A loving tribute, a thank-you and a card trick: all from the heart.
My Dad died earlier this month: I don’t yet know when or if the tears will stop. He was a big man and he leaves a big hole, but filled with happy memories. I can’t exactly say I modelled myself on Dad: that was a bit beyond me. But I did follow his example where I could in the basics of honesty and hard work: painfully slowly at times perhaps but I hope I got there in the end. We were different, but each proud of the other I think.
Of course, I now wish I’d managed to spend more time with him in the last few years. The past year alone, he suffered strokes, heart problems, survived sepsis, countless other infections, pneumonia, a collapsed lung and saw off Covid-19. But the last illness was just one too many although, as always, he fought it to the end. He was just short of 90 and lived a full and worthwhile life: you can’t ask for anything more.
This isn’t the place for a poetic eulogy. But, even just in an academic sense, the older I’ve got, the more I’ve realised just how much I owe to Dad. I was never really a gifted student, despite what people might think. And I proved many times over the years the ease with which I could get into trouble of one sort or another. If it hadn’t been for the start that Dad gave me, I’d be in a very different place now.
No-one from our family had ever been to university – or even really thought about it – and Dad often jokingly claimed to be barely able to read and write. That was an exaggeration but he was certainly no scholar. He grafted all his life one way or another. But he wanted the best for his kids and decided he was going to teach me reading, writing, arithmetic and a fair bit more before I went to school. He did, by about the age of three. I don’t remember not being able to. That start made school tolerable for me and kept me out of the worst of mischief. It set me up at each stage to (sometimes only just) reach the next one. When it eventually did get hard, I finally had the self-confidence to sort it out for myself. None of that would have happened without Dad.
And it didn’t stop there. I still had a few screw-ups left in me and Dad (and Mum of course) were always there in times of trouble. And they were so pleased for both my sister, Vanessa, and me when it did go right. I love them all loads. This is a tribute of sorts – one in keeping with the flavour of these pages …
So, here we go …
Dad taught me a card trick when I was young. Stuff like this wasn’t really his thing so I imagine someone showed him at work and he came home and taught it to me while he remembered it. He did pretty much the same with chess over a longer period of time and so many other things that he held onto just long enough to pass them on. They stayed with me and developed long after Dad had probably forgotten them. That was the way of it: he always wanted the best for his family but never cared much for himself.
I’ll outline the trick Dad’s way before we go anywhere else with it. It’s in three simple stages and it’s sort of up to you just how much of it you explain to the person you’re showing it to as you go. (Don’t worry: that’ll make more sense as we go through it.) Anyway, it goes roughly like this …