Radiator Dog, my dad, and me
I'm not unique in the fact that I've lost a parent to a terminal illness. But nothing prepares you for it when it actually happens. Aged 64, far too soon, my father passed away with retirement just out of life's reach. Unbelievably, he coped with it very well and always remained positive. He made the best of the time he had left. And even when he could barely hold a pen any longer, or able to verbally communicate very well, his humour still shone through.
The first time my father spent some time in a care home, he was understandably not keen to be there even though at that point it was just temporary. "Sketch," I told him. "Whenever you can, whatever you feel like drawing."
On my next visit, he'd started to create characters from the mundane things he could see in his room. 'Radiator Dog', 'Simmbad', 'Pedal Bin Laden', 'Basil Brush' and 'Ever Ready Battery Bob' (my father's name was Robert but everyone called him 'Bob') made me laugh out loud. That pleased him very much and we'd go through his sketchbook over and over so we could laugh together without the need for talking.
ever ready battery bob (complete with teeth)
Pedal Bin Laden
simmbad and basil brush
Every time I visited after that, The Adventures of Radiator Dog & Friends filled the pages of his sketchbook. And although it was genuinely funny and it let us share some wonderful moments together, I understood my father's message. To me, he seemed to be poking fun at the illness that claimed his body, a way of saying 'I'm still here!'. He made light of his own sorry situation so as not to be beaten by it.
When I look at those sketches now, I think my father is telling us to take time to enjoy the simple things in life and to have some fun along the way. Those with healthy bodies should not waste them and those with dreams should always chase them.
Maybe I'm reading too much into their meaning, and they're simply some funny drawings. Either way, I'd like to share those drawings with you and the hope they carried with them in every wobbly line that my father drew.
radiator dog takes a wife
pedal bin laden speaks his mind ("rubbish!")
radiator dog learns to fly
radiator dog as an accordion
radiator dog goes to the circus
radiator dog likes children
radiator dog foils a bank robbery
radiator keeps his cool ("yap yap!")
radiator dog plays football
radiator dog parties on
radiator dog bites the dust
radiator dog breaks free
In memory of my father, Robert William Allen (1951 - 2016). Find out more about him here ….