St. Patrick's Day was not a significant date for me until 2004 - because my dear Dad died on this day. Today is the ninth anniversary of his death. This photograph of the two of us effectively captures something of how I feel when I think about him. In worldly terms, he was not a 'successful' man. He was an actor, often out of work until the last years of his life when he was suddenly quite busy and in demand. Having the looks of (as a friend once put it) "the universal Wop, Spick or Dago" he would often play the role of the foreign baddie who was bumped off. He was a good actor though, and sometimes parts did come along that allowed him to show something of what he could do. He was a modest man and not, by nature, a Networker. He didn't make efforts to go to the right parties, get in with the right people who might have helped his career along. He did not have the knack of making money - whenever he tried to do something clever with money it was a disaster. There is nothing outstanding that one could put on a CV and point to saying, Look - he did this, and this, and that. But each year that passes I have a growing sense of what it was that made him who he was. I would like to find a word for it, but nothing comes to mind other than goodness.
He was a good man. Why do I say this? It isn't about what he did (he did of course do good things, but that isn't the point) or that he loved each of his six children and they love him (though this is perhaps more to the point). It is about what he was, and I suppose that this must have something to do with what was alive in him. When I think of him, I smell apple and spice, and the sandalwood soap he liked to use (this and wholenut milk chocolate were the gifts we most often gave him). I don't think that he literally went around all the time smelling of these things, but the essence of them are what express, for me, his substance - the sweetness of the man. His laughter was always infectious because it came from the well of his sweetness, which included his sense of the preposterous, the overblown and ridiculous. It would stream out at inappropriate times, in the company of bureaucratic officials who were checking his papers (East Germany) or on stage, in the middle of someone's important soliloquy. He was a well known Corpser - an actor who might get a fit of laughter during a performance. When the other actors spotted him they caught it too and a couple of times the curtain had to come down.
He was not always laughing. Sometimes when out of work, he whiled away the moments that lengthened like shadows, stood on the threshold between one room and another as though listening for the rhythm of the day. But in the middle of such times, there might be a moment like the time my youngest sister asked him to play the piano while she danced, and then insisted that they change places: "I play - you dance." I never saw this, but it was a story he liked to tell. Every now and then I picture him dancing in the dustbeams by the grand piano, lumbering around like an old bear doing a turn of tricks, carrying on until the music stops.