back to the car we discussed how it was sad for Grandad Ted to admit he needed help from his son, but likely also a proud moment when he could finally pass on the duty of being the carrier, the lifter, the fixer of broken things.  

Sadly not everything can be fixed and over the course of Sunday he deteriorated and finally succumbed to the inevitable in the evening surrounded by family. For a man so fiercely independent and who hated being fussed over the end coming so short and sudden was a blessing. Since the prognosis a year ago he’d refused to be curtailed by the illness and enjoyed himself to the fullest, only enduring a few days of hospitalisation before a well earned rest for a lifetime of activity.  

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