Robert George Soper “Bob”9th September 1938 – 10th January 2020
Family and friends came together yesterday at Test Valley Crematorium to remember Dad. He was taken from us by circumstances that were tragic and sudden. It was my honour to be able to pay tribute to Dad as a part of the service held in his memory. I would like to share my words and a few pictures of Dad on this blog.
Dad’s death was an overwhelming shock and, for a time, it drove out all other thoughts and feelings. But as I’ve prepared for today I’ve been able to reflect on my memories of Dad and that’s helped me to put his death in its proper place in relation to his life.
Some of my memories of Dad may seem a little random, and maybe even inconsequential but they’re all precious; and anyway that’s how memories work. I’d like to share a just a handful of them with you.
|It was Dad who gave me my nickname of Sproket.|
I remember Dad’s penknife. Always in his pocket and ready when needed. I remembered the snap as it cut through the twine on a hay bale. But it was much more than a work tool used on the farm. On Sunday mornings dad would take my brother Richard and I up the lane to visit Nan Soper. As we walked he would fill his pockets with Hazelnuts picked fresh from the hedgerows. With a twist of his knife the shells were opened and the nuts shared as we walked along.
On those same walks he’d casually chop the tops off the giant hogweed as we went along. Penknife held at arms length, never missing and (almost) always managing the feat with a single practiced stroke.
That penknife would help build our incredible dens, slice an apple or carve and shape a walking stick. In memory it seemes like an inseparable part of Dad.
Dad had a soft spot for chimpanzees. Not so much the real animals as presented by the likes of Sir David Attenborough but rather the comedy kind and most especially Cheeta. The real star of the Tarzan movies from the 1930s and 40s.
I have vague memories of a rubber chimp mask that Dad put to good use when playing pranks. But I most clearly remember watching ‘Tarzan's New York Adventure’ with dad when I was small, and our shared delight in Cheetas antics. Dad was a connoisseur of mischief and Cheeta was at the top of his list!
In more recent years when ever looking for a birthday or Father’s day card I always knew I couldn’t go wrong with a comedy chimp.
Time passed and as I reached my teens my relationship with dad became more complicated. I was moving towards a very different world and life than the one Dad knew and we sometimes clashed.
Most of my style choices caused him no little concern but it was the pink mohawk in 1983 that finally pushed him over the edge. I will just say that, for all the embarrassment I undoubtedly caused him, he was more than able to even the score. That sense of mischief meant that, one way or another, he could always get the better of me!
College followed school and the time eventually came for me to leave home and make my own way in the world. That was a tricky transition and it was certainly an emotional one. But I’ll never forget that it was Dad who calmed the stormy waters and helped me take my first steps into the adult world.
I already had much to be grateful for but life was to blessed me with so much more. It gave me the opportunity to know Dad as one adult to another. I got to see him grow happier and more contented as he moved through his life. I’ve been given the time to understand his views and values and to realize that, naturally enough, we have much in common.
I learned (eventually)to take delight in his humour, to admire his once embarrassing sense of mischief and his strength of character! He showed me how being comfortable enough with yourself to sometimes act foolishly does not make you a fool – quite the opposite!
|Dad and Mum on the day of their engagement.|
|Together for 58 years|
We never said ‘I love you’ to one another! Do I regret that – not in the least! Because the years we had gave us the opportunity to know and understand each other Father and Son. I was able to say ‘thank you’ and to show my love for him. And to recognize the love in all his actions. From the least little hazelnut to the long hours of hard work that supported me through my education.
Dad was taken away too suddenly and too soon but I am forever grateful for the man who was my farther and for all the years I had with him.