Another Father’s Day.
Mr B, as usual, reiterates his long-held view that Father’s Day is yet another American
institution which has crossed the Atlantic and infiltrated our shores. Like Halloween, Trick or Treat, and calling the big, bearded man in the red suit Santa Claus, instead of Father Christmas. Which everyone knows is his proper name. Nevertheless he opens
his cards, laughing at the jokes about fathers, and appreciates the thought behind them.
I feel bad about admitting that I don’t remember celebrating
Father’s Day when I was a littl’un. I am hoping that it had yet to arrive in this country from that he U S of A because I can’t bear to think that maybe I didn’t mark the occasion as a loving daughter should.
Now, I have told you quite a lot about my Dad over the years I have been writing the Daily Blog. In particular, that he was a man who had an amazing knack of making even the most insignificant of events
somehow special. Friday night was Surprise Night in our house, when Our Dad returned from work with a Tiny Tots comic for me and Chicks Own for my Little Sister, plus a few sweets. It was the same every Friday evening, it never varied - but it was always,
but always, Surprise Night.
Nobody else, ever, has been able to make the boiling of a camping kettle on a Primus stove such an exciting operation, the resultant
cup of tea so delicious as we sat in fair (or not-so-fair) weather on the hilly slope above Shoeburyness. And how many fathers, struggling to keep a family of six afloat on a baker’s roundsman’s wage, would insist on buying me a perfectly fitting
school uniform - not one I would “grow into” - when I won my place at Romford County High School because he knew I would need every ounce of confidence I could muster when I entered the High School’s hallowed portals?
I have been thinking about my Dad recently, and not just on account of the approach of Father’s Day. I happened across one of my Mum’s diaries, from the year 1980, with
its tantalising mix of national and international news interspersed with the purely domestic. Only my Mum, in a few short lines, could report on a big fire in a hotel in Las Vegas (“Many killed”), the disco party we were organising for the Middle
of the Darling Daughters’ birthday, and rumours that Prince Charles was about to announce his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer (“She seems a lovely girl in nature as well as looks.”)
An ongoing theme running through the diary, written in Mum’s beautiful handwriting in a Silvine Students Note Book, is my Dad’s health, the constant pain he was suffering with his rheumatoid arthritis - and the
fact that he was still, despite it, carrying on regardless. Every day, it seemed, he would be taking Mum shopping (the diary goes into great detail about every small purchase they bought for their bungalow home), shifting furniture, labouring in the garden,
making sure the car was ready for their next excursion. At the end of each day, it seemed, Mum would record: “Len very tired” or “Len in a lot of pain” and explain the many loving ways she tried to ease his discomfort. This was three
years before he died, at the relatively young age of 68. Though I knew he wasn’t well, I don’t think I ever completely realised how very poorly he was, and for so long. Why didn’t I know? Then I remember one day calling in unexpectedly and
finding him in bed, face riven with pain, protesting: “I hate you seeing me like this...” Still protecting me, just as he had protected my eleven year old self, on my way to high school in my brand new uniform.
One diary entry gives me a little comfort. Mum writes: “Jaqui came and brought a small flat electric blanket. The visit really did Len good, it woke him up and he seems a bit better, not so tired.
The blanket is a boon...”
Such a little thing, a small flat electric blanket. I feel as if I should have seen, and done, so much more.
Cherish your fathers if you are fortunate enough to still have them with you.
not just on Father’s Day.