A life in pictures and in words of love

My Dearest Pa,

There’s this picture of you from when you were a boy sitting in a small go-cart surrounded by three of your sisters. You don’t look happy. Surly is the best description I have for it, but it makes me laugh when I think what might have been going through your mind at the time. ‘I’m hungry’, ‘why is Jean allowed in the go-cart too’, ‘why am I here’, ‘why do I have to smile’ part of any four-year-old boy’s nightmare – to stand still for a photo for five minutes.

The next photo I look at, you’re fourteen, and it’s your first British Merchant Navy passport. You look so damn young — too young to be off to sea, without a parent and without the doting sisters around you. There are photos of you on the ship smiling, hoisting rigs, chummy with shipboard mates, drinking beer and sharing a laugh.

There’s a photo from your first visit to Australia, outside a Fremantle hotel, then there’s the one of you crammed into a photo booth laughing it up with a mate.

As you became older you became more handsome, you dressed smarter, looked dapper and there are pictures of you with your arm around pretty girls, the prettiest of all being mum. There are photos of you and mum at your wedding, standing stiffly on the church steps and later there’s honeymoon pics, Blackpool I think, standing on the deck of a ship your arms around each other, on the beach in fashionable swim wear. Later you’re holding Jan or Stu, or the dog who’s name I never remember. There are ones from when you came here, cooking barbeques in late setting summer suns wearing nothing but the skimpiest of seventies shorts. There are party shots too, laughing and drinking and dancing and canoodling. There is so much laughter and life in those photos.

That is what I want to remember, what I want to thank you for sharing. When I look at these photos, I see your gentle heart, the man who teared up at Lassie films, who sang me silly songs with snippets of languages you learnt on your travels. I see the man who knew many fine Scottish folk tunes, ones he sang in houses and halls drunkenly slurred when your arms were around friends or family. Or as you donned a kilt or slew us with your terrible skills on a bagpipe.

You were the one I went to when I needed to remember the lighter side of life, you made me laugh, you made me forget that life is sometimes not fair. I love you and will never forget you.

Nancy

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