It's six months since the Communist died. Six months yesterday, in fact, but I left it until today to write about it.
Here he is, in the last photo ever taken of him when he lived at home, slightly over two years ago: June 3, 2007. I'd gone round to their house next door and found both my parents having a little snooze on a summer's evening.
A few days later and he was in hospital.
"How does he call a nurse to come?" I asked.
"He presses the buzzer, of course," said Snotty Cow of a Sister.
"There isn't a buzzer," I said.
"Of course there is," said Snotty Cow of a Sister in tones of contempt.
Well, game and first set to Ron and Daphne: we enjoyed proving her wrong. Here he is, making light of the fact that the buzzer on his bed was simply a couple of bits of bare wire.
I'm glad he didn't know then that he was about to run the gamut of Geriatric Ward Hell.
Then he had a few months of ricocheting from grim ward to grim nursing home to grim ward. The geriatric ward at St James's was the bottom of the pit of hell, run by people who were both uncaring and deeply stupid. The management sets the tone of course, and the ward at Leeds General Infirmary was much better.
Here he is, November 2007, just a couple of weeks after having his right leg amputated, because of ulcers caused by diabetes:
And here he is again, April 20, 2008, my mother's birthday - this is one of my very favourite photos of him in old age, taken by Silverback
, and we had a giant poster of it made for his funeral.
He was such a strange mixture of contradictions, the Communist:
a lover of peace who was an ace shot with a rifle
a very gentle man who joined the Communist Party
a grumpy old codger who was perennially optimistic
a Jewish atheist who would bore you to death about religion
a natural conservative who loved left-wing politics
a man from a very working-class background who loved opera and Shakespeare
a Jewish atheist with firmly established Christian values
He was a proud and devoted hard-working family man who was always keen to show off his family's achievements. He adored my mother, my brother and me, and our spouses and children.
A pharmacist until he retired, he worked as an actor in retirement, and loved it.
He could never understand that I didn't like to "show off" what I could do and one of my abiding memories of him is the fear of embarrassment in restaurants when he would try to force me to speak to the waiters in whatever he considered their own language to be. I actually got up and fled the restaurant on several occasions but he never learned!
For his last year he lived in a nursing home, one of the better ones - - and yet they still talked over him while they made his bed. Because everyone else in the nursing home had lost their marbles rather, they assumed he had.
"This is the wrong dose of these tablets - I should have another one."
"Of course you should, dear. Never mind. You just take this one."
"I'm a pharmacist and I know it's the wrong dose."
"Yes, dear, of course you are."
The Communist had the ability to remain optimistic throughout all this horror.
My mother, I know, would not. She would commit murder in her first couple of days in a nursing home. The Communist had to live in one because he had had his leg amputated and had to be turned twice in the night - - this we could not have done. I always felt bad about it. Still do.
The nursing home cost £23,000, a huge proportion of their savings, and my mother has worried about money ever since. I'd like to be able to say that it was money well spent, but it wasn't. Nursing homes are about making money for their owners more than they are about care for the elderly.
Perhaps my best time with him was just after I'd been horribly ill in 1984. I was trying to walk myself back to fitness: he was fairly newly retired and he and I would go for walks every day, all over the place, especially in his beloved Roundhay Park. I think he was pleased to see me gradually coming back to life.
I can still hear the Communist's voice in my head - deep, distinctive, "educated Leeds" with a touch of Jewish already. Sometimes, as I drift off to sleep, I am convinced he's there, I can hear his voice, I feel I can almost touch him.
It's a trick of the mind though, I know, part of the grieving process. It's not real. I hope he's in Heaven going "Damn it, I got it all wrong - there is
a God" - - but sadly, I don't think so, I just can't believe it. That's one thing he passed on to me, along with his big nose and big hands.
I'm still not used to it. If I go anywhere interesting - such as Bridlington last week - my first thought is how he would have loved it. I'm still waiting for him to come back. Come on, Dad, the joke's over. Let's go to the seaside.