Rest in Peace
I can’t believe I am in a mutual hug with my dead father’s other woman. Well other women may be a bit harsh. Realistically she was his partner for a number of years.
‘He was a good man,’ she says and squeezes me tight, ‘your father talked about you all the time. He had pictures of you. He always said, I have two beautiful daughters, he talked about you all the time.’
I have never met this woman before and I believe she is saying what she thinks I want to hear.
In my sixty years on the planet I can count the number of times I had any contact with my father on the fingers of one hand. In truth I have more fingers on the one hand than I had contact with my father. Yet here I am at my father’s funeral, with strangers telling me what a good man he was, how funny he was and how gifted. I have no way of knowing if that was true or not?
I excuse myself with a simple 'thank you' and go and sit back at the table next to my father’s ex-wife. The one that came after my mother but before the partner. I have met the ex on a number of occasions since my two half-brothers, her sons, found me on social media.
One of my brothers had given a beautiful speech at the crematorium. He told us of the steel band my father once belonged to and the mini cab firm he ran. The fleet of black cabs he hired and the fact that he could make furniture. Apparently a sideboard he made is still in existence. My brother also spoke of the signs of love shown by my father, and said while they were few and far between they would be the memories he would choose to cherish.
The back room in the pub where we are holding the wake is pleasant enough, even though the central heating is not working, it is not too cold and a blow heater seems to be providing enough warmth to keep us all from shivering. My brother places a selection of photographs on a table and invites everyone to take a look. Photos of my father as a young man, he was nineteen when he arrived in England from Antigua. He was a handsome man. A portrait of my mother, a black and white photo, that had been coloured carefully by hand. All the more perfect for its subtle shades of blue and red in the sepia picture. My mother posed, head slightly turned to the left, her hair in the style of the then Hollywood film star Rita Hayworth. Mum looks like a film star. There are a number of photos of my father with friends or possibly other family members and there is one of him in his pants. Yep, tiny white pants, and he is posing like a body builder. The child in me wants to giggle. Not something a daughter should see really. The personal nature of this photo, which my mother had no doubt taken, was an indication of the closeness they had once shared. The fact that my father had kept these photos suggested he may well have had fond memories of their relationship. I had never really thought about how much they must have once loved each other.
There is one photo that brings tears to my eyes. A photo of my father holding me as a tiny baby. He is smiling like a proud father. An image I had never thought to see. I have always thought that my father was just a game player, gambling and chasing women, and not interested in family. Today I have learnt from his friends, that while he was all of these things, he was also capable of kindness and generous friendship. He was much loved and respected.
There is no point in dwelling on what might have been, or, what should have been and never was. The truth is that this man gave me life and without him there would be no me, there would be no sister and no brothers, for that gift alone I will be eternally grateful. So I am content to say,
'I hold no animosity, may you rest in peace Clarence Conrad Joseph.'
©Racheal Joseph 2018