I’ve been wondering whether to blog about this or not but on the other hand it’s been on my mind. Two weeks ago I showed you a picture of two people a century apart in age, one of whom was my father. He died very peacefully last Sunday after living rather too long and with increasing mental and physical frailty. I saw him last in 2010 and he didn’t really know who I was but accepted cups of tea from me, some of which he said were lousy. Sorry, dad.

Think about it: a hundred years. His mother, at the time of the 1901 census, was 20 and a housemaid in London (possibly a family secret I unearthed) at 28 Alma Square in Marylebone, London, something I now incorporate into my presentation on Regency servants. The house is still there (thanks, google maps, although I don’t know which one it is! It is now a VERY posh area. I don’t think it was in 1901). There’s a lot I don’t know about his family because he wouldn’t volunteer information or talk about them, and he’s the last of his generation by a long shot. He was of Irish descent and his grandfather (who came over from Dublin) drove a hansom cab in London. When he was a very small child he was put on a train to visit relatives and was given chocolate to cheer him up by young soldiers who were going to the front in World War I.

He gave me my appreciation of music and books. I thought everyone went to sleep listening to their father play violin accompanied by their mother on piano. Wrong. Here he is in a local community orchestra, as a youngster of 92, playing that most geeky of instruments, the viola.

He and I had a very nice Jane Austen moment one time when I was a rebellious teenager and we weren’t getting along too well. Somehow we got onto Jane Austen, and I said I liked Emma best and he said he liked P&P, particularly the smackdown scene between Lizzie and Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and we then read it together. I’m trying to think of a way to incorporate this into the funeral service at the end of this month. And if I ever need to think of the way a Regency person would say something, I recall my father’s way of speaking, which had a very old-fashioned cadence. So I owe him a lot.

He read my first book, Dedication, but by then his memory was already going and he had trouble connecting thoughts. He did however comment that he’d be too embarrassed to donate the book to the church jumble sale.

We had some memorable moments when he and my mother visited the States a couple of decades ago. He may have been the only person ever to take a mule ride in the Grand Canyon wearing a necktie (he didn’t feel properly dressed without one). And he was thrilled to find a “Sod and Sodding Services” section in the yellow pages. English people used the term “turf.” Over there, “sod” and “sodding” mean … something else. I cut it out for him and he took it back home to show people.

It’s the end of an era. I’m sad he’s gone but when someone lives this long you have expected it for a long, long time. So don’t feel bad for me, but do tell me about any interesting ancestors you may have!