The great tattoo mystery.

June 17, 2017

Tomorrow is dead dad day, or Father’s Day as it is more commonly known. There are some fucking useless fathers out there, people who provide shit role models, if they are present at all, my dad wouldn’t  be one of them. I find Fathers Day  upsetting for his absense even after twenty years and for the way it rubs salt into the wounds of not being a dad myself, particularly as there are so many wankers who have managed it… I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere. 

After all this time I still want to ask him things, like what were those awful blue black smudges on his arms. My dad signed up for the navy during the Second World War, a daft kid of eighteen, younger than his grandson is now, the one he missed by just over a year. He saw so many horrific things, swept lumps of his friends off the deck of ship, saw soldiers drown because officers couldn’t read marine depth charts properly on d day by which point he was around twenty three. He got some awful tattoos done in Ceylon and made them even worse by trying to get rid of them with a Brillo pad when he got home and my mum chucked him because of them. All I ever saw was the blue black blurs, the stubborn ghosts that survived their attempted excorcism. I never found out what they were and it still bugs me now. I’m not a big fan of tattoos personally , they work splendidly on some people, but on others they just look shit. It’s all about reasoning and thought and planning and some people know what they are doing of and others haven’t a clue. Like any form of communication, some people have more to say and better to say than others, some should just shut the fuck up.

I never got to really make my peace with my father, the strokes and brain damage changed him greatly from the man he originally was. I never got to that point where we could see eye to eye and we never really understood each other’s reason for how we lived our lives.

I can see similarities now, sadly congenital heart problems being one of them, but also both getting on better with women than men and being soft touches when it comes to anyone in trouble. Neither of us could stand dishonesty, corruption or injustice either and God help anyone he saw knocking a child or a woman about…. He could be a scary guy when he needed to be. 

I wish there were more people like him about now, more like that and less vain, showy off arseholes. Sadly, many parents now are bigger kids than the children they dragged up, trying to remain hollow version of teenagers way beyond it being appropriate or even funny. Here’s to the few ones left that aren’t! 

Three dads, no dad.

June 19, 2016

It’s Father’s Day in the uk today. I have been trying to treat myself to some new pyjamas recently but in every shop I went in there was a barage of naffness as the gift industry cranks into overdrive to punt  mass produced crap to tell many of the male parents in the uk that they are the best, the world’s best dad. 

I’ve never been a father myself and while I guess my testicular tadpoles are still swimming well enough for me to be one at forty five, I wouldn’t want to inflict being an old parent on a child. It certainly didn’t turn out that well for my parents. They were parents at a distance, too tired, too out of touch, too culturally detached. However much I would like to think that I’m “down with the kids” I’m really not. 

So Father’s Day is a double source of sadness, not being a father and no longer having one for the past twenty years. Twenty years and it may as well be yesterday. The day he died is congealed in aspic in my brain, clear and raw and stored in high definition with surround sound. As is the funeral, the buying of the coffin and every unkind thing my brother came out with on that day and many since. He called my dad a wanker on the day he died. His crime? To be kind, to be generous and to have empathy for others, to have not been ruthless enough to con, fiddle, bribe and bully his way into having a business empire to leave to his son. 

He gave my brother something far more precious, to my mind, and what happened to that still haunts me to this day. But I will come back to that. 

When we are children we regard our parents as the infallible answer to everything, or should do. Thackerey wrote “mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of little children” I guess that can be extended to fathers as well without much of a stretch. It isn’t until we ourselves or our contemporaries become parents that it dawns on us that our own parents must also have been muddling through in just as must of an inept and precarious fashion. I think I realised a lot earlier though, I would hazard a guess that I was aware of the degree of my parents many failings by the age of eleven when they left me stranded with my sister with learning difficulties to work many hundreds of miles away for weeks at a time. Followed by years of squalor, debt and poor decision making of every variety. I did love my parents dearly and I know that they loved me but I am and always was aware of their fallibility. 

I really had three fathers. First there was the witty, hard working northern family man with a fiery temper but a heart of gold. Sadly the heart turned out to be less golden and more flesh and blood and prone to failure as the arteries narrowed and furred and gave out to leave me with father number two, a bitter and fragile man who was deeply conscious of his limitations and all that he had lost. Thirdly, when one stroke too many left  a man child in an old man’s body, highly emotional and full of joy for the simplest of things, I had my final father, who left the world in 1996 with the phrase “I’ve got a tiger in my tank!” as his final words. 

Both my mother and my father take / took my love for them for granted but with my dad then and my mother now they claw(ed) for every scrap of attention from my emotionally stunted elder brother. After my dad had suffered one particularly debilitating  stroke he had to undergo many months of rehabilitation to get even a semblance of normality back into his body. He never really regained more than the most basic of motor functions back in his left side but regardless he attended a local day centre where,  amongst other things, he struggled and toiled one handed to make a wooden bird box. It took many months, every week he did a bit more until it was finally complete. It wasn’t the most amazing bit of woodwork ever but it was clear how much time, effort and love went into it. Then, when it was complete, he presented it to my brother… My brother sneered at the last thing my dad ever made and chucked it on a shelf in his garage, where it was eventually crushed to matchwood under a pile of other assorted detritus that got dumped there over the years.

My brother has similar contempt for me, exacerbated by his jealousy of my closeness to one of my nephews, never understanding that being a good father is not about who can throw the most stuff at a child but who can give the most love time and stability. The simple act of reading a story says more that any pile of mass produced crap. 

So on a cardless Sunday in June I’ll remember my dad or rather dad’s 1.0 to 1.2 and if you are a dad… Try not to fuck it up mate. 😉

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