Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Just a year older than me

Philip Anthony Dwight Sheppard 1920-1974
As I was driving home the other day, a memory came to me. I don't know why, or what prompted it, but it was crystal clear and bitter sweet.

When she was in her early forties, my mother was widowed. She was young, attractive, and had two teenage children. Her husband was a gentleman; he always opened the doors, he was the one who did the driving. He was an actor, a writer, and she probably worked ten times more than he did. But that was circumstance, not choice.

He died at just 53 - that's only a year older than I am now. I never knew him really - only as a little girl who loved her daddy. I think of some of the things we said and did, and they seem like things I can't understand now, as if there was a different language we spoke then.

But the memory which came to me was  from the day of his funeral. We were in Bath, the home town of his family. It was a chilly winter day,  most of the which was a blur, but I remember being very cross at the funeral gathering after his interment (which I did not attend). The vicar was sent in to see me, to try and explain to this immature child why everyone was having a party now her dad was dead. I wasn't having any of it.

My mother, aunt, brother and I must have looked at the flowers and read cards, with the usual condolence and best wishes. But it was this one card's message that suddenly came to mind as I drove home that day, and it's a memory I treasure. It was from our neighbour's child Mary - she was probably only four or five years old.  On the card, in her naieve writing, was written "Have a happy time in heaven Anthony".
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