Well, there’s an update on my previous post that, frankly, I didn’t want to write… nobody ever really does. On December 8th 2020 I had—what neither of us knew at the time would be—my last webcam session with my father. A day later he was bed-ridden due to one of a number of recent falls. He had remained—and did until the very end of his time—absolutely resolved to staying in his own home, with no medical interventions to prolong his life. All he wanted to do was, in his own words, “Join my Good Lady.” And on the 16th December 2020, in the arms of my sister, he died peacefully in his bed. Goodbye dad, nobody could have been more loved.
I like that picture of my mum and dad leading—or being led by—Amelia. It was taken during our last days living in England, and staying in London with my parents before we flew out to Canada.
I won’t be making the flight to England for my father’s funeral on January 4th, the way I did for my mother’s a couple of years ago. Which means that I won’t be able to give my reading in person. In my stead, it will be given by my best friend of almost 50 years, and an occasional reader of this blog. If he reads this post, then let me say this: nothing could be more fitting than you—My Brother—standing in my place.
I’ll finish this post with the text that will be read by my best of friends, that boy that my mother told me I shouldn’t play with. That boy who became my honorary brother, that is, a man for whom it is an honor for me to call My Brother…
Roy David Godden—(1931-10-01 to 2020-12-16)
One of the earliest memories of my father has always been quite fixed and clear. I remember him in the bathroom of the downstairs portion of our home in Adelaide Grove, Shepherd’s Bush, one foot on a step ladder, the other on the bathroom counter as he painted the room a smoky, but vibrant shade of orange. All the while, singing—what seemed to my childhood mind—a pleasant and tuneful version of The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot. My older brother and sister tell me that—after a pint or two—that, and Danny Boy, would be his contributions to a night at the pub on family holidays near the Margate coast. My father and pub songs were before my time, and added something I hadn’t known about my dad to that mental picture. And it makes me smile.
I would spend a fair bit of my time listening to my father’s singing over the years… re-building and decorating much of Adelaide Grove, re-decorating every room two or three times over. Then later, there were multiple projects in Ormiston Grove for my brother and sister; Ealing for my adoptive brother Greg’; Essex for Gill and for Lorraine and myself; Wembley for the family of his old business partner; and of course, The House of Fun at Westfields Road. Interspersed with those, were many a weekend working for him on construction sites in London, Oxford and Essex. And the theme that has run through them all, is that my father was a builder. He built a family, he cared for us all and helped us build our families. When he wasn’t building for us, he was building homes for others, or places to work and travel. Whether that was through the practicalities of bricks and mortar, plaster and paint; bed and board for the entire family during the complications of Canadian emigration; or simply the devoted love of a man who believed that his family were the most important parts of his life. That was his theme, and he had his theme songs.
I can’t be here today, to give what support I could hope to provide, instead I am with my part of this family, thousands of miles away, in a home that could not possibly have been ours without my mother and my father. Occasionally I build things too. The dock still floats, and the log shed is still standing—nobody is more surprised than me—but my father taught me to do that, and I still have some of his tools: a saw, a hammer, a screwdriver, even a step-ladder! Don’t ask how that made it to Canada. But the most important lesson that my mother and father ever taught me, and the most important tool they ever gave any of us, was their deep and abiding love. And we will all take that away with us today, wherever we are. Much love to you all, and my very deepest love and gratitude to the man reading this.