HARRY’S CONCERN FOR DAD 

Harry phoned.  “Hullo Dad, How are you?”

“I’m alright, apart from feeling listless, and having difficulty in getting about.”

“I suppose it’s the cancerous prostrate gland causing this.” he replied.

“Well, you may be right, but it may also be due to the implants that I have been prescribed to have every three months.”

“May I come home this weekend?   I will bring my own food with me.” Harry requested.

“Yes, as long as it is on the basis of alternate weekends.   I do not want you to get unsettled at your residence, for you will never find another to equal it.”

It was usual for Harry to arrive by taxi around 7am, before most neighbours were about, bringing his painting equipment with him.   When letting him in, with my pyjamas on, he asked, “Can I bring your breakfast up?”    This was indeed music to my ears.   I wasted no time in replying, “Yes please.”  I made certain that I did not miss this luxury that I could never remember having had previously.

It had always been a habit of mine to have breakfast on my own, since school days, for with my mother being an invalid, I also took her breakfast to her bedroom.

The foregoing took place a short time before Christmas 1996, and it had been repeated several times since.    His concern for my health and well-being had increased, amounting to deep affection, especially as he often pleaded me to visit him, several times a week.     There were moments when I looked back and pondered how he was so mentally disturbed from his earliest days, that now at the age of 52 he could become so considerate.   I also wondered how the consultant would have explained discharging him from St James’ and withdrawing all medication from Harry, if he was made aware of his present condition.   The letter he had sent us made it appear that he should be placed in a secure hospital.

Harry had now turned the tables round on me, for I did not recall ever displaying affection towards my own parents in this manner, although I did whatever I could in the home whilst my father was away travelling throughout the week.     Mother’s crippling arthritic disease throughout her joints caused her much pain.   What I did was more out of moral duty and not so much affection.     I seemed to have lacked affection, for I could never remember being cuddled or kissed by my mother.   Nor could I claim that they did not care for me, for I was well-clothed and sent to a grammar school as a fee-paying pupil.

Up to my teenage years, I saw very little of my father, for not only was he away all week as a commercial traveller, but being a church organist, he had his choir rehearsal on Friday nights to take charge of, as well as the Sunday services.     He left me to make my own way in life, as he had done himself in becoming S&J Watts’ district representative for the Midlands.  When this happened, I had moved with my parents to Wolverhampton and was unable to get work for many months, when I would spend time listening to Hitler ranting on the German radio, followed by the Nazis chanting “Heil Hitler!”   The war clouds were gathering, for it was not a question of if war broke out, but a question of when.

It was my father who, behind the scenes, had contacts to enable me to obtain work after school, at J&N Phillips Warehouse, Manchester.    He also came to my rescue for me to obtain work at the Yale and Towne, which enabled me to establish a career in engineering before the outbreak of war.   However, I failed to mature, in not telling my works manager, Mr Terry, who had placed me in charge of production at the Ever Ready Co., that I had joined the Territorial Army and I was called up at the Munich Crisis and at the outbreak of war.

I had not appreciated that I was in a key position, although only 23 years of age, and held a reserved occupation.    At the time when I was rebuked by Mr Terry, who had been a captain in the First World War, I thought he was very disloyal to his country.      After many years, I have now realised, with the responsibility that he had placed on my shoulders, I should at least have discussed my intentions of joining up, since he had no powers to obtain my discharge.

Harry’s recent concern for my poor health and wanting to wait on me, had brought a sense of guilt, in failing to act as a responsible adult son to my own parents.    The immense happiness I have had from the caring attitude of Harry towards me, had made me question how I could have acted in the callous manner towards both my parents at the time of my marriage, and when I was sent to France a month later.   In obtaining a special marriage licence between Friday, 1st September and 4th September, my only concern had been that Gladys could get her family together, and that I could get Sam to be best man for the wedding service at the Registry Office on the Monday morning.

Before my unit moved off at midday, from the barracks in Wolverhampton, I gave no thought of asking my father to attend, nor even to tell him of my intentions.    It has now been brought home to me, how much hurt I must have given him, and also to a lesser degree, my mother, who could not have possibly attended, as she had been evacuated to Llangollen, Wales.

The phone call from Harry at 8 am, asking me, “How are you, Dad?” was acting like a boomerang, each time he made it.   He had shown concern for me in a way that I should have shown concern to each of  my parents during those difficult early war days.    There was my father, suffering from mustard gas, causing breathing difficulties, with his wife now evacuated and his only son gone to war, who could not be bothered to write home to let his father know how he was coping.    What a let down.   He must   have been particularly upset when he was asked, “How is your son, and where is he?   In France?”    How could he have replied, other than to tell the truth, that I could not be bothered to write?

I do recall that, while in France, I did receive a letter from Gladys, in which she told me that he was upset from not hearing from me.   If this was true in my father’s case, how much more my mother must have felt it, in Wales, and immobile, with no members of her family around her at Llangollen.

In my Christian faith I was taught the ten commandments, of which, “Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother” was quoted.     Could it be, on my final day, when I meet St Peter at the pearly gates, he will accept my excuses for my failure to observe this commandment, due to exceptional circumstances, viz, I had just got married to Gladys and was so devoted to her that, at this time, nothing else mattered?  

I had also gone to fight Hitler, who had threatened to take over Europe, making our country vulnerable to air raids at any moment.   That I was worried in my post at work, knowing there was no fail-safe device to safeguard bands of twenty assemblers from being idle, whenever there was a tool or machine failure in the workshop.    My reserve of parts to counter this situation had been condemned by visiting industrial consultants, as having too much stock on the shop floor.

I could well imagine St Peter replying, “Excuses, excuses, and what about the way you treated Gladys, that upset your colleagues from work, who spent an evening at your home?   You remember.    It was in Teddington, to celebrate your promotion to Portsdown?”   Yes, I did remember, and was glad that I had been taken to task for the domineering way I spoke to her.     Was this the Sergeant’s parade square manner that I had still retained, that had caused one of my troop to desert?   

On this score, I was able to correct the arrogance that Gladys had to put up with me, and I hoped to make up for this failure, after moving to a new home, which she had been able to furnish throughout, regardless of expense.   I did, of course, have moving expenses to help pay for my penitence!

This was not the only time that I had been rebuked in the past for my attitude, this had also taken place on the Work Study Assignment in the Admiralty.     I had a member of the other half of the productivity team I had been seconded to, complain of my ‘holier than thou’ look that I went about with.    He was more senior in grade than me, and gave me those remarks, I assume, to improve the image of the team when interviewing staff.

It was claimed that when I returned to my permanent station at Teddington, on completing the work study assignment, I was a changed man!!   I did hear a similar remark made by one of the scientific staff, so I assumed that, yet again, I had taken heed of my criticism.   I had my last promotion shortly after my return, and must assume I was more fitted than hitherto, in spite of my age of 52.

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Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: February 04, 2001