17 November 2023

A role model to look up to

The idea of men’s wellbeing still feels fairly new. The best role model I could have ever wished for, “Papa McGlone” would have given me a funny look if I’d asked about it, even if he embodied the everyday working man IMD describes.

Landing on his doorstep (the upstairs flat) at age 8, with Mum and my brother, the idea of stepping in as a father figure never entered his mind; it didn’t have to. Papa was happy to quietly lead by example. Spending time with Nana and Papa was all about fun. Being fattened up by Nana’s fish and chips and pancakes to waking up my Mum laughing at Papa’s old cine projections, always past bedtime.

Over the next 32 years, he never left the picture and we’d often remark he had a picture somewhere getting old. He’d be the first to welcome guests, the last to leave a party and he didn’t seem to know the word hangover. One Christmas well in his 80s I had to beg him for permission to go to bed at 1am, an early night for him. He kept his place as the family lynchpin even after Nana was lost to cancer and he had to learn how to look after himself for the first time, a steep learning curve.

As a diehard hoarder and without Nana’s influence, his home slowly transformed into a flea market. We’d wonder why he’d cling onto kerosine lamps, Betamax video recorders and everything in between. The answer, “someone might have a use for it”. Giving was one of his favourite things to do; his time, the small amount of money he saved, his trade as a painter and decorator and his support to ailing friends, the Masons, Church and of course family.

Papa had a real curiosity about the world. A man of the church but fascinated by Eastern religion and healing. A fan of history, growing up in the shadow of WWII but surprisingly well informed on current affairs. He’d pick up the phone just to chat, even into my 30s and when in agonising pain due to long-overdue hip operations and he always had something to say.

The best thing about Papa was his sense of humour and the innocent jokes only he could tell with his cheeky look that landed him after dinner speaking roles. Papa understood the gift of life which could be why he could never refuse what he called ‘water of life’ (whisky).

It has taken me years to understand how much I looked up to him and his memory will last for as long as I do.

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