Father’s Memory Saves Lives.

My  father Reginald Read died in 1968 when I was 14 and he was 46 . I am 62 now, so I have lived more than four times longer without him than with him. Yet his memory is still strong and I still carry his picture in my wallet.  He was a Royal Marine in WW2. Something which still gives me much pride. But that military strictness and no-nonsense attitude stayed with him always.  If he said jump, me and my three elder sisters had better jump.  I was a quiet, bookish kid and a big part of me was scared of him. He often worked the nightshift and slept in the day. On school holidays my sisters and I had to creep around the house trying not to wake him. One time we all had a big fight and woke him. The sound of his footsteps coming downstairs put real fear into all of us. End of argument. But he was still a loving, playful father who I could have fun with.  He worked at the local Dunlop Tyre factory and was a member of their fishing club. I loved those Sunday’s when he’d take me with him on trips into the country to sit by a river and share sandwiches and a flask of tea.  This was male bonding. No mother or sisters. I still have his fishing rods even now.  When we went on family holidays, it could take many long hours travelling in our small family car. My three sisters in the back, and me, the youngest, squashed between my parents in the front.  Sometimes my father would take his hands off the wheel and let me steer the car.  My sisters screaming in the back made it even more fun.  One day he came home from work with a second hand Dansette record player he’d bought off a man at work.  To give us a start he bought each of us a record of our favourite artist.  I got an EP of Frank Ifield. My hero at the time.  I didn’t even know my father knew I liked him. I still have that record. That record player gave us all many hours of pleasure.  Another second hand item, again from a work colleague, was my first proper bike.  I can still remember my father running beside me up and down the garden path, holding the saddle, teaching me to ride.  All these second hand gifts seemed normal to us kids.  We never gave it a thought.  But I know now, how my father struggled to keep a wife and four kids clothed, fed and housed.  In fact, it’s what killed him.  His job at Dunlop was not enough to pay the bills so he took on other jobs. At one point, he had three jobs all at once.  Then on his rare free days, he’d be decorating the house or working in the garden.   No man can keep that up for long.    I remember vividly the last time I saw him alive.  It was a Sunday afternoon and me and my sisters were watching Batman on TV.  My father hated the programme and didn’t like us watching it.  So when he came home unexpectedly from work and poked his head around the room door I remember feeling guilty.  But he wasn’t bothered.  Although it was only early afternoon he said he was going to bed.  What !  This was unheard of.  My mother went to see what was wrong and it soon became clear he was unwell.  I know now, that he was having a stroke.  But in true British stiff upper lip fashion he wouldn’t let my mother ring for an ambulance.  For 8 hours my mother was up and down stairs taking him hot lemonade and tending to him.  Eventually he became worse and my mother ignored his stubborness and called an ambulance.  I was in the bathroom when my father was carried downstairs on a stretcher.  I could hear him joking with the ambulance men not to drop him.  That was the last time I heard his voice.   He died on rout in the ambulance with my mother and sister watching him have a heart attack and CPR, in vain.    Even all of these years later, I still can’t throw away his possessions that remain.  I still have his electric razor. I still use some of his old tools and think of him as I do so.  I still have an old shoe box with personal items.  Wage slips. An old motoring diary.  Buttons.  To throw them away would feel like I was throwing him away. And even now, I don’t want to do that.  The smell of new rubber still sends me back to him returning home from work, smelling of rubber from the tyre factory.  But I can be fairly sure that his death was not in vain.  Many years later, I worked for the emergency services, including calls for the ambulance.  Often a caller would say someone was ill but they weren’t sure whether to ask for an ambulance.  Every time I received a call like that, my mind went back to my father. If he’d allowed my mother to call an ambulance without delay he may still be alive today – as my mother is.  So on those calls, I broke the rules. We were not allowed to send an ambulance unless the caller had requested one.  I ignored my training and just sent one.  I have no doubt that will have saved at least a few lives.  So people will be alive today who may otherwise not have been – thanks to my father’s memory.

