Welcome to year two of our weekly series of ‘link-up’ Posts which reflect on life’s journey, old memories and family stories (see below for more info).
Last time I came to visit, you looked frail. Greyer, thinner, smaller somehow, and slow on the ups and downs.
You cooked us a reassuringly predictable beef stew. Even the smell of it reminded me of childhood. You even still use the same casserole dish. How DO your generation manage to make things endure for so long? Such admirable thrift.
The walls looked like they need a little paint, and the bathroom needs replacing. Your ‘wireless’ was playing in the bedroom, even though no one was upstairs; a 24 hour companion in the background of your existence.
You looked sad when I talked about visiting mum at the crematorium, and you deftly changed the subject when I asked after your health. Of course.
I noticed that the garden has weeds. I remember the rows and rows of peas that used to beckon my little fingers and beg to be prematurely popped. I marvelled at how these tiny balls of sweetness burst flavour into my mouth, and how you taught me to pick and chop the fresh mint to make its perfect, saucy partner.
You were the gentle one. A gentle man in every sense, never smacking or shouting, but always there as a steady second in command to the Great She.
Mum was the Driver; literally and metaphorically. You took the passenger seat in the car, as in life. The quiet, smart dad who struggled with social gatherings, and yet could make my school friends reel with laughter when they came to experience our shabby tea of cheese and pickle sandwiches.
Remember all those Cub camps? You in your Cub Leader uniform, all young and lean and sociable, posing for pictures and cooking sausages with 20 little lads in a field.
Even then I thought you were old, when you were flush in the middle of your life. It is hard for a child to imagine their parent as the athlete that they once were; you, a prize winner and a champion with your thick wavy hair and smouldering looks.
Your years were the war years. The time of making do. The littlest of four children, relishing the freedom of the great outdoors, untethered by parental restrictions or the knowledge of what you used to have. You were fed and you were happy. Your father was gone, so your hero became big brother Joe, busy bombing Germany and inspiring your games.
I can see you now in your make-shift school uniform with cut-off men’s trousers, entering the Grammar school for the first time with all those middle-class boys. So clever then and so clever still. Is there anything you don’t know?!
Are you happy, dad? Are you comfortable in your newly-found reclusivity since we lost mum? You’re hard to reach but perhaps you like it that way. Why can’t I bring myself to ask you then? Once the child, always the child, I suppose.
At every corner of my life, stitched in to every memory I write, you are there. A quiet, constant, calming presence that has shaped my existence from the moment I gushed in to your lives on that hot May night.
I love you.
Isn’t it time you wrote to your dad?
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A selection of other posts from this series:-
Week 2 – Old School Portrait
Week 4 – Bestest Friends
Week 5 – Teenage Crushes
Week 6 – First Movie Memories
Week 19 – Becoming a Parent
Week 25 – Old Boyfriends
Week 39 – My home town