You’re asked to nominate someone for TIME’s Person of the Year. Who would it be, and why?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us BIG.
Photo taken four years ago : then aged 94
At first I was not going to do this one. Why? Because there is no person of the year.
Despite this I have a person, but not of the year, of all the years past, present and future: My Dad.
He was born on 24th September, 1915, lived through two world wars, knew hard manual work. This year he will be 98 years old, qualification enough to be Person of all the years.
He has shared many memories with me, mostly making me laugh: very rarely talking about the sad times. At the age of three his mother had his arms around a strange man who had knocked at the door, dressed in an army uniform.
“Who’s that man?” he asked his mum.
“That’s your father” was the answer, so there we have the beginnings. Born to a working class family, his mother swept away from the country by his London born father, he grew up in Stratford, East End of London. The first born died shortly after her birth, the second was his older sister who lost her leg in the first world war through a bomb that hit the post office center in London where she was working at the time. At the age of 16 she had a false leg and I remember her well until she died in her seventies.
My dad had an elder brother who died at the age of 21 through an accident at work. He was repairing the lift at Lloyds insurance company (where my grandfather was nightwatchman” and fell down the lift shaft. Two weeks later he died. So this was my father’s background.
World War two broke out and like many men of his age at the time, he was called up to service. He fought five years, as a normal soldier, nothing special. Once on leave in London he met a young lady that he married and that was my mum.
After returning from the war he searched for a job. He was not highly educated or had a trade. He could have made the grade at school and done his exams for high school but at that time you needed something that was scarce in our family: money. You had to buy school books and a uniform, so he just worked where he could. His first job was messenger boy in the City of London, but he left because he got fed up with calling all the men in the office “Sir”. Next job was apprentice to a menswear shop as salesmen where he learnt the ins and outs of mens clothing trade. Then the war was approaching so he took a job in the City of London in a hat shop, knowing that he would soon be dressed in field green and fighting for his country.
He was in the heavy artillery and saw quite a bit of the world in the army: Italy, Palestine (as it was then called), France and Germany. When he returned to London he married two days later. He had only seen my mum once during the war, but they had corresponded, although most of my dad’s letters had broad black stripes where they had been censored by the War Department before being sent.
His first job after the war was on the London railway, nothing special, just doing the jobs that were called for. Afterwards he worked for many years in a cigarette factory, Kensitas, until a colleague told him to apply at Ford’s motors for a job. He did and that was the job he had longest. He was in the wheel department.
He is my dad. Took me up to London to visit the museums, showed me the City of London which he knew in detail, went to a couple of football matches with me (West Ham United was our team) and was always there for me. He was always joking, telling stories, and had a good singing voice. In his army days he often performed for his regiment with two other good friends he had at the time and they won a few singing competitions.
He loves a party, dancing and singing all the time and just being my dad.
Today things are quieter. He is still 200% there, we still have arguments and he knows exactly what is going on. I live in Switzerland, he lives in London, but I go to London once a year to see him and if necessary I would be there within a day. He now lives on his own, my mum passing on almost thirty years ago. Afterwards he had a “girlfriend” that lived opposite, but at the age of 95, she died. I have no brothers or sisters. Thanks to a super neighbour, who was once a carer for older people, his needs are looked after. I also have a good school friend that lives near to his house and she often looks in on him and deals with things for him. My dad can no longer go out for walks; his legs are not the best any more. He can still get around at home and manages to cook his lunch (being delivered by a special company that caters for food at home), but he can only manage a walk to the kitchen or the bathroom and not more.
He never complains.
Thanks to Skype I often call him. I ask “how are you” and the answer is always “just the same, just the same”.
My dad is my hero, my man of all time. He always talks about “when my time comes” but I tell him we are going to celebrate his 100th birthday together.