Amongst the many people I recognised but couldn’t place at Dad’s funeral this week, was a guy, probably in his 70’s, with a thin wispy beard and bizarre long patchwork scarf which looked home knitted and very old.
For some reason I knew him as Uncle somebody, but couldn’t think why. After a while, I realised that this was the same guy who had given my family an old C Reg Rover 316 as a gift as he was finding driving too difficult. This became my first car, so it must have been around 1998.
I clearly remember Dad driving the car back from this guy’s house over Castle Hill in Huddersfield and him saying that one of the reasons this guy was struggling with driving was probably because the clutch on his car was completely knackered. I approached him at the funeral and memories came flooding back to me. This was “Uncle” Phil (of no relation).
I remember a day – perhaps in the early nineties when Uncle Phil and the Hughes children went to Alton Towers, a theme park in the Midlands as a special treat. At the funeral, he regaled a tale to me of how he did not want to go on the Corkscrew (the latest scary ride at the time), and as I was under the height limit for the ride – he used the excuse of looking after me as a reason not go on. This would have worked, but for the fact that I stood on tiptoes and managed to get past the attendant. We all went on in the end.
What I didn’t realise until this week, was that the reason Dad took Uncle Phil to Alton Towers was that Phil was in a serious state of depression and was close to suicide. My Dad was trying to help him out of it. At the funeral, Phil even went so far as to say that he thought that Dad had saved his life through the help he had given. He was wearing the old scarf as a tribute to my Dad as Dad had given it to him at the time of his depression.
I don’t know how much truth there was in his story, I was certainly unexpected – but it was a story I was glad to hear – and a great tribute.
This was only one of a series of blasts from the past which hit me at the funeral. There was Dad’s folkie friends play him into the funeral, his old bus pals (including Richard, the hard of hearing Tory councilor who spoke loudly to avoid having to listen), Ted – childhood family friend, and a random guy in a 90’s Microvox t-shirt who gave me a massive hug (I had no idea who he was).
The number of people that turned up was phenomenal, there must have been three or four rows of people standing at the back of the crematorium. Even some of my friends came. Rob (the Artist) in particular had a close connection to Dad, who essentially served as a second father to him. In fact, when we were kids, Rob was in the habit of coming to see Dad when I wasn’t even in.
But the sweetest thing I heard on the day was when I went to the loo with my little 6 year old nephew Evan. He said to me “Uncle Sam, my favourite memory of time with Pa was when we went for lunch”.
It was a reminder that, although Dad had a varied and interesting life, his most recent year was spent getting to know his grandchildren – and they will remember him for the good times spent in a restaurant in Holmfirth in early December 2012.
It makes it all the more sad that he will never get to meet our daughter.
Dad’s funeral song (chosen by him, but very moving song):