I could chart my relationship from utter dependency, through a growing appreciation to full or partial dependency on me.
While I have watched them grow into full adulthood and seniority, my appreciation for them has changed. I am now able to see them from the perspective of parent and I hope they will see at least one great grandchild in their lifetimes.
My father was born to an Irish mother who had married a Methodist Minister , some 20 years older than her. He was born in Forest Gate (so he is a cockney) and had grown up in various manses around the country. His father’s side of the family had been farmers in North Dorset and it was on a trip to stay with relatives that he contracted bovine tuberculosis when he was 7.
He recovered to be a robust young man who played rugby for Middlesex . He qualified as a General Practitioner in the late 50s and joined a medical practice in Shaftesbury.
My mother was born one of four girls into a prosperous middle class family, growing up in Welwyn Garden City. I have heard many tales of her popularity in her early years but she seldom talks about herself. Her formative years were spent in upstate New York as an evacuaee and later as the guest of the kind family that took her and her sisters in.
Phillipa and Geoffrey Tapper had four boys;- myself, Rupert , Gregory and Albert. We were all privately educated first at Port Regis and then at Bryanston. The achievement of providing this education is not lost on me. What wealth my father generated was ploughed back into our education and to this day, this education is of great importance to them.
My father retired as a Doctor on ill-health grounds in 1988. By a series of happy chances he became leader of Dorset County Council two years later , a position he held for ten years. After retiring from politics, he continued to work in the medical profession till his 80th year and was a familiar sight in Dorset and Somerset, making his way from household to household , conducting medicals on the sick and pseudo-sick. Today he busies himself writing poems for competitions in the Oldie and the Spectator and soliciting readership for his translation of the Acts of the Apostles into blank verse.
My mother, who had spent much of her life in the shadow of a dominant mother in law, has become an increasingly influential part of their partnership. Her fitness has probably increased in these years as she has taken to walking and over the past five years completed the south west coastal path, all 800 miles of it. Her mind has remained as active as her body and as my father’s physical capacity has declined, she has found a new role in supporting him.
In the past two weeks she has enjoyed her 80th and he his 81st birthday, the photos that accompany this article show them enjoying lunch at the British Museum’s Court Restaurant where they celebrated their longevity by visiting the “Shakespeare and his World” exhibition.
While I have left it five decades to write this piece, my best hope is that I can write at least one and hopefully two more, on the occasions of their 90th and their centenary years.