Sunday, 15 May 2011

Ben's Speech

There were two reasons I wanted to speak today; I wanted to tell everyone here about the man I knew, Dad and friend; I also wanted to say something to my dad which I never got to say, but which I had planned to when I next got the chance; I’ll start by telling you about him.

I think I could talk for a lifetime about the man that I call Dad; he could talk to anyone, relate to everyone, and he knew exactly what to do in every situation. I remember the time, Mum, Dad, Abs and I went to Disneyland Florida – We had booked to stay in the Sports Hotel, a sprawling apart-hotel just outside the theme park. Upon arrival, we realized that the hotel was not quite to our liking (I say WE rather loosely, Mum was probably the main instigator here) – I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say that it wasn’t going to be a culturally enriching experience... At this point, Dad marched us straight past the reception, across the lobby and to the nearest phone, where he made a call to the Disney Castle hotel, the main hotel within the park. He enquired as to the availability of rooms here, to be told that this hotel was fully booked, as it would be, at the height of summer. A normal person in this situation might thank the kind, friendly American lady on the phone, walk back to reception and check his family in, making the best of what we had. Not Dad – He said to that kind, friendly American lady;

“Miss, can I ask you a question; If Bill Clinton called you right now and asked you if he could have a room in this hotel for the next 5 nights for him and his family, what would you say?”

She replied that, should that happen, they would likely find Mr Clinton a room as requested. To this, my Dad replied;

“Well Miss, I can tell you that Bill is unable to make it at the moment, so would it be possible to have his room instead?”

We stayed at the Disney Castle hotel for 5 nights, in a fantastic room overlooking the park.

I’ll always remember the way Dad could tell a joke about anything – He used to boast that, if you said a word, any word, he’d have a joke related to it, and a follow up from that leading into another… and another… etc. etc. I’m sure you all will as well. Man, did Dad like to tell a joke. At this point, most people might add in one of the classics, but I’m sure you’d have heard it already. There were only 5 in total.

A music lover, Dad imparted in me a passion for playing and listening to Music. I grew up on Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Dire Straights and many more, learning early on that these guys were pretty cool, and thinking that my Dad must be as well, if he listens to them… As I got older, I realized this was slightly misguided – Dad’s not cool, he listens to Oldie music, not the newer stuff like Green Day, Nirvana etc. When we went look at guitars one day, Dad tried a few out, strumming chords to Stairway to Heaven and American Pie; I was talking to the guy in the shop about a few bands, Green Day were my favourite at the time, when across the shop, Dad starts playing their newest single, Basket Case, on a Fender Strat; The guy was suitably impressed, asking me “is that your Dad playing Basket Case?”. I was pretty proud to say “Yes”.
One moment that I got to share with the old man was a concert he took me to in 2007, Led Zeppelin – This was a great day for both of us, as 25 years before, Dad had gone to see them, pretty much the same age as I was then. That was a pretty special day, and one that I’ll remember forever.

 I could go on; Dad loved his Family, Chelsea, his business, his golf, his skiing, his beer and food (check out the pictures later, this was clearly a man who liked his beer and his food), and he did them all to the max. This was a guy who enjoyed life, and did the things that he wanted to do. Even after he got ill, Dad made sure that he enjoyed the things he could continue too - We went to Chelsea most weekends, he developed a love of random alcoholic beverages, Moscow Mules, Crabbies Ginger beer, etc.

But I think the most important thing was that we all spent a lot of time together as a family, enjoying each others company. Dad was a family man, and illness or no illness, he didn’t let anything get in the way of his love for us, or his desire to make sure that we did the things that that we wanted to do; that he wanted us to do.

And here’s the bit that I wanted to say to my Dad, but didn’t get the chance.

Dad, before we said goodbye, you told me it was best to make a “bucket list”, a list of things that you want to do before you die. I thought about it long and hard flying back from Oz, and I realized there was only one thing that I’d put on mine. The only thing that I truly I want in my life is to know that I have been even half the man that you were, and even half the Dad that you have been to me.

Bye Dad, I love you, and I’ll see you on that black run in Flane.

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