Image by stuartaken via FlickrSome three weeks before I emerged, unexpectedly, from my mother's womb, my natural father died of a burst duodenal ulcer. I knew Ken Burden only by reputation, initially through the tales from my mother and, later, through his sister, Vera, now 95.
I was told that Ken was a man much loved by those who knew him. He never had a bad word to say about anyone; preferring to remain silent rather than criticise. During the second world war, he worked as chief engineer on the small MTBs skimming the waves of the North Sea and the Channel in search of invading vessels from Germany. He was a Chief Petty Officer and often worked through his meals to keep the boat in tip-top order so it could do its job to the optimum. It was this habit of eating on the job that destroyed his digestive system and killed him just a few years after the end of the war. He was a car mechanic in peace time, and, by all accounts, a gifted one.
I inherited his sense of justice, a basic integrity and his faithfulness. I wish I'd gathered up his tolerance and humility along the way, but I don't blame him for that lack. There's an irony that I have almost no mechanical skills and that my interest in cars and engines extends only to their use as a means of getting from A to B. I understand he was not a very literate man but I live for words, so I must get that from my mother; a gifted painter who died two days after my 16th birthday. She and Ken were in love for the time they had together and I wonder what sort of life I might have had if they had both survived.
So, I'd like to thank you, Ken, my real dad, for giving me life and passing on your genes. I can only aspire to your gentle tolerance, your generous spirit and your kindness. May, my mother, loved you absolutely and unconditionally and, knowing her judgement of people, I am confident I would have loved you as much. Vera, your sister, tells me you were her best friend and she still misses you. I hear that you were fun to be with but had a serious side. I can never bridge the gap between my life and your death but I make this public declaration, for what it's worth, of my love and gratitude. Thank you for giving me a start in life and I hope I can be worthy of you for the future you never had. I love you, Dad, and always will.