Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Helping Dad

Tonight I'm helping Dad.

I never got to help my Dad with anything.

Touring the house at an adagio shuffle, we check the back door is locked, the front door. Is the kitchen alright? The dog settled? We will attend to these things.

At seventeen I was a longhaired smartarse, not that you'd have used the word.

In the hall we discuss and investigate, with dignified thoroughness, the lights and locks. I'm not sure you know just who I am but you know each of these bolts, this chain, the four switches: each must be just so, as it always has been. There'll be no rest till the house is straight.

You're hardly fifty. You don't ask me for anything: maybe this is fortunate for it seems I have nothing to offer. I use hippy jargon: you don't like my friends.

We've reached the landing. You draw the curtains: they near each other with tectonic slowness, but we are in no rush.

You'd started teaching me to drive. It didn't lead to perfect father-son bonding moments. The old Rover was more forgiving than the people inside it.

Upstairs at last we continue our unhurried progress. You're not sure which is your toothbrush: I'm not either. Oh well.

Three decades later my ignorance about you still makes me cringe. You were baffled by me, what, six days out of seven? Worse, some weeks.

I haven't done up someone else's pyjama buttons since the kids were small.

I was away from home when you died.

I tuck you up, say goodnight and go out to listen. My heart is breaking.

4 comments:

Becca said...

You have no idea how long and hard you've just made me cry.

still crying, in fact.

Strawberryyog said...

Oops, sorry. No depression intended. It did make me think, though, K-sitting on Monday night. I mean none of it is exactly an earth-shattering revelation because I think a lot of this stuff is pretty much standard issue for people with ageing parents (or whoever). It highlights a number of predictable but powerful contrasts and as well as the usual age/childhood thing I felt particularly, erm, got-at by the contrast between this and what happened with my own Dad. I have probably said too much already but I was very struck by the fact that although the present situation is in some ways awful at least people are getting on and I have some sort of relationship with K and there is a kind of dignity and integrity to it, whereas with Dad it was all a bit sudden and a bit crap and as a nasty teenager I probably was a bit less useful and pleasant to have around than I am as a knackered demicentenarian!

Strawberryyog said...

yeah and it's not coincidence that this is so on my mind right now when I am just turned 50! Dr Sigmund Lottie was asking me much the same thing and yes, it does weigh on the mind (what of it remains!) a bit. I am very conscious that to outlive Dad I have to make it to around Christmas and to outlive him wrt to the age of my youngest child I have to make it to about April! I am avoiding scaffolding in high winds at the moment ...

Strawberryyog said...

With regard to Avoiding Scaffolding please see Avoiding scaffolding (ah ah ah ah stayin' alive) which explains it.