Tribute to my Father on his would-be birthday

Remembering the years that the world was honored by the presence of John Leslie Castle, who passed away in January.

My Father’s death came quite suddenly. We’d known he was in ill-health for a while, as a consequence of his infamous love of alcohol and cigarettes. But even the strongest, greatest man in my life’s body could not bare bronchitis on top of kidney failure, emphysema and angina. His passing demonstrated the Buddhist teaching he often spoke of; the impermanence of everything on earth.

His stick-thin build had led him to be nicknamed Joss, after a joss stick. Renowned for his quick wit, sometimes dark humour, and his ability to make a joke in even the gloomiest of situations. He also had a more spiritual side. Although he didn’t believe in God, he did believe in an afterlife.

He was deeply proud of being Irish, and always reminded us of what the English black and tans did to the Irish. But still, with his entirely Essex-boy accent, resembling that of Del-boy from ‘Only fools and horses’, he admitted to being a ‘plastic Paddy.’

I couldn’t write a tribute without mentioning the epic way in which my Father won my Mother over. As a customer in the wine-bar my Mother was working in, he asked out only to be turned down. Apparently his wild bushy hair and cross-shaped earring didn’t appeal to her. Determined, he cut all his hair off and threw the earring in the ashtray. On his return, she couldn’t say no.

As his daughter, I knew him better than anyone. Maybe even better than my Mother. We had a kind of telepathic bond which we would often use at times when my dear Mother was being a bit daft. Then we’d giggle together afterwards.

My Father also knew and understood me more than anyone. He always trusted in my intelligence, my decisions and my judgement. And even when I had been out late, or in dangerous places around the world, he believed in me (even if he did moan to my Mother when I wasn’t there).

Growing up, he taught me things that I wouldn’t realise the importance of until now. Though he always left me to make all my life decisions, he had guided me all the way through. He made me who I am today.

I learnt to be politically aware, and to help others, from my Father. Aljazeera English and Euronews were permanently on in our house, unless Mum wanted to temporarily switch over to watch Neighbours. But then it would return to Aljazeera as soon as it finished. He supported the Palestinian cause with all his heart, and would get worked up every time more Israeli settlements were announced. I never failed to be surprised by what my Father knew, and I never got to learn every single thing from him.

There aren’t enough words to show the gratitude and love I have for my Father, and no blog post can come close to summarising his legacy.

The last words my Father had said to me, before he lost the ability to talk, were “I love you.” Cliche as that is, that is all I needed to know.

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