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If You Could Spend a Few Hours With Any Person Living or Dead, Who Would It Be?

Updated on April 1, 2022
ethel smith profile image

Born in the 1950s in Yorkshire where she still lives this English woman has a keen interest in politics, travel, music and animal welfare

It would be my late father of course

Both my parents died many years ago and obviously I would love to spend time with both of them if possible.

However if I have to choose one person that I would love to spend some time with I will choose my Father.

My Father died six years before my Mother passed away; I was aged just 17.

So in real terms I knew Dad for a short time and now I am aged 66 it seems such a very short time.

My Dad died around four months before I turned 18, at a time when I was still studying at school; life for me changed suddenly.

So meet my Father and find out why we have unfinished business.

It’s a family affair

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dad as a small child  with an image of his father on the right of photoMy Grandfather, as a boy, on the right, with his father on the leftGrandfather on shore leave in Chicago. He is the bowler hatted guy on the right
Dad as a small child  with an image of his father on the right of photo
Dad as a small child with an image of his father on the right of photo
My Grandfather, as a boy, on the right, with his father on the left
My Grandfather, as a boy, on the right, with his father on the left | Source
Grandfather on shore leave in Chicago. He is the bowler hatted guy on the right
Grandfather on shore leave in Chicago. He is the bowler hatted guy on the right | Source


My father was born in Yorkshire, in England, in April 1914; the year that was the start of the first World War. His Dad, my grandfather, was a naval officer in the Royal Merchant Navy.

This meant Dad started his early life on food rations and with an absent father.

As a small child, his mother sadly died.

Such a loss is hard for any toddler to bear but remember fathers were usually stern in those days and one can only imagine the pain the child felt.

With a father away at sea it was decided that two maiden aunts would look after Dad until a better solution could be found.

A solution did present itself however when Dad was aged four or so.

His father remarried and arrived to take his son to join his new family. The aunts were already so very attached to Dad that in the end he was left to live with them.

This would be his first but not last experience of rejection and loss in life.

A few years before the second world war began my grandfather died at sea or so I thought.

Recently I have learned that grandfather was actually on a vessel which was sunk by a U Boat off the coast of Egypt in 1941.

In !939 the Second World War began and when it was his time Dad wanted to join the Royal Navy. But after persuasion from his aunts he joined the infantry. Like many who served he fought a tough, long war and it took its toll on his health and well-being.

He served seven years in Burma and India.

Although the aunts feared the navy would kill Dad he would probably have fared better in the navy than in the infantry.

He came home after being demobbed in 1947 and he and Mum married the next year. By this time Dad was 34 and Mum 31. Not young by the standards of the day.

Mum's first pregnancy resulted in a stillborn boy. My brother came along in 1950 and I followed in 1952.

Had the first birth been successful I would not be here. Life is a funny game isn't it?

Dad was fine on the surface but in reality he was a shattered man.

In those days post traumatic stress disorder was unrecognized in the U.K. As a very small child I remember Dad having malaria attacks but by the time I started school Dad had suffered his first nervous breakdown.

We had many years when he was fine but then his demons would return. So much so that he attempted suicide when I was aged 14.

Three years later he died of "natural" causes.

Dance with my father again

So why do I want to spend time my father?

Well firstly he was my Dad and I loved him to bits. Sure at times we fought but who doesn't at times.

I remember plenty of fun times and days out also though.

With age I realize just what my parents had to endure.

I know that they did the very best they could for us. Money may been tight, especially when Dad was ill, but we wanted for nothing.

Our educational and spiritual welfare was taken care of. Our house where we lived was always a home to me and a place to want to return to.

But I would love to have a grown up chat with my father, adult to adult.

I would like to hear how the war was for him, as he would never discuss it.

I would love him to rattle a great tune one our old piano, which he could do easily.

I would love to hear him bellow out a song for one more time as his voice was lovely.

I would love to enjoy a cycle ride together one more time. As a child I would struggle to keep up on family bike rides but Dad would place a hand on my shoulder to guide me along. "Lift your feet from the pedals and I'll pedal for you".

I would love to be able to learn some of our family history. With so many people dying young in our family there is no-one to ask.

Who did grandfather marry? Did they have any children? What vessel was grandfather on when he died? How was your childhood being brought up my two maiden aunts? Did you love our mother?

And so many other meaningless questions which matter to me and I would love to hear answered

Above all though I would love to give him the hug of his life, curl up next to him and just enjoy his presence.

Yes still miss you Dad, even after all these years.


Last year I received an unexpected letter from a firm of heir hunters.

Such firms operate in the U.K. working against time to find relatives of unclaimed legacies.

They research family trees in the hope the legacy have a decent payout; they take a small percentage.

They have no idea if any legacy is worth a pittance or a fortune.

But such money has a time limit. If not claimed it goes to the Crown.

So imagine my surprise

I imagined the letter related to a person linked to my father’s extended family but it did not.

It was in fact a relative of dad’s mum who died when he was a small child all a century or so ago.

The bad news is there is little money but the great news is information pertaining to the family, a family tree and more relatives that I dreamed existed.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2011 Ethel Smith


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