You came to mind again recently, whilst I was out in the garden on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. I’d been thinking about bringing the deck chair you gave me up from the cellar, so I could enjoy the weather in old-school, British comfort. As I held my mug of tea in quiet contemplation, I happened to glance at the old bird feeder, and the multi-coloured gardening gloves nearby.
The gloves are faded now from multiple washing. They were a present from you and Mum. The bird feeder is a gift from one of your sons … well, sort of. It was yours originally, and saw many years’ service, none of it recent.
I’m trying to remember when I first started calling you Dad. Knowing me, I probably avoided calling you anything – let alone your first name, which would have felt disrespectful – for several years. I suspect it just slipped out one day. I don’t remember you correcting me.
I’m writing this in the front room, listening to music with your eldest, whilst he reads, and the washer does its thing in the background. You probably wouldn’t like the music: his taste, and yours, seldom coalesced.
That’s sons and fathers for you.
You loved music, and singing. If you were around, and awake – you were a champion sleeper – and the family couldn’t find you, all we had to do was listen for whistling, humming, or singing. You had a lovely tenor voice. I don’t think I realised just how much of a sacrifice you made when you gave up male voice choir to give me a lift home from the first writers’ group I ever attended.
When you went deaf, Life played a particularly nasty joke. You weren’t much cop with that hearing aid: it spent more time sitting in a drawer than your ear. One of the few times I remember you purposefully wearing it was when you went on an organised walk to listen to the “dawn chorus”. Mum remarked with unusual sarcasm that you’d wear the hearing aid for a bunch of birds, but not so you could listen to her.
When you died, I told one of your children that I thought you could hear the birds now, and see them, too: no longer hindered by the loss of sight in one of your eyes.
Can you hear them, Dad? Can you hear me, too? If so, happy Father’s Day. Ta ra, for now.