Thursday, November 02, 2006
David Dauer: 1922 - 2006
Regular readers of the blog will know, like we all did, that it was coming, sooner rather than later. As I said to him last week, his prize-fighting days were long behind him. It made him smile, and he proved me wrong anyway, accidentally hitting my Mum in the face the next day when she tried to give him a drink.
I've been told about the deaths of maybe half a dozen people I know very well in my life. It's horrible, but I remember all of the phone calls and the conversations in vivid detail. And it's never like it is on the TV. There's never the thoughtful pause and the big hug. On Tuesday when the phone rang I was taking a pizza out of the oven and watching Barcelona v Chelsea on ITV1...
I’d left his bedside only 45 minutes earlier. I’d been there every day for an hour or so, watching him slip away from us. He’d slowly lost his speech, his appetite, and his will to carry on. He looked no different after he’d passed away than he did that evening when he was still alive. It was peaceful when it happened, and gave him relief from years of decline. A decline which sped up when my Grandma died, and became a positively sprinting descent in the last 6 months.
My family is Jewish, and the tradition is to bury the dead as quickly as possible, preferably within 24 hours. So yesterday there was a lot of running around to do – from the nursing home to the undertakers to the Doctor’s to the registry office to his house, and then to the cemetery. My knowledge of where the various registrars' offices are in Greater Manchester has greatly increased and, always one to live up to old saying, I did indeed “learn something new” yesterday – It turns out that deaths have to be registered in the area in which they occur, not the area where the deceased lives, or where his Doctor’s is. In my Grandpa’s case, that’s three separate areas, all of which received a visit from a slightly breathless me yesterday!
But it was all sorted, and he is buried in Failsworth Jewish Cemetery next to my Grandma.
A number of things have occurred to me in the last couple of days. First, how little I know about my Grandpa. Nobody will print his obituary. It won’t be in The Times or the pages of a magazine. He wasn’t a well-known man. But this much I know about him: He was born in 1922, and he married my Grandma Rita in 1949. What he did between those dates I have no idea. He was quiet about his War, and his childhood. I don't know if he played football with his friends, or what his school was like. What were his parents like? I just don't know.
He owned a factory that made raincoats, and he had two children. He retired in the early 1980s, and was made a widower in 2003. The details of his life are sketchy to me. I know about his family – he had two brothers and two sisters, two children, two grandchildren (of whom I am one). Lots of nieces and nephews and cousins and the rest.
But as for what he liked, what he did in his spare time, how he spent the decades growing older… I have no idea. And I didn’t think to ask until recently, when he couldn’t tell me any more even if he wanted to. I get the odd bit of information. I was discussing it with my Mum as we were by his bedside on Tuesday, just before I left. She was there at the very end. And since Tuesday, I have found out some wonderful things that I never even knew about him – how he used to talk to the children and grandchildren of the neighbours even into his 80’s, when all of his friends had passed away. How, even when his strokes had robbed him of the power to find words to say, he’d make noises and talk nonsense just to get your attention and to make sure that you were OK. Always watchful, always caring, when all he had were those who watched and cared for him.
And he’s the last of my Grandparents to die. I had three when I was born. And they’ve all gone recently. So we all move up one level now. My parents, always the middle generation, become the old-guard as we children have no Grandparents left for doting. There are very few of my Grandpa’s generation left. He was one of five. And now there’s one left. Another man who remembers the 1930s and the War, and who watched the coronation with his baby in his arms has died.
His carers at the nursing home were fantastic. Parklands it’s called. I was wary of nursing homes, but they were wonderful. I have the utmost admiration for nurses and carers who do the types of work that I honestly wouldn’t, and for criminally low salaries. They cared for my Grandpa when his family couldn’t any more, and treated him like he was family. We will say a private thank you to them, but they deserve much more from us all.
So he’s gone. My house almost went up in flames when I fled it, leaving the oven on and a pizza going cold on the side. But Tamsin saved the day. I got to see the relatives that I only see at weddings and funerals. And I said my farewells to my favourite old man.
He was a gentleman of the highest order. A surrogate father to me, and a real one to my Mother. The husband who gave my Grandma everything she wanted in life. A model professional, a quiet and dignified man. The last of my Grandparents, never forgotten.
I’m gald I got the chance to say the things that I wanted to say. I hope he’s watching over me, back with Grandma, and I hope I’ll do him proud.
Goodnight old man. Love you.