DADDY’S GIRL- ME AND MY DAD.
This week, after many months of being unwell, my daddy passed away just 2 months shy of his 77th birthday. It was heart wrenching. In the past couple of years his health had declined with numerous ailments. Chronic arthritis, a type of sleep apnea, a dislocated shoulder, but the most deadly of them all, was a slow lung disorder that had been creeping up for years. His oxygen was really low, and therefore it looked as if he was nodding off asleep a lot. Some people in public may have even thought he was drunk on occasion. But no- as his oxygen stopped getting around his body and brain, he was slowly falling unconscious. His doctors used to tell me ‘’don’t worry, that’s what old folks do- fall asleep’’ etc.
My girl friends and I even used to joke and laugh about how we had photos of dad all around the world, Paris, Venice, Europe, all fallen asleep outside famous cultural monuments. Imagine how guilty I felt two years ago when a doctor clarified that my dad was literally suffocating slowly before our eyes and it was unstoppable. Dad had always insisted on keeping all the windows of the car and home wide open deeply inhaling for fresh air. It broke my heart to have to try and explain to him that it wasn’t the air and no amount of window opening would help his oxygen levels.
DADDY WITH A BELLINI- OUR FAVOURITE DRINK.
In the past two years I really began to understand what a carer goes through. Whilst working and playing hard, I took multi tasking to a new level by also being on call for any of dads needs 24-7. If he fell down at 4am, I’d jump in the car and go and pick him up; I’d drop off his shopping and groceries during my lunch hour at work. He was adamant he would never move out of his own home for more focused care. I know after sharing these stories with you in the past, that there are many young VOICE readers who also care for their loved ones. My utmost respect goes out to you. For two years it nearly brought me to my knees. How many of you manage over a lifetime during your childhoods I have no idea.
DAD DOING HIS USUAL SOCIAL BUTTERFLY HOSTING WITH A BOTTLE OF ROSE.
I will try not to focus on dad’s final years when I think of him. He wasn’t always immobile and dependent. In fact, he was fiercely independent and bolshy.
AT ONE POINT DAD WAS NEVER SEEN WITHOUT A RED TIE- RED FOR LABOUR!
Dad was born on July 1st 1936 in Mombasa, Kenya to the infamous Kenya Dotiwala’s – a very affluent doctor couple. The Dotiwalas in Mombasa were an extremely well-respected and wealthy family – dads father –Doctor Dotiwala -was very renowned. Dad had 4 brothers. Back then they were one of only two families in Kenya that owned a car and a TV. Every time dad told me that I’d dismiss it as silly, but at the church service last week, his Kenyan peers told me it was fact.
DAD AND MUM ON A BOAT HAVING FUN- SOMEWHERE, IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS.
Dad met my mum (Roshan), in 1967 in Pune University (India), when he had travelled to study. Dad was a Bachelor of science (BSC), mum was a bachelor of arts (a BA student). Dad always joked that mum had hunted him down and begged him to marry her. They got married in India on 15th July 1967 and came to England on 8th February 1968. When they travelled across oceans between India, Kenya and England my dad boasted that every night they had sat and dined on the ships captains table.
After studying and marrying, on his return to Mombasa, Dad became a Customs and excise officer in east Africa. One now infamous night in 1968, Kenyan Asians with British passports were told they had days to leave Kenya, and flee to the UK if they wanted to keep their English citizenship. Dad fled (from a life of opulence, prestige, wealth and servants) with mum arriving in London practically penniless.
He joined the civil service in London before becoming interested in politics where he met his lifelong best friend- Paul Boateng. Dad, Paul and their various Labour party ‘‘comrades’’, like Councillor Colum Moloney fought tooth and nail for the community in Brent during the 70’s and 80’s. Paul did so well he became an MP, during his victory speech he said: “We can never be free in Brent until South Africa is free too.” He then famously declared, “Today Brent South, tomorrow Soweto!”. He became the 1st black cabinet minister in 2002, and then a Lord in 2010! Dad was always so proud of him and his wife Janet.
