Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Father's Day

It was Father's Day on Sunday. So not unnaturally the offspring all had to do make cards for their dad.

No 1's bore the legend, Daddy and doggy (wishful thinking or what) were walking in the park, when out of a bush leapt four little girls (how alarming) and they shouted, Happy Father's Day. Which coincidentally is also what they shouted in the recordable card I got for them. (Boy did I regret that!)

No 2 wrote Spouse a poem, which went like this:

Father's Day has come at last,
Your trying to hide it by wearing a mask,
Sitting in a room with a glassfull of beer (out of the mouths of babes!)
Now close your eyes and come right here...

No 2 is demonstrating an alarming propensity to show huge discernment about her parents - at her Open Day yesterday I came across a piece of writing in which she declared that her mother would watch Love Films if left to her own devices, while her dad would watch Scary Films. Which is just about right... though I do have a penchant for clever horror flicks...

No3 had drawn a picture of Super Dad. Look it's Super Dad, ran her caption. Wiat a minute I wonder who's dad it is... Wow it's my dad.

I was pretty impressed by this effort considering she isn't quite six yet, until I found no2's birthday offering which more or less said the same thing...

No 4 can't write (in fact I am beginning to wonder why I have sent her to a posh nursery - oh yes, it was so I could work - given that all the others who were deprived at preschool could write their names by now.) so no 2 kindly drew her card and wrote Happy Father's Day on it for her. Inspired by this no 4 then trogged off and came up with her own version, which had a picture of a purple creature on it. Is that me? asked Spouse brightly. Oh no, was the reply. It's an alien. Hmm... Wonder what Freud would have made of that...

Fortunately all of this activity kept them from coming in too early on Sunday morning (I hastily shoved them all downstairs at seven thirty with strict instructions that Dad really didn't want breakfast in bed just yet...)

It managed to stave them off for an hour, after which a little cohort appeared at the door bearing bowls of muesli, bread and cold tea. When no 1 learnt to make tea last year, I felt that at last my years of parenthood had been to some purpose. It will have been to good purpose once they learn to make a hot cup of tea...

Which brings me neatly on to my dear old dad, for whom the sole reason for having as many children as he did (I have seven siblings) was so he never went short of a cup of tea. I can't actually recall having made him cards for Father's Day as a child, as I don't think people went in for it much then. In fact, I think when he did start getting cards around the time I was in my teens he used to moan about it being commercial nonsense. Although, I suspect we'd have known about it if he hadn't had any...

Sadly my dad is no longer with us. He is in fact my dear departed old dad. Or DDOD for short. It's ok, it's been a long time now, and I am quite used to it. But on days like Sunday, it does suddenly strike you with a pang. There is a space which used to be inhabited by him, which will always be a vast chasm. And no one else will ever fill it. I suspect Spouse feels something similar. We lost his dad three years ago (I know very careless of us). And while for both our dads, it was in many ways a release, and they had both had what they would have termed a good innings... still. There is a poignancy now in the only dad in the family being Spouse. And while our children celebrate having him, we mourn still the loss of ours. And I suppose we always will.

The DDODs met on more then one occasion and alcohol was usually involved (that's where we get it from then). The first time they met, just before our wedding, in honour of the fact they were both WW2 vets (mine in the navy, Spouse's in the army), my father decided to bring in some rum to celebrate. He also did the cooking while we were out. By the time we got back most of the rum had gone, the dinner was cooked, and my dad was slightly squiffy to say the least. As mil is German we then had a Don't Mention the War kind of evening, except that's all they could talk about as it was all they had in common. Mil usually is sanguine about it, but after a few drinks she does tend to get a bit teary when she recalls having to flee her home. My dad, a sensitive soul, kept whispering to me sotto voce, Oh Dear, I think I've upset your mother in law. It wasn't too long before Spouse and I escaped to the pub...

On another, equally memorable occasion, the two mums had gone to bed and Spouse and I sat chewing the fat with the dads. By about midnight, both dads were well in their cups and my DDOFIL started telling vaguely risque jokes. My DDOD looked like he wanted to respond, but I could see I was cramping both their styles, and they were horrified that I knew what they were talking about... So I did the decent thing and slid gracefully off to bed. All night I heard a murmur of voices, which would suddenly get very loud and animated and then tail off into a mumble.

Spouse eventually left them to it, at about 2am. He had been sitting acolytelike at their feet, while they imparted the wisdom of their years, which as the evening wore on became somehwat more questionable. As he was there, he had to take the lackey role and keep refilling their glasses. In the end he poured my dad a large glass of brandy, his a large glass of whisky and then left them both to it.

In the morning my fil appeared bright and breezy about 9 am, but my dad didn't get up till lunchtime, when he appeared looking pale and wan and proceeded to drink water for the rest of the day. It was only many many years later that fil admitted to me that he had got up at 6am to sneak a quick whisky which kept him going for the rest of the day...


Which is why, much as I miss them both, I feel ok about it all really. Because I have this vision of my dad sitting on his cloud, his harp beside him, halo slightly slipping, a glass of claret in hand, tossing his head and saying, Father's Day, what a lot of nonsense. And sitting next to him, with a glass of whisky in his, fil, nodding wisely and responding with , Couldn't agree more old boy! Chin! Chin!

So I raise a glass to my two dads, wherever they may be. It was great to have them as long as we did. And I know they'll both appreciate the fact that we no longer have to waste our money on them...

For my two dads with all my lovexxxx

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