‘The mound of earth looked very small to cover such a big man. It meant nothing to me, his mortal remains might be there, but I knew then that he wasn’t. All that gaiety and love of life, that great personality, that lived on somewhere. I have never ceased to believe that. Of all the people I have ever known he was the most alive, the least likely ever to be dead and buried.’ (p98)
The death of Kathleen’s father brings her memoir to a devastating end, his death she refers to as ‘the end of my childhood’ (p98). It is somewhat heart wrenching having been on this exciting journey of distant lands and a rather unusual childhood through the eyes of Kathleen to have these adventures cut short by such a terrible moment. It is difficult to comprehend knowing how close Kathleen and her family were, the implications this event would have. I felt it incredibly significant that her father’s death should be the closing point of her memoir, and through this second part of Home and Family wish to explore the relationship with her father, his role within the family and how Kathleen demonstrates how important her parents are.
In the opening of her memoir Kathleen refers to ‘the whole house revolved around him, he was certainly put before any of his children, and his likes and dislikes studied to a degree’ (p3), her father had a larger than life personality as demonstrated throughout the memoir, and Kathleen highlights that much of her home life revolved around the needs and desires of her father. Her father has a fantastic personality that made him popular with many people and his central role as the head of family suggests that upon his death Kathleen’s family dynamic was torn apart and as a unit they struggled to cope with the loss of this great personality.
Kathleen refers to her parents’ marriage and its success throughout her memoir stating ‘it set a very high standard in the marriage stakes’(p22). Kathleen was blessed to come from a family were love played a central role she was surrounded by her parents love and aware of true love from a young age as she watched her parents interactions. It is with a heavy heart therefore that upon her father’s death we experience not only the heartbreak of Kathleen and her siblings but also of her mother as we imagine a happy home torn apart by death. Kathleen a happy and imaginative child throughout her memoir often see’s the world through rose tinted glasses and it is hard to imagine just how devastating her father’s death would be to such a happy child.
‘He expected, and got, absolute obedience from his children, but he was an indulgent father and we had great fun with him’ (p3). In the opening of her memoir Kathleen suggests that her and her siblings had a great level of respect for their father, they knew not to cross him yet still continued to have many great adventures with him. Upon his death it may be inferred that many of the adventures Kathleen experienced, mainly through her father’s job, came to an abrupt end as she was no longer part of an army family. Kathleen clearly associates childhood with fun and adventure and a possible reason for her father’s death being the end of her childhood, is that she was no longer engulfed in this unique, exciting and adventurous childhood she had always known.
Towards the closing of her memoir it is significant to note that Kathleen discusses the changing relationship between her and her father as Betty leaves the family home, Kathleen becomes much closer to her father in his latter years which undoubtedly make his impending death much worse to comprehend.
‘I began to establish a relationship with my father that had never before existed between us. To him I had always been ‘the baby’, timid and shy, the odd one of the family who needed a tremendous amount of encouragement. Now that I stood free of my sister’s shadow, I became a personality in my own right and he treated me accordingly’ (p84)
In this moment we see Kathleen relish in the new relationship she has developed with her father they enjoy many moments together, it seems fitting that just before his death her and her father became much closer making his death the ultimate devastation for her as just when they are beginning to develop a bond he is torn away from her life.
David Vincent states, ‘when, therefore, the autobiographers were faced with the challenge of writing about the more intense and private incidents in their emotional lives, their command and language frequently proved inadequate’ (227). Applying Vincent’s argument to Kathleen’s memoir it could be suggested that the death of Kathleen’s father marks the end of her memoir as her life changed from that moment on. She was no longer able to speak so freely and positively about the remainder of her life, due to her father’s death as it had left such a bleak mark on childhood.
Lindley, Kathleen M: ‘A time to be born’ Typescript. 98pp 1976, Brunel University Library.
Vincent, David: ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth Century Working Class’. Taylor and Francis ltd. 1980
Partridge, John; The Clough-Taylor Family; York Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-clough-taylor-family-8157