Dear Old Dad


I have the last letter Great-Grandfather wrote in my hands. He signs off ‘Your Old Dad’, and that has got me thinking about my own Father, who I have not seen in four years now. Four years since I have called him ‘Dear Old Dad’. We all used to call him that, for he was always an old Dad; he was 45 years old when I was born, and to have a father that old was quite unusual in the 1960s! So he got very close to his 96th birthday before he passed away. I have missed my Dear Old Dad rather a lot in the last few days, for no particular reason. Four years will turn into five, and so it will go on like that. I regret this. He is more distant to me now, the accumulation of years absent takes its toll. I look at the photographs, I recall the sound of his voice; I try to stem the ceaseless flow of time and what it carries away.

Great-Grandfather writes from his bed, laid up with bronchitis. Touchingly he acknowledges that he is ‘Well looked after in every way.’ He thanks my Grandfather for the secateurs, which sadly he would not get much time to use.


Dear John,

I feel that I must try and write you a line or 2 re the “Secateurs” &co. What a bit of real “Luck” that you should manage to drop on a pair so very similar to the ones that I’ve lost &co and that you purchased for me so many years ago. I forget HOW MANY but they have done such GOOD WORK and Now to be lost!!! At any rate I am well pleased and Hope to do some good Work with these and tho’ at present it don’t look hopeful &co, as I am writing this in Bed and not very well pleased with myself so far – but must be well satisfied that I’m not worse &co &co. And thankful that I’m well looked after in every way. BRONCHITIS is no favourite complaint of MINE!!! Well I went round the Garden yesterday afternoon almost Heart Breaking &co and nothing done & the 3rd Week in March. Well goodbye for the present. Glad to hear you are keeping well and busy Gardening with kindest regards THANKS &co. From your ‘OLD DAD

I believe that this was the last letter my Grandfather received from his father. And so Grandfather chose to keep this letter very safe, demonstrative of the same sentiment I have for the things my Father left behind. Father did not leave me letters, but little notes and drawings appended to my Mother’s letters. I have other things by his hand too, paintings (of course) and other oddities such as this stone that he drew upon. I cherish these things because they keep him close.


And so farewell Great-Grandfather. I started this project knowing only your name and where you had lived. Apart from knowing a little more, I feel a sense of your spirit, which surprises me. Were I younger and my parents still living, my connection to you would not be so heartfelt, of this I am certain. Now I have lost my Mother and Father, the lives of long before (ushers in of us all) have a pull upon my heart.

Truly John Mabey, it has been a great pleasure to be with you.


5 thoughts on “Dear Old Dad”

  1. It’s very sad to lose our parents – grandparents too. I understand the feeling of loss that sort of ebbs away into the distance. And also the strangeness of parents much older than oneself. Mine were 36 and 38 years older than me when I was born and as their friends had no children my age I pretty much mixed with their generation. I sometimes wonder if it’s why I have these interests in family history, apart from the connection to my own family. Do you think it’s one of the reasons you do?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s an interesting point and I’ve thought on your comment and see the rightness of it. My father was the same age as most of my friends’ grandparents. He had served in World War Two and my mother, although 13 years younger than him, was at 32 quite ‘old’ to give birth (it’s a very normal age now!). Her brother, who was ten years older than her, was killed in 1944. So yes the past, certainly in terms of WW2 had an impact on how I viewed my world from a very early age. My sisters and I used to sometimes speculate on what our family would have been like if Albert had lived, so that feeling of absence has always been there. I suppose the longer you live the more you lose, so perhaps loss becomes a kind of fascination? But also I find looking into the past very heart-warming, for it affirms that no matter where or when you lived, people in their needs and wants, hopes and dreams, are essentially all the same. If we cherish the belief that we are all one, then I have hope that our families will continue peacefully for generations to come.

      Liked by 2 people

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