My Friend Dad
Looking back, I can still recall all those times you forced me to eat my dinner till I was sick. Back when I was three, you didn't understand why I cried, and I didn't understand that twenty five was young and you were inexperienced in the world of parenting.
I remember you briefly went away one time; sent me a post card with rolly eyes in a cartoon face, that scared as well as fascinated me. You sent it to say you missed me; loved me, but even at that tender age I'd already started feeling guilty when I saw how sad it made you that I didn't want to kiss you, or sit on your knee, but I loved Mum best back then, and besides, your face was bristly and your trousers always itched my legs. I knew by instinct, how rejected and hurt you felt, it was written in your eyes, but I couldn't help it, and I didn't like the way your hugs went on too tight; too long while I struggled to get away and play.
Looking back, I can still see the disappointment on your face when Mum told me to thank you for the baby doll you bought me some days after I woke from a coma in hospital, age ten, and all I said was, 'Who is he?' Memory, when it's lost, can be such a devastating thing.
I've remembered you since, of course - you are the man that got me to wake up every morning with black coffee, (just the way you like it) before I left for senior school. We both rose earlier than the others in our house, and sometimes you'd whip me up an omelette with cheese in it, which I ate, and knew it was the best I'd ever taste, even though I didn't much like eggs. I still drink black coffee, though, and make omelettes just as you taught me.
On the day I wed, age eighteen, you gave me an ornament you'd gone out and bought especially for me - a sweet little Wedgwood bluebird with a flower in its beak, but you wouldn't let me thank you, so I cried instead, when I should have been happy. That marriage sadly ended and I moved on, but when I turned up at your door with a shiner, some years later, you uttered the memorable words, 'And you can tell that door you walked into, if you do it again, I'll punch it's lights out.' and I laughed, still knowing you weren't joking, but neither was the door. It had to go.
Then there was this one time, I said, 'Dad, I'm in a bit of financial bother...' and you got your cheque book out, no questions asked, and I paid you back as promised, even though you told me I didn't have to... I'd never asked to borrow money before, and was shocked you seemed so ready to help.
Then just the other week, I turned up unexpectedly at your house and blubbed, 'Dad, I'm sorry, but I've got cancer, and I don't know how to tell Mum.' You said, 'How about we tell her together,' and I stood and cried beside you while in your kindest words, you broke it to her gently - twice, because she couldn't seem to take it in the first time round. And then she cried as well.
Things are getting tough for you and Mum with age and failing health. I should be there for the pair of you, and I hope I will be till the very end, because beyond the animosity we've often suffered over the years, we've turned out to be friends.