Save The Last Dance For Me

My Dad’s allotment has been part of our family folklore for as long as I can remember, inherited from my Grandad who had also lovingly tended the plot for his entire lifetime. My Dad would become so immersed in his labour of love that he’d frequently forget the time so as a youngster I used to cycle at breakneck speed down the lane at the back of our house to drop off a packed lunch for my Dad or remind him that it was time for tea. I’d done the journey so many times that I knew every single bump in the road and even now the scent of wild garlic transports me back to those hedgerows covered in Bluebells and Queen Anne’s Lace. Apart from the time I misjudged a pot-hole, tumbled across the handlebars and ended up in casualty; I still have a slight scar across my eyebrow. In recent years it’s been more of a stroll often accompanied by One Speed Hobo, our elderly rescue cat; who enjoys a good excursion.

I’d help the old fella tidy up but not before we’d have a quick waltz amongst his prize-winning flowers bathed in the rosy hues of the setting sun to Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra which would be blaring out from the old wind up gramophone or more recently a CD player. As a small child we’d do the father and daughter dance where I placed my little feet over the tops of his and he would mark out the steps for me. Then we’d both walk home arm in arm as we had always done, giggling together over some private joke.

During the winters we’d take refuge from a downpour in the shed where we’d lounge in the dusty old armchairs warming ourselves by the small camping stove nursing mugs of hot chocolate in our chilled fingers and in the hot summers we’d have home-made lemonade to quench our thirst. It’s provided us with somewhere to escape from the world and the rain and has been a haven for various wildlife over the years including a feral cat with her kittens and on occasion a traveller during harsher winters. My Dad’s caring endeavours are evident throughout; on the shelves which house his gardening books, the potting bench where he cultivates most of his seedlings and the boxes holding bottles of his home-made Blackberry and Elderflower wines.

It seems however, this golden chapter in our life has now come to an end and it’s time to hand the keys over to someone who’ll nurture our little horticultural paradise as we have done. Since Dad’s stroke we’ve struggled to maintain it but it’s tough watching your much-loved piece of heaven become overgrown and neglected. It’s going to be so hard saying goodbye to such an enchanting place and several lifetimes’ work. You see the thing is, it’s never been just an allotment to us; it’s been a magical kingdom sprinkled in pixie-dust. Somewhere dreams were dreamed and memories made in our fairy-tale castle where dragons were slain by white knights who wore flat caps and made Dandelion wine. I shared my first kiss there, had my first (and last) illicit cigarette and precious encounters with fey wildlife creatures. My journey from childhood into adulthood has been vividly measured there by the coming and going of the seasons; from the planting of the winter flowering bulbs, the shrubs laden with summer fruits to the tender preparation of the dahlias for the village show to re-starting the process all over again for the following year.

Inevitably its going to be harder for the old fella to lock up for the final time but we’ve come to realise that life is a dance which you learn as you go; sometimes you lead and sometimes you just have to follow the music.

For those of you finding yourself in the same situation as my lovely Dad, don’t struggle on alone contact the Stroke Association .

The Old Fella's prize winning dahlias

The Old Fella’s prize winning dahlias

38 thoughts on “Save The Last Dance For Me

  1. Well, I’m in tears. Got to say. That piece got me, really beautiful… I had hoped to be able to see the allotment and your Da and you sitting there in the armchairs myself. I just haven’t managed to get to Devon. It’s a bit of a journey from Los Angeles. Will they keep the shed or do you have to unpack it all? I suppose the latter is inevitable. Be sure to take some lovely photos with Da before you do! So, at least I can see that. I can’t even imagine growing up with a relationship so warm as the one you’ve had with your Da, and all that richness has permeated into your writing. You will be able to write about those experiences forever, even if you can’t experience them in the flesh. Love to you and Da. – Kaye

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    • We like to think you get to Devon, when my Dad’s all spruced up in a new sweater saying hello to you in one of your videos! We’ve not packed it all up yet but it doesn’t look anything like it did when my Dad spent hours there

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  2. Pingback: Tribute to an Allotment and a Loving Father - Late Bloomer Show

    • I shall be singing that all night now; loved that film! I was so lucky to grow up in a small rural community although I didn’t appreciate it as a teenager but it saddens my heart that so many of these small villages are being “developed” and little remains of the old community spirit

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  3. I am in tears and shared it on my facebook page . I never knew my father as they split when I was very little but I am grateful that my kids had that kind of loving relationship with their dad. He will be gone 4 years now this Christmas. Thanks for sharing this …to treasure special people and special times in our lives… as one day it is gone . :)Sharon

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  4. Dallas, your beautiful, poignant tribute made me teary as well. I know that pain firsthand. I hope with all my heart that your dad will be able to lead you in a dance again someday.

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  5. Hi Dallas, long time no see. How sad that your family has to give up the allotment. Hopefully the next guy will take care of it with as much love as your dad.

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  6. Lovingly written and heart-touchingly sad. I’ll hope that the land is lovingly turned over to someone else’s hands who will have their own little version of the wonderful memories you share.

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  7. Dallas I love all your posts but this one really brought tears to my eyes. You clearly have a very close relationship with your dad and understand him so well. You will be there to see him through this loss and he will I am sure be accepting and move on. The beautiful memories will remain.

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  8. Dallas – your writing is superb. I came back 4 times to read this post and following comments. You have captured the essence of what it means to transition gracefully and eloquently. In our existence, we move forward, not backward, in our timeline. It is the letting go to accept something new, unknown, untried. Your post reminded me of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:

    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”

    I believe aging is the most difficult, yet illuminating, test of courage. For we come to realize that we must move on and allow another voice to take our place,

    “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
    And next year’s words await another voice.”

    All the very, very best of the holiday season to you and yours. My gratitude for the wonderful conversations that we had this past year. And I am looking forward to our next adventure. Hugs.

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  9. This is so touching and bittersweet. I’m so sorry that you and your dad are having to give up the allotment, but you can relish in all the wonderful memories you had there. You are such an amazing writer that you can capture all of those memories and thankfully share them here with us.

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  10. Oh, Dallas, this one made me cry. I remember dancing on my dad’s feet too. What beautiful pictures you paint–I am so glad that you and your Dad have those sweet memories, as well as the ones you are both now forging together, of courage and the getting of wisdom and the drawing of strength from wells you didn’t even know you had.
    Best wishes to you and your family for the New Year.

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  11. Pingback: You Think You Have Time | Crazy Train To Tinky Town

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