As the door closed on 2014 the door of a new year opened and in walked 2015, full of enthusiasm and hope.
I had made a new years resolution to write more, but 2015 had hardly had time to wipe its feet before tragic events started to appear one after another which stopped me in my tracks and evaporated any thoughts of writing. So why am I writing now I hear you say, well it occurred to me that the best way not to forget people is to tell other people what amazing individuals they were.
I am not going to tell you about the people who have recently left us, there is still too much pain, sadness and empty feeling of loss, now is not the time. I think the best time to write about someone is when you think of them with a smile, that is why I am going to tell you about my Father in Law, Harold Cain.
Harold was of slight build but was in proportion to his hight of 5ft 7ins ( 165cm ), he was a naturally fit man, who during his stint in the army in World War two between fighting in North Africa and Italy,had run for his regiment. His ability to run distance and at pace never left him, this came in handy as he would regularly miss the bus that was due to take him to work. Even when this happened when Harold was in his sixties, he would still set off with the same speed and a spring in his step of a man half his age. He always took the short cut to attempt to catch the bus, three bus stops and a quarter of a mile down the road Harold was there waiting for his bus, he always made it.
When Harold retired, because he had worked for the local bus company for most of his adult life he qualified for a free bus pass, which he and my Mother in Law Lucy made good use of. Things were fine but after a couple of years Lucy started to complain saying that Harold was embarrassing her and after a while she stopped going out with him on her own, we had noticed that he was getting a bit excentric but had thought it was just Harold being a bit qwercy, we now know it was the first signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, it robs people of their memories and soul. I have the utmost respect and sympathy for the partners, son,daughters and family of Alzheimer’s sufferers because of the love and loyalty they show as they watch their loved ones change and morph into a totally different character.
The story I am about to tell was when Harold had still got most of his faculties, he was at the bit qwercy and eccentric stage of his illness. As a family we had decided to have a day out at Drayton Manor Park, there was Harold, my mother in law Lucy my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their two children, my wife and our three children and of course myself. All went well, we had arrived late morning, parked in a lovely spot amongst the pine trees, played games with the kids for a while in the meadow then had a most wonderful pick-nick, idyllic. The next phase was to let the kids have the afternoon in the fun park and zoo. Drayton Manor Park at the time had the parkland separated from the fun park and zoo by two lakes and a stream connecting both. Off we went to make our way out of the parkland area and over the stream via the bridge and into the fun park and zoo area, we queued to pay for the wrist bands that allowed the kids to have unlimited goes on the rides, we had everyone supplied with ice creams and lollies and just about to start our assault on the fun park when Harold innocently, and out of the blue then said,
” Could you jump over it Geoff ?”
I had been in the middle of a conversation with John, my brother-in-law, and the question had taken me by surprise. I remember being puzzled and looking at John for a clue as to what Harold was talking about, John looked as bemused as myself, we both turned around to look in the general direction as Harold was gazing. Immediately behind us was a litter bin, about one meter high, I remember turning back to Harold and confidently saying,
” Yeah I could jump that”.
“Could you jump it, John ? ” Harold asked.
“Yes Dad” had been Johns reply.
“Right then” is all Harold said while rocking too and fro on the heels and balls of his feet like an Olympic long jumper, then before John and I could resume our conversation he was off. Harold sped passed us, we turned around expecting to see him attempt to vault the litter bin, but no, he ran straight passed it and then disappeared into the crowd. We had no idea what he was up to but could see the general direction he was heading as the busy crowds of people were being parted like ‘Moses parting the Red Sea’. All of our family, along with all of the people in close proximity to Harold were asking the same thing, what was he doing, then it dawned on us and I remember John and I saying in unison, ” Not the river”.
“He won’t make it it’s too wide”
” What’s he doing now “.
” What’s grandad doing”.
Were comments made by the family as he got closer to his goal. He was out of the crowded Tarmac area now, his cap still firmly on his balding head and he was running on the grassy embankment at full speed like an old fully laden Lancaster bomber, his eyes were firmly fixed on the other side as he launched himself impressively into the air, ” He’s going to make it ” I remember John hopefully exclaiming. There was a moment when I thought, ” Yes he will ” but at that moment, at the zenith of his trajectory, fate took a firm hold of Harold Cain’s braces and gave them a yank, at which point he started his decent into the river. When I say river I mean brook, it was no more than 2.5 meters wide and 30 cm deep but from bank to bank it would have been about 4.5 meters and Harold had landed close to the far side of the brook. He had landed on his feet but then lost his balance and wobbled over and ended up sitting in the middle, a sorry and defeated sight. Harold made his sorry journey back the way he came with people looking on in disbelief as this soggy little man squelched passed them, when he got back to us he was met with a torrent of what and why, I don’t think we ever got an answer, he turned around and went to the gents toilets to dry off. That is where I found him some 30 minutes later drying his socks under the hand dryer, however when he had landed in the shallow stoney brook he damaged his foot which had swollen and had made walking on it impossible. I persuaded him to jump on my back and I carried him back to the car where he stayed until we left later that day.
I remember my mother in law, Lucy, being so upset saying that Harold had ruined a lovely day out, in fact the day has become a part of our family folk law and a day that we can all vividly recall, now will a smile. Harold was an amazing, resilient and courageous man who fought to keep his sanity until the very end, I miss him and will always remember him with great affection.