As I grew up I watched and heard Paul and daddy saying things like ‘’ my colour is part of me but I do not choose to be defined by my colour.” A lot of what I am now makes total sense when I look back at these influences. This week dads neighbours and friends told me that dad used to help everyone on Stonebridge estate, (where he lived), people who were at risk of going to prison or being evicted- dad would accompany to court and ensure they knew their rights.
At dads funeral Paul Boating gave a truly passionate and powerful eulogy, highlighting dads lifelong African influences followed by Councillor Moloney from Brent, who also spoke about dad. ‘‘He was my mentor- a minefield of knowledge and facts and had a very strong argumentative opinion’’ (at which point my other half glanced at me with a knowing eye LOL). Councillor Moloney added ‘’he knew all the bad men and others on the estate and helped connect their needs and stories to me in my weekly political surgery’’. Dads neighbour and friend Bernadette Walsh said ‘’once MP Dawn Butler came to visit us and your dad told her where to go in no uncertain terms after she had wiped £60,000 off the Brent budget’’.
Daddy’s friend Dulcie who owns the Trinidad Roti Shop in Harlesden said ”once a whole bus load of people in Stonebridge were terrified as a gang of young boys held up the bus with their pitbull dogs and forced it to stop…the driver and passengers looked terrified, but then your dad got on the bus 60 seconds later and the boys told the driver ‘we were holding the bus so my granddads friend Doti could get on!”
So daddy wasn’t always the elderly dependent man I witnessed recently.
My aunt Zareen- a professor in Boston, USA recalls ””your dad lived for several years with our family in Poona and went to school and college there. He had a very large circle of friends and endeared himself to them. People have many fun memories of Doti, as he was called. Once a policeman stopped him when he was siding a bicycle without a light and wanted to fine him. He looked at the policeman undaunted and said with confidence: “Go away. You can’t do a thing to me. I am a British citizen”. And he bicycled away, leaving a dumbfounded policeman just staring. For this and many fun things he did he is well remembered by his old circle of friends. ”
It’s interesting that his best mate Paul is of Ghanaian and Scottish background. He loved a fellow African. Dad’s carer Giusi (pronounced ‘juicy’),was of Ghanian and Italian descent and was sent to dad and I by God in his final months. Giusi went above and beyond her job role. She was thoughtful, kind and cheerful. She made life calmer for both dad and myself with her great ideas and solutions to every problem.Giuisi and dad were like good friends debating, gossiping and arguing over all dads rants. I will forever be indebted to her and Saga Homecare as well as Vernetta Beswick and Winston from Hillside Housing.
My memories of dad are ;
He was the man that a 7 year old Jasmine ran to the door to meet every night when he came home ….as he always had a red packet of Malteasers for me!
He encouraged mum to give me a pocket money raise at aged 10, after that he and I were known as the ‘’gang of 2’’
He insisted on sending me to ballet classes and at our annual ballet shows he was the embarrassing dad that stood up and clapped the loudest and wanted everyone to know I was his daughter
After he and mum separated when I was 7, he was allowed Saturday afternoon custody of me and would take me to a local restaurant – where he would help me with my homework and I would excitedly order ‘’red chicken’’ (tikka) -I got my taste for fine dining at an early age. Smile.
Every holiday we took as a family, I’d have photos of dad asleep outside the Eiffel tower, st marks square and on the cliff tops…we all laughed back then that dad was always dropping off….little did we know it was the respiratory lung disease beginning its slow deadly attack on his system which lasted many years
Dad once told a boyfriend I had at school, to get out of his house as ‘’no way in hell is a boy with an earring a real man and suitable to be seen with my daughter!’’
As soon as I educated dad in the eighties about café lattes and bellinis, he would never drink a ‘’common coffee’’ again
He wasn’t as marketing savvy as he liked to think-being addicted to can upon can of red bull in his old age -convinced it would ‘’give him wings’’/ energy!
