Thursday 17 November 2016

My Dad

I have been thinking a great deal about my Dad this month - he passed away at the age of 96 on the 8th November, 2013. I still miss him so very much.

Because of the war, he was an "absent" father for the first three years of my life but thankfully, he and his two brothers returned to us safely, all having seen active front line service. My best friend Anne, was not so lucky.  Her handsome much loved father did not return and even though I was so young, I understood and felt her family's pain.  I still feel it now, when I think of her. She was devastated, yet she tried hard to comfort her heartbroken mother, who was my own mother's best friend at the time and we were very much involved in the tragedy.

My own Dad was a stranger to me on his return but he tried so hard to bond with me, taking me on outings, just the two of us, down to the beach at Muizenberg, playing in rock pools; building sand castles and swimming in the gentle waves there.  Sometimes we went to  a park near our home, where he would push me on a swing, which was a favourite of mine.  Whilst he was away in North Africa and Italy, I had shared a bedroom with my mother, in my grandparents' house.  On his return of course, things changed.  We moved into our own home and I had my own room, which I resented very much!  I was lonely and wanted to be with my mother.  However, the day after my 4th birthday, I was given the best present ever, my brother John David! He was a delight and adored by all.

My Dad was a Civil Engineer and went back into the Cape Town City Council on his return from the war.  He also went back to his old University, to study for his PhD. He worked very hard and very long hours but he still made time for fun, and fun we had.  Every weekend there were visits to the beaches; the botanical gardens; walks on the mountain; Sunday drives up the coast; picnics and family get togethers with grandparents, uncles, aunts, all recorded for posterity on hundreds of photographs taken by and developed by my Dad.  Photography remained his hobby for the rest of his life, leaving me with 52 large photo albums, all carefully arranged and annotated and hundreds of slides and cine films which all had to be sorted and I thank my brother David for his help with that. It was a huge task and was often very amusing but nevertheless very time consuming.

Dad bought me my first dog, to replace my beloved ginger cat, which had to be re-homed because it had become the cause of my allergies, apparently.  The black scottie, aptly named Sandy Mc Phearson, quickly became a firm family favourite, but unfortunately, he barked a lot and furthermore, had a tendency to bite the postman, the milkman and any other delivery men who happened to come to the door and so he too, had to be re-homed.  He went to friends who had a small holding out of Town, with no delivery people coming anywhere near! It nearly broke my heart, but Dad promised me another puppy, as soon as possible.

We moved from South Africa to Southern Rhodesia, Salisbury, as it was then, and true to his word, as soon as we were settled in our new home, Dad came home with a beautiful Irish terrier puppy, whom we named Paddy. He was highly pedigreed and his kennel name was in fact, Paddy Minor of Weymouth. We had many years of fun and laughter with him.  He was gentle natured and had a great sense of humour for a dog.  He quickly became very much part of the family.

Dad continued to work very hard but he made sure that there was plenty of family time.  There  was much to explore.  Family farms to visit and new friends to be made. Dad still read to us at night when he got home from work, no matter how tired he was. He taught me to ride a bicycle; care for our chickens; to help in the garden, picking the vegetables like beans and peas, which we seemed to grow in abundance.  He became stricter with me, I suppose for my own good, but there were more rules and regulations creeping in, almost unnoticed.  To him, discipline was very important and perhaps I was becoming a wilful child! Yet every Friday evening he would arrive home with a brown paper bag full of sweets and chocolates for the family and any friends who might turn up over the weekend.  He would bring comics for us too, and an English Woman's Journal magazine for our mother.  Later, when I was in my teens, he would bring me the magazine "Seventeen", each month and how I treasured those.  My friends were always envious and anxious to get their hands on them as soon as possible.  We poured over the fashions and hairstyles, but there were also excellent articles on all sorts of subjects of interest to teenage girls at the time.  However, I was not allowed to wear makeup, except for a little pink lipstick; I was not allowed to wear denim jeans or high heeled shoes, (these he said, were bad for one's feet and ruined good wooden floors, which I'll admit they did!); or shoes with pointed toes, as these were also bad for the feet. No swearing was ever permitted; no "pop" music was to be played in our house, especially the music of Elvis Presley, whom he greatly disliked; and we were never to forget our good manners, this included the writing of thank you letters, for everything, which sadly does not seem to exist today amongst the younger people.  One is seldom thanked for anything.

Dad taught us Archery and pellet gun shooting at targets only and never birds.  He taught us to play miniature golf on a course he built in our garden, which included water hazards.  Adequate pocket money was given regularly, which we could use as we wished but certainly not for cigarettes or alcohol. Extra chocolate was supplied at exam time, as he considered it essential to have whilst studying!  He obviously adored us, and if I rebelled a bit then, I later realised that his rules were indeed for my own good.

I could write on and on but dear reader, I am sure you get the picture!  My Dad was the best ever; fair; strong; deeply honest and always polite, a man of great integrity, who rose to the top of his career and yet remained humble. He has been a hard act to follow and I will miss his wisdom; laughter and kindness forever.  
Rosemary Kahn

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