Sunday, yesterday as I write this was Fathers day in the UK and I thought I’d take a few minutes to look back at my Dad who died in, well, I was going to write the year but was it 2000 or 2001? Can you believe that, I can’t even remember the year he died!
The thing is, the year isn’t really important, what matters is that he’s no longer here and what’s worse is that me and my old Dad spent a lot of time not getting on with each other and that was a lot of wasted time, time that neither of us will ever get back.
My Dad and I were from different generations. Dad was born in 1928 and he was part of the World War II era. A time of shortages, of national emergency and an uncertain time when you weren’t sure if you or your loved ones were going to make it through that next air raid. Christmas for my Dad, he once told me, was an apple and an orange and maybe, just maybe, an out of the blue present like a tin of lead soldiers that were, of course, second-hand. Anyway, perhaps that’s why he couldn’t really relate to TV obsessed youngsters like me and my brother who were given a pillow case full of gifts on Christmas morning. In the seventies when I was a teenager my long hair and my denim outfits didn’t sit well with my Dad either who used to put a tie on to take the dog for a walk!
Anyway, the good thing is that when something really dreadful happened to me in my late twenties I told him about it rather than my Mum and instead of the usual moans and groans I had come to expect, when the chips were down he stood up and supported me. I’ll always remember him saying to me ‘don’t worry about your Mum, I’ll talk to her.’ It always seems to me looking back that that was the start of our relationship proper.
I describe my Dad pretty accurately in my kindle book ‘Floating In Space’. He was a big man but he was quiet and cat-like too. Everything he did had the same qualities of quiet and calm. He worked for the Manchester Highways department building roads and pavements and every day of his working life, come rain or shine, he set out for work on his old pushbike. One day the gears on his bike stripped and he took it in to the bike shop for a repair. They couldn’t fix it there and then so Dad had to borrow my bike to get to work the next day. What he didn’t know was that at the time there was a new craze -the chopper bike- and as I couldn’t afford an actual chopper bike, I had bought a chopper seat for my bike and fitted it the previous day. Looking back that bike looked pretty ludicrous and later I reverted to the normal seat but I can still see my Dads face as he pulled my bike out of the out house where it was stored and then me and my brother watched as this middle aged man set out for work on his hybrid chopper bike!
For fathers day many years ago I bought him an apple tree to plant in his back garden. When I turned up late on the Sunday my Mum was really pleased to see me and said that my Dad apparently was feeling a little neglected that day as until then, neither me nor my brother had turned up to see him.
We planted the tree in the back garden and years later, whenever I looked at that tree it reminded me of him. Of his quiet ways, of his ‘lets get on with it’ nature, of his spirit so like my Mum’s really of never letting anything get them down. Imagine my feeling one day last year when I looked out of my Mum’s back window to see the tree had been chopped down! I was seething and was all ready to get on the phone and give Manchester City Council some major grief when Mum told me she had asked for the tree to be cut down. What on earth for I asked?
Well, my Mum is a little unsteady on her feet and the tree was crowding her washing line and she was worried about falling over. So, she got the council to chop it down. It was clear she didn’t see the tree as I saw it, as a sort of living, growing, monument to the man I had given it to many years ago. Still, last time I was there, only last week, there were green shoots growing from the stump. The tree had beaten the man from the council and its indomitable spirit was still alive. I am sure my Dad, who loved nature in all its forms, would have smiled.