Monday, 2 July 2018

Some belated Father's Day thoughts.

    My father was a conversationalist, a communicator, a wit and a punster, and a bit of a philosopher, who loved his family and his country. He was born in and loved Dublin and had some very close Irish friends in all walks of life.. He used to say to me, “Son, you may travel the world you’ll never find a finer place”. (In fact I couldn't wait to get out of that tight little island!)
    For a man whose formal education ended when he was fourteen he was very well-informed and I remember as a child seeing the National Geographic and a journal called Psychology Today lying around the house. There was no topic he was unwilling or unable to discuss. He was a master of the allegory, always ready and able to illustrate his point with an anecdote, a story or a song (and he had a collection of songs both sad and funny that no oneelse seemed to have heard of).
   I have quoted him freely and still do. Indeed we were
suspicious that some of his songs were made up, until we managed to find a number of them on the internet. In retrospect, many of his stories and jokes, had a profundity that I didn’t really appreciate until adulthood and which resonate until this day, when I am thirty years older than my father was when he died.
   He was an upholsterer by training and built up a small business. He was truly an artisan of the old school and loved to restore old period furniture which he did painstakingly himself, sure that it was too delicate for even his most competent employees. He had magic hands, he could repair anything and even singlehandedly, built a fair-sized room onto our house, doing everything from the brick-laying to the electrical work and the final decorating himself. A wonderful gift, it seems to have skipped my generation, though I see the same painstaking preoccupation with perfection in my son. I spent some time as an orthopedic house officer assisting very capable orthopedic surgeons, and feeling sorry that my father’s superior manual skills were not applied to surgery.
He taught me about respect for others. His friends were either honorary aunts and uncles, or Mr. or Mrs. No first name addresses by seven year olds to adults.   No cheeky, smart-ass retorts. He also taught me about respect for myself and for the young girls and boys I associated with..
   When all the other teen-agers (I’m talking about 1 7 or 1 8 year olds) were sneaking into their homes quietly to avoid discovery by waking up their parents, I knew I was going to find my father sitting reading the newspaper waiting for me no matter what time I arrived. He would look at his watch and say, “You’re late tonight, where were you?” Then, “who were you
with?”   I'd tell him the truth (usually!) and then he’d offer me a cigarette and we would sit chatting, in front of the fire, often for a long time, about every topic from world politics to scientific developments. Sometimes my mother would wake up upstairs and call down, “are you two going to sit up all night?”
   The Conversation, the conversation was all, I knew how he thought, and he knew how I thought. We shared love, rapport, respect.  I never, ever, remember my father raising his voice to me. Sometimes, when there was something on his mind, something worrying him, he would tell me about it. Often it was about financial issues, as mass production drove him out of business.  Invariably, he would finish by saying “don’t worry, it will be alright, and you needn’t worry your mother about it”. My parents never yelled at each other. The closest they
came to that was when my mother would say to him, in exasperation at me, “Talk to him, Davey,” and he would say ‘Hello Stanley’. That’s about as close as it got!
   They're not making his kind anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Well I cried when I read this,because I really wish I had known Granddad.I hear there is a letter waiting for me from him ,that i have been waiting some 55 years to receive.Maybe MY father in his infinite wisdom knew when, in my life ,I would be able to fully appreciate it