I watched a programme the other night which confirmed without doubt what I have always believed: there is no greater responsibility than that of being a parent. The measurement of success? A happy, well-rounded individual who is not only equipped with the knowledge that ‘No man is an island‘ but who has the courage to play to his own strengths, making choices for love not money. On the other hand, to fall down, as a parent, has far-reaching consequences. This job has the potential to inflict irreparable damage which will last a lifetime. Never doubt its importance.
My Pop died just over a month ago and, whilst always appreciative of the unique bond we shared, his loss has made me acutely aware of his legacy; his lasting impact on me as a person, and thus my life. More than anyone, he has made me who I am. I shared his sense of humour and love of sarcasm, his thirst for books and his attitude to people: his default was one of caution; one had to earn his friendship. For many, the task was futile but for those to whom he warmed, his loyalty was steadfast. He was my voice of calm throughout my life whether it be before exams – he would tell me just to write my name or count the pillars; something health related – take 2 disprin; then, the night before my wedding – it’s not too late to back out! Some things just have a habit of coming back to haunt one!
He drove us to school and, more often than not, collected us, too. He attempted to help with homework but Maths was a waste of time and, of course, we always got Maths prep at the weekend! Still etched in my memory is me sitting in tears having sought help from every family member including the dog – none of them could do it! What kind of parents were they?
He and I would walk the dogs together, never taking for granted the glorious countryside around us or the beautiful West Sands of St Andrews. How I loved riding past his office at Stratheden and waving in or going to meet him after golf and listening to him regaling us with his stories. His stories … we tried to encourage him to put pen to paper. He had a wealth of anecdotes relating to his domiciliary visits throughout the scenic corners of Fife but to suggest publishing was, in his mind, unethical. To be honest, I think the antics of his family more than fuelled his catalogue of stories for the clubhouse. I can still hear his familiar laugh – I hope I never forget it – as we gathered round the television to watch Morecombe & Wise, Fawlty Towers or the like. Then there were the jokes he loved to tell, always funny regardless of quality because he, himself, found them hysterical.
I have so many precious memories of Pop belonging to he and I, alone (yes, I know it should be ‘me’ but …). One is particularly pertinent at this time of year as I recall Christmas 1978 when, in thick snow, he came to collect me from uni at the end of term. As we drove away from Pollock Halls down Clerk Street, we stopped at Old College and got out of the car to listen to the Salvation Army brass band playing carols – we, both, knew we would never forget.
It was he who came with me to see Professor Edwards when my offer of a place to do Honours in English Literature was withdrawn on the realization that I had failed French in First Year! Thirty-nine years later, the said Professor Edwards would have been held accountable for his words/threats to me that day but, as you know, according to Pop, ‘There is a plan for every man’ and French was just sent to snooker mine! Still, just the mention of that subject now evokes hilarity in those who know me.
I could go on. Suffice to say I, myself, am living testament to a father who loved me and who made me feel secure thus giving me the strength to cope with the inevitable slings and arrows of life … and so much more. Following the death of my mother, I was to discover that he was flawed but his guilt and remorse were to haunt him for the rest of his life promting his last words to me. Siblings react differently but the bond between Pop and myself shall remain always. Whilst I shall never understand or condone, he would never have sold his family down the Swanee for his own selfish gain … unlike some. Big mistake!
A teenager in the seventies, nobody could forget David Cassidy! Although devoted to Donny, I did have a soft spot for David Cassidy, too, and particularly his voice. Instantly recognizable and heart-melting, it is still one of my favourites to this day and immediately transports me back to my bedroom in Lyndhurst with my portable red record player (which my mother off-loaded!), my hairbrush and my mirror! What? That wasn’t normal?! Anyway, I had all the singles courtesy of Pop who, every Tuesday after his clinic, would stop off at Bruce’s Record Shop in Kirkcaldy with a note of my order. Just another thing we shared. Halcyon days in a gentler world. David Cassidy was everywhere and, along with Donny, on the front cover of every teen magazine. (Anyone remember Fab 208?) Good-looking boy next door with long hair, puka shells, a smile to die for and a great voice who catapulted The Partridge Family – and himself – to instant stardom of stratospheric heights. He had it all. Didn’t he?’
‘All that glisters is not gold … ‘, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Watching David Cassidy: The Last Session, Channel 4 (23/11/18), was truly heart breaking. He died of liver failure this time last year, on the 21st November. He was 67 and almost unrecognizable as the former heart throb of the seventies. Yes, I knew the story. He couldn’t cope with the fame, the adulation and, ultimately, the isolation. Desperately lonely, he became a prisoner far removed from normality and, following the death of one of his fans at a UK concert, he bowed out of both The Partridge Family and the incessant touring. No happy ending in his personal life, though, he made a brief comeback in 1985 when we saw him at the Playhouse in Edinburgh. That remains one of the best nights of my life. Yes, he had detested being a teen idol and his squeaky clean image but he appreciated the calibre of the songs and how much they meant to so many. He sang each and every one and I loved him for that. We, actually, met him later in the bar of what was once the Dragonara Hotel. Dressed in a jumpsuit, he was carrying a large glass of brandy and a big fat cigar. Not much taller than me, he was responsible for one of the only occasions when I have been lost for words! Completely starstruck, all I can remember is his piercing eyes. It was weird. Now, many years later, Donny was a completely different kettle of fish and it was as though I had known him forever. Oh, what could have been!
‘Tragic figure’, ‘a product’, ‘tormented’ … just a few of the words used to describe David Cassidy in the Channel 4 programme. The last footage of him filmed days before he died, he is in a great deal of pain as he joins his band in a studio in Chicago, desperate to record a final tribute to his Dad. Estranged from his family and friends, deep down he knows he is dying after years of alcohol abuse and, poignantly, his thoughts are with his father; the father who denied him not only his love but any affirmation of his talent and, in so doing, wounded his son irrevocably.
‘I did it to myself to cover up the sadness … and the emptiness.’ David Cassidy
It is heartbreaking. Outwardly, he had it all excepting that which he craved the most, his father’s love and approval – hauntingly, exactly the same could be said of Karen Carpenter and her relationship with her mother. She died aged 32, in truth, nothing more than a little girl who desperately wanted her mother to love her …
Help! See what I mean? The responsibility of a parent is second to none and the power to wound fatal. Never take that for granted. Life has ensured, of late, that fathers have been very much on my mind. I consider myself one of the lucky ones but, close to home, the wounds are gaping. Children automatically put their parents on a pedestal and only the actions of the parent ensure a fall. Sadly, for some, the fall is too great and that pedestal may never be reclaimed. Life is cruel.
That David Cassidy programme was so hard to watch. Listening to his records in my bedroom all these years ago, I thought life was the best! I had it all and never once did I question it. I was right, though, I did have it all and for that I am so grateful. Thankfully, none of us can see into the future.
In Rome, recently, Becca pointed out a silver bangle in the Monti Market inscribed with a quote from Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie):
‘Second to the right and straight on till morning.’
The way to Neverland. We bought one each. Sadly, I lost mine.
This is Trish, signing off.