Thanks to the slight easing of the lockdown restrictions in the UK I was able to meet another person not from my family as long as it was in a public space. I grabbed the opportunity to visit my 82 year old dad and arranged a walk around his local park for a catch up.
Since lockdown started some 8 weeks ago now (I think?) I have actually seen my dad once. Just prior to Easter we visited him to exchange easter eggs on his doorstep and have a brief chat. Yesterday was the first time I have been with him for any great length of time in that two months, the longest I have ever been away from him in my 45 years.
My dad has never had the internet, wouldn’t know how to work a smart phone never mind facetime or Whatsapp video call so we have got by on traditional telephone calls to his landline. In fact he has never learnt to drive, living a rather simplistic life. In fairness, my parents lived in an area that had everything and they worked a short walk away from their house so never needed a car. They travelled on summer holidays and we wanted for very little as children growing up or as adults needing a bit of support financial or otherwise.
As I pulled up to his house which is only 10 miles from mine, he was out locking his front door ready to walk to the park. I sensed an excitement in his voice the previous day when I mentioned the idea of meeting up so he was clearly pleased to have some interaction with someone other than just himself.
The half a mile walk to the park and the subsequent walk through it was a trip down memory lane for me having played in the park and the streets in between as a child in the 1980’s. My dad recalled the times he would take my two boys into the same park when he looked after them during half terms when we worked. He pointed to the swings, sand pits and the small football pitch where his grandchildren played for hours.
Considering all the financial cutbacks the local council have had to swallow over the last 10 years, it is pleasing to see that the park has continued to have a gardening team assigned to it keeping it in immaculate condition. The tennis courts are still there minus the nets, presumably since Covid-19 began to stop people using them and I remember those courts being so busy during the weeks Wimbledon was being played yet empty for the rest of the year.
The bowling green is still being tendered to and the band stand that is 123 years old in a months time was renovated in 2005 and looks amazing. My dad pointed at the side of the band stand where benches used to be and told me how he used to sit there with my mum before they were married.
As we strolled through the park more dogs appeared with their owners and it appeared a regular meet up with the dogs playing together whilst the owners chatted away to each other, from a short distance I may add.
At the top of the park is a care home. As we walked past a funeral cortege containing the hearse and two cars of family numbering only a few. Staff from the care home were outside to pay their respects and I wondered if the deceased was another victim of the virus?
Facing the park is a row of terraced houses. In that row lived Tony Warren the creator of Coronation Street and someone my dad would see regularly walking in the area. The hit TV show was based upon the people and streets of where I was born and raised.
As we walked through the streets back to my dads house, nothing had really changed in thirty years and it looked the same as when I used to deliver newspapers on my paper round as a teenager.
After the walk down memory lane and a good chat with my dad it was time to return home. Thankfully my dad appeared well and upbeat considering his boredom. He has never bothered with satellite television only using freeview and he misses going to the football every other Saturday. Thankfully he is active and fit so gets out daily to the shops or the park and to look at appears 20 years younger than he really is.
The plan is for me to visit again after the weekend and either take in the park or visit the local cemetery as I have not been for a while to pay my respects to my grandparents, mum and sister who are all buried there. For now I’ll cherish this time I had with my dad and hopefully we will be able to return to some sort of normality in the months ahead.