MEMORIES OF MY FATHER

 

Today is Father’s Day and we have been with our son and his family, celebrating their father and grandfatherhood. I am remembering my own father, with whom I did not have an easy relationship. There were years of my life when I never spoke to him at all. My father did not have easy relationships with anybody. When we buried him, those present were his wife, his son and his daughter and their spouses; two of his grandchildren and the spouse of one of them, (the third grandchild was too far away to return), and his great grand-daughter. He held no offices. He was a private man.

And yet he was an exceptional individual who affected the lives of many people that he came into contact with in unexpected ways.

My father was contrary. When I was told that I resembled him, (which happened frequently) I did agree, but I always added the proviso, but I am more reasonable, to which whoever had compared me to him invariably agreed. Mind you, this did not count for very much, for no-one could (on occasion) be less reasonable than my father.

He was a small, wiry man- could have been a jockey small. But what struck you first on meeting him was how handsome he was. His face was outstandingly good-looking, and in his exceptional beauty (but not his actual looks) he resembled Prince Philip or Piers Brosnan or Anthony Eden. He was not vain. He was tanned, with wavy blonde hair which he retained into old age, and eyes of an indeterminate colour that ran between grey, green and turquoise and all the shades between. He could speak the Angus dialect or the Queen’s English, but when he got annoyed, he spoke the Queen’s English. He was a man of formal courtesy (except when he abandoned that) and people meeting this quiet, polite, modest man generally had no idea of who he could be.

He was also extremely intelligent in contradictory ways. He was very practical and could build whatever he wanted from a beehive to a house. He knew every tree and plant and all it’s uses. He could calculate mathematically quicker than any computer. He could keep a running total at a supermarket in his head with no apparent effort. He would know every card that had been played (he refused to play cards.) He could ‘guess’ what people thought and predict their actions with great accuracy. He was, despite his practicality, a dreamer of dreams and a maker of prophecies. These were often accurate. He was cunning, devious where necessary, and surprisingly patient for an impatient man and he was not a good man to have for an enemy. In spite of all these things he was also generous and compassionate.   He was however courageous and enduring, and he stood up for truth and justice (as he saw them.) He was incorruptible in the sense that he could neither be bullied nor bribed.

He worked in dangerous places and during this period several serious accidents occurred. In each case he was immediately sent for, and told, ‘Keep this man alive until they get him into the hospital.’ Though it was sometimes many months before they were able enough to come back and see him, they all survived.   On a more prosaic level, he taught several illiterate men how to read and write.

He was wrong about some things but the things he was right about far out-weighed his errors.

He was interested in religion though he espoused no religion. He had a wry sense of humour and was a great raconteur, if he was relaxed and in good humour. But if he was not in a good humour – and there was no apparent reason for any of his moods, he could poison an entire day with his miasmic silence, or set it on fire with his vicious rants; his expertise at both these skills would make Gordon Brown seem a rank amateur. He could be silent; but he could also talk for hours (this could be extremely wearing.)

He was also possessive. He thoroughly disliked and did his best to discourage any male friend of mine until the magic day when I parted from them. He knew me well enough to know that they were now completely safe, and then he would express great sympathy for them. (Where will he find another woman like you? He could win you over with a throw-away line.) He did not come to my wedding.

In truth, he could be and generally was an exhausting difficulty. He was a man of great and puzzling contradictions and if you had canvassed opinion on him you would have wondered if people were talking of the same man. He was also mercurial and might change his position on some point, or hold to it forever. He was never predictable. He had interesting, thought provoking things to say. Life with him was never dull.

He was a man of secrets. When John went back to my parents’ house to collect Joanna after the birth of our second daughter, and said her name was to be Elisabeth, John reported that he said only that it was a fine name, but he seemed oddly moved, and it was only then that I learned that his mother, who had died in his young childhood, had been called Elizabeth.

He was by no means an easy parent to have, and it’s probably just as well we were his own children, and flints of the same rock, as it were. But you can forgive your parents anything, if they only love you; and his love was like a bottomless ocean.

It does not seem appropriate to hope that he rests in peace, for he was a most restless person; but may his journey be easy.

I count myself fortunate that I was his daughter.

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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