Farewell to Fred

25 Oct

I am going to interrupt my usual posts describing our adventures in London.  

On Friday, 14 October around 12 midnight we received a phone call from our son, Matthew.  My first thought was for our daughter, Kathy, who is heavily pregnant.  Receiving a phone call at that time of night from New Zealand, it was obvious that it would be something serious, not just Matt forgetting the time difference.
His news was that Dennis’s father, Fred, had suffered a major stroke and was in the High Dependency Unit in Masterton Hospital.  We were uncertain as to his prognosis but Fred was 82 years old and had a history of small strokes 9 years earlier.  Dennis’s immediate response was to return to New Zealand.
We had been in Biggleswade, 2 hours drive from London, for 12 hours on our first house sitting job!  Never-the-less, Dennis began the process of making arrangements to leave England and get back home as soon as possible.  The first phone call was to our travel insurance’s 24 hour number.  That was a very helpful start.  Then we went off to bed to try to get some sleep!  
We left it to 7.30a.m. Saturday, UK time, to phone the House Sitting Agency to tell them of our dilemma.  Next, Dennis phoned AirNZ and explained our situation and their reply was “just leave it to us… we’ll get back to you soon”.  We were so impressed with the staff of AirNZ!  They rang back with the flights all booked, all we had to do was get to Heathrow.  The Agency provided a replacement, who was making her way from London, straight away.  We did not have time to meet the new lady but left her a detailed note and our cell phone if she needed more information.
Dennis and I travelled back to Shooters Hill, to park the motorhome at Rob’s, repack our suitcases and walk to the bus stop, then take the 2 and a half hour tube ride to Heathrow 1.  We arrived at the airport at 5.50p.m. ten minutes before booking in time.  It was a relief to arrive in time and uplift our tickets with no problems.  Just before we left I received a text from Matt to say that Fred was deteriorating and unresponsive.
We had been provided with excellent seats, directly behind the toilet block in the back of the plane.  This meant that there were no seats in front of us and allowed us so much leg room.  Providentially, the TV’s did not work on that row of three seats and the man next to me was moved to another seat so he could watch a movie.  We declined the suggestion that we move as well as we wanted to sleep anyway, which we did.   After flying 13 hours to Hong Kong, we quickly checked our phones and emails for any news from the family, but found no messages.  After two hours we were on our way again to Auckland.  On this 12 hour leg our TV’s had been repaired and I put mine to good use as I didn’t sleep for long.  We had a five-hour wait in Auckland before the flight to Wellington, so we tried to change the flights but it was so busy with all the Rugby World Cup supporters flying here, there and everywhere.  Talking with Richard we learnt that Fred had passed away earlier in the morning.  What a mix of relief and sadness!  We were hoping that Fred was not “waiting” for Dennis and the family was giving him that assurance.
And so Richard, Kathy, Isis, Anna, my sister Maria and her husband John met us in Wellington Airport.  It was great to be able to understand the sequence of events, etc. from Kathy and Richard as he drove us over the Rimitakas, before we met with the family in Masterton.
What a blessing to be with the immediate and extended family at this time.  It has proved to be so valuable, talking, crying, laughing,  reminiscing and grieving together.  So good that we can share with one another how much we loved and will miss Fred.  As Dennis said in his eulogy ” We had the most wonderful childhood, because as kids we were secure in knowing that our father loved our mother so very much.”

Fred was a wonderful father to Dennis, father-in-law to me, grandfather to our six children and great-grandfather to our five grand children.  He had a wicked sense of humour and a ready smile, and we knew he enjoyed our company.  It did take me a few years to learn when he was joking with me or not though, which he thoroughly enjoyed!  He worked so hard for us when we owned the market garden, it was basically a full-time, unpaid occupation for him.

Farewell, Fred.  We love you dearly……

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