It was wrapped in a huge, light blue, plastic tarpaulin and cocooned around the edges in cheap rolls of light brown packing tape that kept the gaps closed. I looked at it one last time before I made the final wrap and slowly the dark brown leather disappeared into mummification for what I thought would be a couple of weeks but turned out to be almost 4 years. I applied the last wraps of packing tape, sealing in something I had never once used.
With great difficulty and with my younger Brother providing the perfectly timed comedic Chuckle Brothers commentary of ‘To me – to you. To you – to me‘, we manoeuvred it through the 90 degree doorways that made the front room and front door of this 1950’s brick built, Semi-Detached house that we were both born in. We weaved our way through the small porch and down the flower covered path to the black, metal, squeaky garden gate that our Mum had always insisted on never oiling, as she said it was a great security feature that Mum, Dad and our dog Cassie had superbly tuned ears for. ‘Are you sure about this?’ I asked my brother as it slid nicely in through the open back doors of a green liveried, white Vauxhall hire van. ‘Yes! He’d want you to have it‘, he replied. This was pretty much the last item to clear out our family home after the passing of both Mum and Dad.
On that same calm, sunny October evening back in 2015, I sped it southbound through the never ending flash of elevated, orange, glowing lights, down the M6, the M1 and around the M25 on my way back to work for the first time in 4 weeks. I was not looking forward to going back and in fact I hadn’t been happy there since hearing the final and damning news that we were being disbanded, sold off, and rebranded – Cost cutting in its most stupid form.
I never got on with my Dad, in fact from the age of 14 when I moved in with my Grandmother, after constant fighting with him, I had only spoken to him on a handful of occasions over those 30 plus years. I’d ignore him literally as if he was not in the room and would spurn his offers of cash for petrol when I was a young broke Soldier. Upon visiting Mum on leave from the Army, I would walk out of any room he walked into, and would not walk into a room he was in, it was that bad. He wasn’t a bad bloke, a bloody hard worker in fact, and beside from the odd ‘misdemeanour’ with mum, like staying out to late drunk or indeed not coming home at all, they had a solid 40 plus years of marriage.
I turned up at the door to the house I was born in at 0900 as I knew Dad would need help getting himself sorted out today. I was staying in a local hotel nearby, It was the day of my Mums funeral in June 2015. I passed through the porch and through the 90 degree entrance into the front room to find him asleep, curled up tight on his right hand side, on his beloved electric reclining arm chair; directly next to my mums elevated coffin. He bought that chair specially so he could sleep downstairs with Mum in her last year as she was unable to get upstairs anymore. I tried to wake him gently verbally at first but then realised he was unresponsive and cold to the touch. I rolled him toward me and held his chin to shake his head slightly and his eyes opened slowly. He was white, gaunt and for the first time in my life my Dad looked old and frail and not at all the strong, ambitious, workaholic man I knew. Over the next 10 minutes I fought to ensure that he didn’t go to sleep and tried to get him to sit up while taking direction from the emergency operator.
He survived the heart attack that he had during the night and lay there next to mum, alone in the pitch black all night until the Ambulance took him to Hospital at about 10am that next day, the day we were supposed to bury my Mum. He gave up in hospital some weeks later, holding my younger brothers hand while listening to the Pipes and Drums of the Scots Guards playing Amazing Grace at the Royal Albert Hall in London and clutching a photo of Mum in his other hand.
We buried them both together some weeks later.
My younger Brother and I nodded to each other and left the wake early taking a taxi back to the house, it was only 315pm. There was no squeak to the gate, no dog bark and no light or noise from inside as we went through into the kitchen and opened a bottle of 12 year old single malt; we didn’t sit down. He leant himself against the fridge and I against the sink as we loosened our ties and raised our first glass. The absolute silence was shattered by the buzzing of my mobile phone in my suit jacket which was hanging against the back of the under stairs cupboard. “She” was probably just checking to see where I was and if I was OK, so I picked up the phone from inside my suit jacket pocket only to find it was my Chief Pilot. We’ll talk about that call and him, on another occasion.
Almost 4 years later in September 2019 I drove another similar green liveried, white van back down to the place near the M25 where I arrived shell shocked, underweight and broken 4 years earlier. The journey isn’t as far from here in my new home in my little Midlands town just off the A5. I spent the night, and after sobering up from the amazing hospitality and beautiful friendship of Steve and Sadie, Steve and I opened his garage to reveal a dusty version of that mummified, blue tarpaulin covered, packing tape wrapped item Id left there in 2015.
The first time I ever sat in my dads leather, electric reclining armchair was after I had cleaned and re oiled it just a few months ago in late 2019. It was much easier getting it through my new modern front door and into the living room than it was out of the 1950’s brick built, Semi-Detached house that my brother and I were both born in.