An Awfully Big Adventure
"It's never too late to be who you were meant to be,"
It has been some while since I visited here, and though I had have made several attempts over the past weeks, each one felt too raw.
But I don’t want this to be a post about loss, but rather a celebration of someone who made such a difference in my life, and to so many around him. It is also a post about it never being too late for a new adventure.
I suspect it is unusual to have such a close relationship with your father- in - law. I lost my own dad nearly twenty years ago and, for a number of reasons I won’t linger on, it was not an easy relationship. But with John, my father – in -law, it was easy from the off. Like giggling teenagers, even the washing up became joyful event.
Music was John’s great love. In his teens he would visit the Royal Opera, in the cheap seats, as a young apprentice Post Office engineer, dreaming of being on the stage. He joined his local operatic society, Westcliffe Operatic, which gave him the opportunity to tread the boards, throwing himself with gusto into being a pantomime dame, a high court judge and, “Wiv a little bit of luck” , the role of Alfred P. Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”.
But this was never quite enough. In his late 50’s he decided to make the leap and his love of music and performance finally took centre stage. He set up, with theatrical friends, a small company performing all around Essex in communities centres, residential homes and local venues. Watching back clips, he clearly had the time of his life and proved very successful. Knowing nothing about marketing and promotion, he used his organisational talents to gain several bookings each week, sometimes two shows in a day. He also made a good deal of money for charity, but he would characteristically make little of this.
When I mooted the idea that I wanted to leave teaching at 50 to make a return to painting, thinking it rather reckless behaviour, that would be scorned upon, his response was, “Thank goodness for that – yes!”
And so I did, and never regretted it. His encouragement and support in my fresh start was unfailing and unshakeable. It was a true blessing to have him in my life and I miss my pal dearly.
In recent years, he lost his sight and health issues made it necessary for him to move into a nursing home. But his enthusiasm was unquenchable, and he still sang, whenever the opportunity arose.
When clearing his room, I discovered that he had taken with him a small oil painting I gave to him over thirty years ago when I first began. It has now returned here and is a daily reminder of a wonderful life.
So often, it is easier to let age be a reason for not taking that leap, for fear of failing or fear of doing something that matters so much not matching the dream.
But John never dwelled on that, he just got on with it. Never letting a lack of experience or knowledge stop him pursuing what he loved and giving it his all to make it happen. We all have a responsibility to make the most of our time, it is never too late, to sing, to dance, to paint. Fearing an outcome should stop us taking steps on the journey, something that I have certainly been guilty of. But if we don’t take that step, it is another day not doing what we love.
So, if you are wavering on the brink of reigniting a passion, think of John, take a deep breath, and begin that big adventure.
In the coming weeks, I shall be starting afresh with new art work and I hope you will join me on my new adventure.
Here is John at 80 singing his favourite song from "Les Miserables".