It’s Father’s Day today, a strange time for all of us fatherless children. Not that it was always so for me. I wasn’t robbed of my father’s presence at an early age by separation, divorce or misadventure but in my adulthood by his death.
He was a gentle man, kind and patient enough to put up with me when, at the age of 13, I wouldn’t speak to him for a year. Teenagers!
Dad was a music lover and an avid collector of albums, he even had them all catalogued. I loved flicking through his card catalogue and slipping the LPs from their places to admire the covers. My eclectic taste in music is due to what I found there, from Fats Waller to Old English lute songs to Bob Marley. Yes my dad was the first person in town to buy Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Natty Dread album. None of us kids had ever heard of him but there was my dad, the conservative pillar of society that he was, grooving to Lively Up Yourself. We were mightily impressed.
He had always suffered from asthma. He had his puffer close by in case of an attack of the wheezes. A bad bout saw him land in hospital when I was a kid. It was confusing and awkward to see my dad all tucked up in bed when he was the one who usually tucked me in. It was even harder to see him become more and more childlike in his final years. I wouldn’t recognise his voice on the phone, it was so small. And when I’d come home to visit he was more helpless each time.
My mum rang me very early on her birthday. I knew that wasn’t why she was calling but I sang her Happy Birthday anyway. I wanted to put off hearing the words that she would find so hard to say.
I got out a suitcase and started to pack. An hour later I was staring at an open suitcase with a pair of bathers in it. What do you do when your dad’s just died? I wrote a song. It took me two years to finish it. Grief has it’s own timetable.
Two years later and I’m still crying in the mornings,
Someone said it never goes away.
The man who loved me since before I can remember
And he died while I was away,
No chance to say
Happy Father’s Day dad, this one’s for you.