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Monday, 30 December 2013

December 30th was a good day too

My dad's birthday---it was always a source of stress for the Cunninghams of Bill and Eve provenance, because it followed so close on the trauma of finding a Christmas present for a man who was so generous, so selfless, so unsuited to carpentry and other so-called manly undertakings that socks and ties really were the choices.

Once, in a fit of no-ties-for -Christmas, I remembered that my dad told us how wonderful he found figs to be when he was in Sicily.  I didn't know anything about figs other than hearing them mentioned in the Bible and on the box the Newtons came in.

What he remembered:

What I got him for Christmas:

And he still loved me unconditionally---all of us actually, all 6 of us who devised 6 different approaches to testing his apparently infinite patience. 

Bill, Sicily 1941
While we didn't know him at this age, all of us had a singular understanding of who he was, and why he was there in this photo---not because he told us war stories but because the longer we knew him, the more he fit the image, calm, capable, sure of who he was. Of course, in that photo, he hadn't taken to the black, thick moustache that he wore every day of his life except for 3 traumatic days in 1950.  And believe, me, the trauma wasn't his.

 Nor was he moustached in this photo, in which, to the left, you can see a drawing done by my mother.  This was a big family reunion of my mom's family, she to the right, with Sean on her lap.

Here, he was a very young-looking 46, apparently just home from work and ready to hand out slices of his birthday cake.  A year ago, we brought old photo albums home to download photos, and all the photos of our family life, from Dad's 21st to 46th year are with my brother Pat being downloaded in a calm fashion remarkably like my dad's first-things-first way of dealing with too much of anything.

These three, from 1974 and 1980 (I think) just jump off the page at me, because they bring back the feeling of security and acceptance and caring that was always there and always a product of the love for each other that our parents always had on show.

This, I think, is the photo I love most of my Dad: he was retired, happy, healthy, strong and as usual, amused by his family.

And this, of Mum and Dad on vacation in England, is a capture of a wonderful vacation they had---a joyful, freedom-filled shared experience.

After Dad's stroke, he was not himself, or at least not the Dad he'd been, but still at the heart of the family.

And this, four or five years after his stroke, out in the garden he loved, with the cap that we loved,  as sweet as he could be. 

Billy was a lovely man, an exemplary father, a man not too handy around the house, but always handy at humanity.  He was a terrible punster though, and could make us groan like nothing else on earth. Who wouldn't love him for that? 

Today, I'd do anything to be able to buy him a birthday present.



  1. What a beautiful tribute to your father, Lorna. Thanks so much for sharing these photos and memories. Like I always say, death does not end a relationship.

  2. I feel like I just met him through your words. He sounds like he was a lovely guy. You're a lucky girl to have had an awesome dad!

  3. And despite his PUNishing ability to make people laugh, he was humble enough to advise you not to marry someone just because they made you laugh - glad both you and your Mom ignored that bit of advice. Your grateful other half.

  4. I do appreciate other males who are unhandy.