Smithy’s Christmas cards

My dad was a strange man. If you’ve been reading my blog, you have most likely already formed that opinion. He was an only child that survived the Spanish flu’ at the end of WWI.

The Spanish flu’ became his favourite thing to talk about toward the end. My dad blamed many of the shortcomings that he acknowledged (there were a good few he didn’t) on having been so ill at such a young age (he was six).

Having almost lost their only child, I imagine my grandparents could hardly be blamed for fussing over him, though I always had the impression my grandmother fussed a little overmuch. She had been very ill at the same time and died prematurely of pernicious anemia in 1939.

My father talked of being often kept home from school because of his weak chest and throughout his life he believed himself to be prone to colds and bronchitis. He was convinced, if he remained in England, that he would surely die from it eventually, which is why he took us to SE Asia. In fact it was my mother who was prone to colds and more likely he caught them from her, cold weather having nothing to do with such things.

Dad felt that his education had suffered and maybe that is why he did not go to University. I was told he was sensitive about it and he never spoke of it.

Instead he went to art school, where he turned out to be quite talented.

The walls of our various homes always displayed samples of my father’s work, whether or not my mother approved, which often she did not.

One of the hardest things for me to do, in the end, was dispense with many of my father’s works.

They were personal memories that would have meant nothing to anyone else and while I did keep two or three, I simply did not want to look at the rest.

But it is hard to discard such items when a parent passes on.

What I did keep, and why I bring it up at this juncture, are many of the Christmas cards my dad painted.

Mum always persuaded him that he must produce an annual card, urging him that “everyone looked forward to it”.

There may have been some truth in this. I think our friends and relatives were amused to see what “Smithy” would come up with that year.

1972 saw my parents happily living in Barbados. Their years in the West Indies were likely their happiest.

The climate was perfect, making Dad a happy man which was an essential ingredient.

They ran a small apartment complex which was extremely hard work for Mum, but she was in good health then and I think she enjoyed having so many people dependent on her. She loved baking for them and giving them little bunches of flowers.

My parents had a large tropical garden that

was heaven for my mother. My dad was less keen because of the work involved, but he liked to paint flowers and he had a gallery of all the types of hibiscus they grew, something between 40 and 50 varieties, I think.

After many good years in Barbados, my parents age became a factor and with regret they sold up and moved to Florida.

Which worked for a time.

You could tell my father’s current mood from the content of his Christmas card.

After a few years of so-so life in the USA (Dad’s years of good cheer now behind him), it was decided my parents should return to England. Oh no. Apparently it was passed off as being my idea. It had been a thought that I offered as an “option”. It caused me a lot of angst.

Once they were settled in, things weren’t so bad:

But in 1997 Mum died and then everything was different:

Then Christmas cards became a little odd. dad did look pretty scary at times. When he was angry he could give you a look with those eyes….but at least he still thought to paint me a card.

The Millennium card was one I never did quite figure out. Forget-me-nots, I presume that is what the code underneath refers to. “Forget-you-not”? Did he expect that I would forget him? Maybe that was a message I should have taken aboard…

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