Earlier this year, I found myself back in the same place for a second time, for much the same reason. So once again, I’m going to share the words:
You know, this place seems kinda familiar.
Sorry, but I can’t tell you about this man without his sense of humour.
Actually, I’m not sure I can tell you about him at all, but that’s kind of my point. My father seemed to be at his happiest in the background, putting his creativity and intelligence to use in ways that supported the people around him; and he was so close to my mother that it’s hard to talk about him without her entire life as assumed context.
But I can hand you some fragments, and maybe you can make do.
I’ve no idea how many hours we spent talking about things but we didn’t really talk about ourselves, we explored philosophy and science and current affairs and mathematics and computing. This is no real surprise; neither of us was exactly a fan of small talk, he reported with some happiness that the last time a friend of mine went to visit him “neither of us ran out of conversation”.
He was a brilliant thinker, analytic, abstract and lateral.
When he realised a lot of his probation clients were stuck in a repeated cycle by prior pain, he took a bereavement counseling course. Apparently it helped him to get a fair few people onto a path to rehabilitation.
He also had a tendency to be modest to a fault; he only mentioned it at all incidentally when using the same tools to analyse his own feelings after my mother’s death.
In another case of lateral thinking, he decided that the solution to not having any games for their first computer that a precocious 18 month old could play was to learn how to write some. I’d sit on his lap while he reached over me to type – and a short number of years later, I asked him what he was doing. Turns out I liked it enough to make a career of it.
He loved Martin Mere. He loved being out in the open air, and he loved introducing people to the wonder of the place, and he loved sitting quietly in hides waiting for the perfect shot. With a camera, before anybody worries. The pistol he bought for pigeons, and I believe his record was one shot, one kill, and then a complete loss of interest.
He was (pigeons apparently excepted) a gentle, laid back man – I don’t think I ever saw him truly lose his temper except when somebody had upset my mother. He wasn’t really comfortable with the feeling he was making things complicated; he apologised to me for dying so soon after my mother, and later gave me a pep talk about how much he enjoyed my visits when he noticed I needed it.
When I saw him at home for the last time, he was suffering noticeably from the shoulder pain that turned out to be the first symptom, and I was still recovering from a broken hip. Our way of acknowledging the mutual sympathy was for me to point out that between us we made one functional person, and him to riposte with “and one fantastic paralympian”.
My father is also the reason why my solution to restaurant menu choices is to pick the thing I don’t recognise – he loved cooking, but that was more the confluence of his love of food and his love of experimentation than an obsession in itself. Trying new dishes, discovering new flavours – that was a joy in and of itself to him, and another bug I caught.
I think, though, that I can sum up our entire relationship in its final interaction. I emailed him to tell him I’d be visiting on the friday, and after apologising for being morbid told him the only thing I could think of to say that didn’t seem over wordy or trite or simply unnecessary – “It’s been an honour to be your son”.
He replied back soon afterwards, asking me to bring some Gaviscon.
Good bye, Adrian Trout.
It really was an honour.
— mst, out.