One year on
John ‘Jim’ Adams – 24th November 1940 to 29th September 2006
I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I got that phone call, my brother Steve telling me that our dad had collapsed and died during his pool maintenance round in Florida. The next week was pretty horrible… I flew out to Orlando with my sister Sue on the Monday morning, attended the funeral on the Tuesday, flew back that evening, arrived home on Wednesday morning… and then we moved house on the Thursday. I was moved by the amount of people who attended my dad’s funeral service. The chapel was crammed full of people… his friends and customers, all of whom were deeply shocked by his sudden passing but full of good things to say about him. Not that I expected any different. Speaking at the service was one of the most moving experiences of life, and it was probably because I do so many (too many) presentations as part of my job that I was able to keep going.
However, one thing I could be 100% sure of today, if he was sitting here next to me now my dad would tell me not to focus on the sad stuff. He’d tell me to lighten up. “Worrying” he once told me “just makes you ill, so don’t do it”. He also once told me to bump him off if he became old and senile (which I didn’t actually agree to and now don’t have to worry about). With this ethos in mind, I’d like to remember his genius and occasional wit with a few choice stories…
Bad jokes – a couple of weeks ago I was chatting with my uncle Terry, and he said that what he most remembered about my dad was his bad jokes. Like father, like son. The one he probably told to everyone, and Terry remembered this, was the one about being a tap dancer and falling into the sink. The ironic thing was that you could tell my dad a joke, he’d tell you it was rubbish, but then he’d tell you one even worse.
He was also very good at spinning stories. Nine years ago I was working in Boston for two weeks and he flew up from Florida to spend the weekend with me. I clearly remember a story he told me about a friend of his who had hit a wild pig with his car, and then later got in trouble with a wildlife warden. It was spun out in great detail for about twenty minutes, until I discovered that it was all completely untrue and had been constructed with the sole intention of delivering one bad punch-line (the pig had squealed on him).
More recently, he’d had the end of one finger amputated due to some damage to the bone. When my daughter Lauren looked very concerned, he just told her that he was special as he was the only guy around who could count up to 9½.
The remote control – nearly twenty years ago (possibly a bit less) Sue and I shared a flat, but as she was a British Airways stewardess at the time she wasn’t there often. My dad stayed in the flat for a few months before leaving for the USA. Mostly this worked very well because he liked cooking and served up some good stuff – his signature dish was mince and potatoes, and also invented the ingenious method of warming the plates by putting them on top of the boiler. Sometimes in the evening, if he was bored, he’d do his best to irritate me for a laugh – things like throwing peanuts at me or hitting my head with a slipper while I was watching television. This was a few years ago, and the television didn’t have a remote control (imagine that kids, the Dark Ages). In the living room there was one prime-position chair in front of the television and a sofa (not in a prime position), so occupancy of that chair was hotly contested – sometimes won by tossing a coin or stealing the position if the occupier moved out. So, the lack of remote control meant that you had to get up and physically go over to the television, which sometimes resulted in a childish race to the prime chair if you could move off the sofa quick enough.
One evening he claimed occupancy of the chair, but then wanted to switch channels. I got ready to make my move – and then I saw it. He had brought in a length of bamboo, and wielded it across the five foot gap to the television to hit the buttons. Genius.
Practical jokes – looking back, one of his pranks stood out. I arrived home from work one day and he announced with the most serious dead-pan face that there were mice in the flat. He then preceded to pull the sofa away from the wall to reveal a number of small black objects which he pointed out were mouse droppings. When I asked him if he was sure, he picked one up, looked at it, popped it in his mouth, and after a moment of serious thoughtful consideration said “yeah, they’re mouse droppings alright”. Of course, they turned out to be small pieces of raisins. Right, very funny. But I had to hand it to him, his face didn’t crack once all through the prank.
I don’t really know how to finish this blog post – I guess I’ll just have to say that he’s very much missed, but we have loads of good memories of the man who loved his family, his wife Susan, and the life that he’d found for himself in Florida.