I was a quiet, bookish kid and a big part of me was scared of him. He often worked the nightshift and slept in the day. On school holidays my sisters and I had to creep around the house trying not to wake him. One time we all had a big fight and woke him. The sound of his footsteps coming downstairs put real fear into all of us. End of argument. But he was still a loving, playful father who I could have fun with.  He worked at the local Dunlop Tyre factory and was a member of their fishing club. I loved those Sunday’s when he’d take me with him on trips into the country to sit by a river and share sandwiches and a flask of tea.  This was male bonding. No mother or sisters. I still have his fishing rods even now.  When we went on family holidays, it could take many long hours travelling in our small family car. My three sisters in the back, and me, the youngest, squashed between my parents in the front.  Sometimes my father would take his hands off the wheel and let me steer the car.  My sisters screaming in the back made it even more fun.  One day he came home from work with a second hand Dansette record player he’d bought off a man at work.  To give us a start he bought each of us a record of our favourite artist.  I got an EP of Frank Ifield. My hero at the time.  I didn’t even know my father knew I liked him. I still have that record. That record player gave us all many hours of pleasure.  Another second hand item, again from a work colleague, was my first proper bike.  I can still remember my father running beside me up and down the garden path, holding the saddle, teaching me to ride.  All these second hand gifts seemed normal to us kids.  We never gave it a thought.  But I know now, how my father struggled to keep a wife and four kids clothed, fed and housed.  In fact, it’s what killed him.  His job at Dunlop was not enough to pay the bills so he took on other jobs. At one point, he had three jobs all at once.  Then on his rare free days, he’d be decorating the house or working in the garden.   No man can keep that up for long.    I remember vividly the last time I saw him alive.  It was a Sunday afternoon and me and my sisters were watching Batman on TV.  My father hated the programme and didn’t like us watching it.  So when he came home unexpectedly from work and poked his head around the room door I remember feeling guilty.  But he wasn’t bothered.  Although it was only early afternoon he said he was going to bed.  What !  This was unheard of.  My mother went to see what was wrong and it soon became clear he was unwell.  I know now, that he was having a stroke.  But in true British stiff upper lip fashion he wouldn’t let my mother ring for an ambulance.  For 8 hours my mother was up and down stairs taking him hot lemonade and tending to him.  Eventually he became worse and my mother ignored his stubborness and called an ambulance.  I was in the bathroom when my father was carried downstairs on a stretcher.  I could hear him joking with the ambulance men not to drop him.  That was the last time I heard his voice.   He died on rout in the ambulance with my mother and sister watching him have a heart attack and CPR, in vain.    Even all of these years later, I still can’t throw away his possessions that remain.  I still have his electric razor. I still use some of his old tools and think of him as I do so.  I still have an old shoe box with personal items.  Wage slips. An old motoring diary.  Buttons.  To throw them away would feel like I was throwing him away. And even now, I don’t want to do that.  The smell of new rubber still sends me back to him returning home from work, smelling of rubber from the tyre factory.  But I can be fairly sure that his death was not in vain.  Many years later, I worked for the emergency services, including calls for the ambulance.  Often a caller would say someone was ill but they weren’t sure whether to ask for an ambulance.  Every time I received a call like that, my mind went back to my father. If he’d allowed my mother to call an ambulance without delay he may still be alive today – as my mother is.  So on those calls, I broke the rules. We were not allowed to send an ambulance unless the caller had requested one.  I ignored my training and just sent one.  I have no doubt that will have saved at least a few lives.  So people will be alive today who may otherwise not have been – thanks to my father’s memory.

But I know now, how my father struggled to keep a wife and four kids clothed, fed and housed.  In fact, it’s what killed him.  His job at Dunlop was not enough to pay the bills so he took on other jobs. At one point, he had three jobs all at once.  Then on his rare free days, he’d be decorating the house or working in the garden.   No man can keep that up for long.    I remember vividly the last time I saw him alive.  It was a Sunday afternoon and me and my sisters were watching Batman on TV.  My father hated the programme and didn’t like us watching it.  So when he came home unexpectedly from work and poked his head around the room door I remember feeling guilty.  But he wasn’t bothered.  Although it was only early afternoon he said he was going to bed.  What !  This was unheard of.  My mother went to see what was wrong and it soon became clear he was unwell.  I know now, that he was having a stroke.  But in true British stiff upper lip fashion he wouldn’t let my mother ring for an ambulance.  For 8 hours my mother was up and down stairs taking him hot lemonade and tending to him.  Eventually he became worse and my mother ignored his stubborness and called an ambulance.  I was in the bathroom when my father was carried downstairs on a stretcher.  I could hear him joking with the ambulance men not to drop him.  That was the last time I heard his voice.   He died on rout in the ambulance with my mother and sister watching him have a heart attack and CPR, in vain.    Even all of these years later, I still can’t throw away his possessions that remain.  I still have his electric razor. I still use some of his old tools and think of him as I do so.  I still have an old shoe box with personal items.  Wage slips. An old motoring diary.  Buttons.  To throw them away would feel like I was throwing him away. And even now, I don’t want to do that.  The smell of new rubber still sends me back to him returning home from work, smelling of rubber from the tyre factory.  But I can be fairly sure that his death was not in vain.  Many years later, I worked for the emergency services, including calls for the ambulance.  Often a caller would say someone was ill but they weren’t sure whether to ask for an ambulance.  Every time I received a call like that, my mind went back to my father. If he’d allowed my mother to call an ambulance without delay he may still be alive today – as my mother is.  So on those calls, I broke the rules. We were not allowed to send an ambulance unless the caller had requested one.  I ignored my training and just sent one.  I have no doubt that will have saved at least a few lives.  So people will be alive today who may otherwise not have been – thanks to my father’s memory.

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John Read

I have been writing since the seventies with comedy sketches on TV & Radio. I've had short stories published from Ireland to Australia.

I currently have a book of twelve short stories on Amazon which is receiving superb five-star reviews.Amazon Books -tinyurl.com/pqkoxwr

I also write songs and was once signed to Warner Chappell. (I went to the same school as Jeff Lynne - ELO.) I've written several praise/worship songs. I have a folk/rock song on an album & share track credits with Paul McCartney. Amazon Music - http://tinyurl.com/guvpgrq

I am a member of the RBSA - Royal Birmingham Society of Artists - where my work has been exhibited.

I have worked as a photographer, carpenter, and a Theatre Stage Manager.(Where I was taught to play the piano by Victor Borge.)

I have climbed mountains to raise money for Alzheimers Research and part of the profits from my book are donated too.
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Latest posts by John Read (see all)

John Read

I have been writing since the seventies with comedy sketches on TV & Radio. I've had short stories published from Ireland to Australia.

I currently have a book of twelve short stories on Amazon which is receiving superb five-star reviews. Amazon Books - tinyurl.com/pqkoxwr

I also write songs and was once signed to Warner Chappell. (I went to the same school as Jeff Lynne - ELO.) I've written several praise/worship songs. I have a folk/rock song on an album & share track credits with Paul McCartney. Amazon Music - http://tinyurl.com/guvpgrq

I am a member of the RBSA - Royal Birmingham Society of Artists - where my work has been exhibited.

I have worked as a photographer, carpenter, and a Theatre Stage Manager.(Where I was taught to play the piano by Victor Borge.)

I have climbed mountains to raise money for Alzheimers Research and part of the profits from my book are donated too.

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