Dad was born to be a party man-he was a night owl and wouldn’t ever be home before 2am or later. My own friends would often inform me the next day that they’d seen dad out partying at 3am on their way home! He would do anything not to have to go home. He wouldn’t care where he was, as long as if was out and about in public with people.
Once he convinced my whole girls brigade troupe from the church next door, to come on a ‘’free weekend to Brighton’’, we all ended up at the young socialists political convention!
Because dad was such a staunch Labour supporter I naturally veered to being a total Tory- once dad was furious with me that I was pictured in my weekly newspaper column with Boris Johnson ‘’you’re an embarrassment to me!’’ he screamed! LOL
He would notoriously forget all our birthdays and anniversaries and when confronted would always state ‘’I have the card I just haven’t had time to think about the meaningful words in them yet!!!’’
He was an obnoxious wannabee snob- I couldn’t think of becoming an air-hostess at the age of 9 as ‘’those girls are merely glorified waitresses in the sky!’’
He was a glutton. Any leftovers on anyone’s plate would be gone if dad was around. My childhood best friend and I called him the human dustbin
In later years his addictions aside from red bull were copious amounts of coffee and anything edible-especially his favourite-a chicken byriani
When my mates were over, he would eavesdrop at the door to get all the gossip and then tease us about things later
He seemed to model him self on James Dean, with copious amounts of bryl cream slicked back hair-not one which could out of place or he wouldn’t leave the house
AS HIS LUNGS GAVE OUT HE STILL WANTED THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE.
Dad always demanded that I be the best I could be and do whatever I wanted as long as it was legal, I was safe and happy. He stood up for what he believed in ….not to mention being the last man standing on the Stonebridge Estate before it was torn down. In later years when he became a lot less mobile he must’ve contributed to at least 5% of Addison Lee’s annual takings and kept the majority of the local cafes/restaurants open.
Alas, by April 24th 2013, he had gone through too much frustration and pain, suffering and discomfort to continue his fight with life. He lived life to the full, finishing his final hours in public at the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park sitting next to me in the car, watching swans and ducks and cussing me…”THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ME… NOW SHUT UP!!!” #Typical
After he was rushed by ambulance to St Marys in Paddington, my other half- James, dad’s child hood friend Manek and I watched dad change several shades of colour over a few hours. After completing all he had left to do on this earth, the next day April 25th, at 2:58pm we watched him give his final two shrugs and let out a sigh as if to say ‘screw this, I’m outta here’… And just like that, he left – ‘peacefully’, just as we had all wanted.
Right up until the final day, his mind was sharper than someone half his age. Not a day would go by without him reading the Guardian and Mirror-true leftie papers. We buried him with them and a jar of his biggest addiction-Nescafe coffee. I know he’s in a coffee shop in heaven right now demanding they heat him up a fresh latte.
Dad may not be walking on this earth anymore but his crazy antics will always live in my heart. His greatest joy this past month was hearing one morning that he had outlived Thatcher. Hobbling around on his zimmerframe with barely the strength to stay upright screaming ‘’that bitch is dead, get me a Captain Morgan and coke!’’
After dad had passed, and we were leaving the hospital, James noticed dads shirt, trousers and shoes were still in the private hospital room, I told him to leave them and the nurses would dispose of them. James didn’t want to ‘’leave dads spirit in the hospital’’ as dad always hated the hospital, so we bagged the clothes up and jumped on the over ground train at Paddington to go a couple of stops to get home. As we exited the station I asked James ‘’where’s dads bag?’’ he looked mortified and we both burst out laughing. The bag was still on the train, ….on its way to Oxford and beyond …just as dad would’ve wanted….travelling, onwards, not ready to go home. RIP Daddy.
PAUL BOATENG WALKED WITH ME TO DADDY’S FINAL PLACE OF REST.