We can’t turn back time 47



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Sometimes wish we could. Images of my dad come flooding back, and I am so sad. One day in the summer of 1985 I asked my Dad if he would write his childhood memories for me. He blustered a bit then said he wasn’t much of a writer. So I suggested we get a tape and he could talk when he felt like it. It worked really well, he kept telling me of bits he was putting on tape and decided to do his whole life story. We were living in Bath in the UK and my parents lived in Bristol.

At that time I was very busy, working in a big dress shop, studying for an exam, and keeping the home going. Dad rang to tell me he had finished the tape and I said I would hear it ‘soon’. He sent it to me and during that next week or so his health became a problem – he was ill with a mystery illness and in pain. So we had hospital visits and a lot more rushing around. The tape was forgotten.

I started an occupational therapy assistants course at a big hospital and was doing lots extra work, plus travelling to get to lectures as well as visiting Dad who, although very strong emotionally, was getting more frail. He was finally told he had bone cancer, and he became immobile. I visited in hospital and as we were all going to Australia for a visit to see my brother, I saw the doctor in charge and asked his advice. What should we do? The doctor said Dad was stable and being kept pain free, he saw no reason that things would change in a few weeks; so I asked Dad what he thought. “Go and see your brother”, he told me. Three days after we arrived in Melbourne we got a message to say Dad had died.


We were all devastated, the grief and sadness and inevitable guilt hit us all. So much to deal with, getting home, and then a funeral to arrange. My mother had been alone when it happened, as my brother and I were both 12,000 miles away. The tape Dad made was consigned to a shelf, far too hard to even consider at that time.

Three years later with tears coursing down my cheeks I listened to my Dad’s familiar west country voice. I cried a lot for a few days, it was a final grieving, and all the things Dad had wanted me to hear were there, things I hadn’t known.

The tape is now transferred to a small silver disc, I listened to it recently, and I was even more aware of the special person my father was. I admired him before, now I do even more. He ‘glossed over’ the fact that he had Diphtheria as a child, and then had Rheumatic fever when he was sixteen. He worked as an apprentice, long hours in bad weather for a shilling an hour. He was a gentle loving man and I am so angry with myself for not listening and talking to him about the tape. It is one regret I carry with me.

So if you have parents still around please listen to their stories, ask questions while they are still with you. Although we treated our parents well and took them on frequent holidays with us, I still have that sadness about the tape I never heard when he was alive. So do what you can now, as one day it will be too late.


Has this ever happened to you? What is something about your parents life you have found out? What will you pass on to your children and grandchildren? Share your stories and thoughts below.

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. Great story so sad, no one asks about your old days they are so busy with here and now yes when we have passed they will say should have asked them about that hugs OO every one

  2. Somehow we think our parents will always be there. We don’t realise what it’s like without them. I’m sure your dad is still with you Jacqui. Xx

  3. How lucky you are to have this. My dad died when I was 20 but had only see him once since 9 years old. I would love something like this. Don’t feel guilty its a wonderful gift.

  4. Guilt is part of the grieving process, even if there isn’t really any reason to feel it! You are very lucky to have such a tangible thing, as well as memories. I have started a recordable book “In My Grandma’s Words” for my g-daughter and intend doing something similar about her “Grumpa” who died before she was born.

  5. My dad died when I was 16,I had lived with my grandparents and I didn’t get to know my dad at all.I would have loved to get to know him,I would have loved to talk to him about his life,I don’t have really any good memories of him.

  6. How sad but so true. We asked my father-in-law to do this but he ‘never got around to it’? His life was so different to our childrens.

  7. For a gift for my Mum’s 75th birthday we decided to make her a scrap book of her life. I got basic stories from her and quietly ‘borrowed’ photos. My daughter in law is a great scrap booker and Mum just loved her gift and proudly showed it to anyone who stood still long enough. Mum passed away unexpectedly before her 76th birthday and I now have that book and it is very nostalgic to read it.

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