Sunday, March 24, 2013



I have written about Alfred before but, for some reason, couldn’t lay my hands on this photo—my favorite one of him. To be precise, I had it on the computer, but it refused to cut and paste—computers can be obstinate sometimes. Then my sister, Lucy, came up with a version—and here it is.

I was about eight when I heard my mother was getting married again. I took to Alfred immediately and, as the eldest child, made the decision to call him “Daddy” rather than by his name. This was something that I hoped he would appreciate—and I was to learn, over many years, that he did. We became very close.

I had never known my own father so rather the liked idea of having one—someone I could talk to, learn from, and love. In fact, Alfred never quite became a father. Somehow, he stepped back from the role--even where his own children were concerned. My mother was too strong-willed and dominant—and she controlled the money—so Alfred, who was ten years her junior, became more like an extraordinarily talented big brother. He was witty, intelligent, widely read, hugely entertaining—and could seemingly do just about anything. He was an accomplished artist, he had an eye for antiques, he drove superbly, he knew a great deal about the theatre, he was a delightful dinner companion—and so it went for a very long list. He was a deeply cultured man. Did his talent extend to business? Though he certainly understood business, and was tasked with looking after the family money for quite some time,  I suspect not. Fundamentally, Alfred had an artistic temperament.

Women adored him—which did not please my mother. My girlfriends also adored him which did not exactly please me. However, he was such fun that it was hard to take offense—even when he flirted outrageously.

For more than a decade he was a positive influence at home—and then the relationship broke him, as I feared it must.

He died far too young under decidedly unhappy circumstances—and I was absolutely devastated. I found it near impossible to imagine that all that humor, talent and energy was just gone. I was living in my thatched Irish cottage at the time, and recall going into into shock.

I adored and admired the man, and feel fortunate to have known him—albeit for such a relatively short time. I don’t think I have ever met anyone else who encompassed all his talents. Was he flawed? Of course—he was human—and his wit could sometimes be cruel; but the good far outweighed the bad.

One should be able to take death in one’s stride. It is both natural and certain. Nonetheless, I have never been able to become entirely reconciled to the deaths of either my grandmother or Alfred—and the sight of his photo makes my heart ache. Such a loss; such a waste; such a tragedy.

Then I remember the good times—and there were so many—and have to smile. Above all, I associate Alfred with laughter.


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