My Dad (David John Richards) died on Monday the 26th of November 2007 at around 9pm in Lincoln Hospital. After a long illness initiated by inoperable throat cancer, but in the end an accumulation of a number of factors. The hospital staff were great and Dad’s sister, brother in law and my brother were there with him when he slipped away.
My Dad was born just before the end of the second world war, Grandad was in a protected profession so both his parents were around. From what I can recall of the stories – when he was very young they found that both his thigh bones were bent and that he would have faced considerable difficulties walking so he was the test case for a new procedure that involved shaving away most of his bones, bending his legs straight and then allowing them to re-grow.
This involved Dad spending many months in full body plaster. My Nan recalls that this made Dad a very placid little boy, but also very tough. This toughness is a major theme in his life, as is the fact that he was generally very content and easily pleased. I think my Nan was very protective of him after these early major operations and that probably made him overly adventurous in his youth.
The earliest stories that my Dad told me were always about him and his dog Sam they would explore the beach chasing sea gulls and trying to find old bombs and ammunition, several of which he brought back and hid under my Nan’s caravan – much to her horror when they were discovered. Sam was always getting into trouble taking on much larger dogs, getting stuck down rabbit holes and fighting snakes. Apparently he was very protective of Dad’s sister (my Aunty Dawn). This picture of Sam is beside Dad’s tent which I also used throughout my childhood as well and in fact we still have it!
As Dad got older he got more adventurous and I remember two stories in particular. The first one involved collecting old ammunition with his friends from an abandoned air field and extracting the gun powder to made a home made ‘canon’. Fortunately no one was hurt when they fired it, but the policeman riding on his bike on the other side of the hedge got a bit of a shock.
Another war story involved a home made Molotov cocktail which he – and his friends again – threw into a pond on the same abandoned airfield, unfortunately they found out that it was a little too successful and it left them drenched along with quite a few fish dead.
When Dad was 10 his Sister was born and she has been a wonderful friend throughout his life, especially during his later years.
Dad went to Grammar school and did pretty well, but he must have calmed down because he decided to joined the police. He graduated successfully and told me many stories about this time, which he seemed to enjoy. Although it was the time of the gangs in Lincoln and he definitely had some gruesome and scary moments.
Dad married my Mum – Helen – when he was about 20 and they had two boys me and my brother Shawn. For most of their lives they lived in my Mum’s childhood home in Lincoln, just down the road from my Nan and Grandad.
From what I recall Mum and Dad met when Dad was visiting Mum’s house as the guest of her ‘brother’ (Son of her guardians). A Bee got entangled in Mum’s hair and Dad used his comb to extract it, he carried that comb with him for as long as I remember and he was fond of Bees for the rest of his life, always taking the time to rescue them when they got stuck in the house for example.
I was born while Dad was in the police force but not long after he left and took a job as a stock controller for Ruston Bucyrus the famous crane manufacturer. Cranes were to play a very big part in our lives!
As a stock controller, Dad spent a lot of time wandering around the factory and was always ‘rescuing’ things from the skips. As a result everything I remember seems to have been made, repaired or painted with something associated with Cranes. Dad loved to make things and spent most of his life in the garage working with wood or metal and he had a lot of skill and creativity.
I think that time gave him a lot of enjoyment and me and Shawn spent many happy days helping him. We also had a very large garden so when we weren’t doing DIY we were picking apples, cutting the lawn, picking soft fruit or raking leaves – it’s not as bad as it sounds.
I don’t ever recall Mum or Dad putting me under any pressure to achieve, it was a relaxed childhood with plenty of love and support. I had models just like this to play with when I was little, Dad got them from the Sales Team. The colours Mustard and Red were very common at home.
Mum and Dad parted just after Debbie and I got married and it was a sad time for everyone, but Dad stayed in the house that had – by then – become his home. He spent his time in much the same way as he had when I was a child, inventing things, making them and looking after the house and garden. He drank a little too much and smoked, which of course none of us approved of, but I never recall him drunk.
He made his first stumble when he caught the flu and then pneumonia a few years ago, he recovered but was weakened. Dawn was a tower of strength and looked after him wonderfully with her husband Pete’s support.
Then about a year ago he was rushed to hospital with a ruptured ulcer. By the time he got there he had the lowest blood volume that anyone at the hospital can ever remember. The ulcer turns out of have been caused by Dad over using ibuprofen for months on end, which in turn was because he had an incredibly bad sore throat. The sore throat turned out to be throat cancer. By the end of the cancer treatment he was much weakened and unable to eat without a direct feeding tube into his stomach.
The aftershock of the cancer treatment, struggling to eat, a chest infection and failing sight all became too much a couple of weeks ago and against his wishes we convinced him that he needed to go into hospital. After a blood transfusion and a bit of intensive care he recovered a little. Enough for us all to say goodbye, but he didn’t respond to the antibiotics and in the end he just wasn’t strong enough.
I start my life after Dad, with one inspiring memory that dwarfs all others. Despite a very difficult final year Dad was always cheerful and motivated, never really complained and always just got on with living. Right to the end the only place he wanted to be was back at home getting on with his life without troubling others and looking forward to cutting the lawn on his new sit on mower. Dawn, Shawn and I were very proud, maybe just wishing that he had been a bit less stubborn about seeking medical help. I think he died as he started – as a little boy he had suffered pain and constraint with little complaint and that prepared him well for the end.
It seems that either Dad or I were always taking the pictures so I don’t have a picture of me and Dad together but I have this picture Dad and Shawn and Mum In Wales.
Dad loved the beach, especially Cornwall, but he – like Shawn and I – grew up spending most of his holidays at Mablethorpe so that’s where we will be scattering his ashes.
In this one Dad is riding his sisters bike with me in the saddle bag. This was in our back garden and I had no memory of it at all, but it looks like we were both having fun!
This next one is of me and Shawn with Mum and Dad in my Nan’s back garden. Shawn’s the one with the braces and me looks pretty cute. I actually remember this one, and I remember the apple tree had very tasty apples as well.
The last picture is a typical posed family portrait. It’s a pretty good picture.