A lot has happened since I last posted, some six weeks ago. Seriously, a lot, so this is the first a series of what will in all probability be several posts in quick succession. So, to start at the beginning, my dad arrived for a four week visit in late August, the first time he has been here in two years, and the first time since I moved into my new place. Not having any vacation time, I took a few days unpaid and made arrangements for him while I would be at work.
I picked him up at the airport, and all was as usual, him giving me a detailed account of his flight, all the arrangements he’d made, all that you would expect as he burned off nervous energy. naturally, he was quite tired when we got back to the house, so he turned in early.
This is the thing about my dad: he’s been retired about 15 years, so he doesn’t have any work related news, he doesn’t get out much apart from a Friday trip to the pub with his friends and his usual shopping trip. This means that he falls back on the stories I’ve heard for the last 40 years. Do you have a film that you’ve watched so many times you could act in it? Can you recite whole chunks of the dialogue verbatim? Do you know exactly what is going to happen next? Well, for me that would be Blazing Saddles, Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and just about every story my dad has ever told.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they’re all boring, not by any means, but I can get to the punchline before he’s finished the first sentence. I have to realise that some day I won’t get to hear these stories any more. Ever. And that’s quite a disheartening thought, so much as I might want to cut him short, I just let him go on and tell the story anyway, as he doesn’t see but half a dozen people during the week and he hasn’t seen me for two years.
One advantage of this trip was that we had plenty of opportunity to go out drinking. I’d asked my boss for as many middle shifts as possible, so I could at least spend part of the morning and most of the evening with Dad and have a social life. Naturally, this meant going to the taphouse, which also meant he got to meet my expat friends and a couple of the locals, none of whom had heard any of his stories, and there’s nothing to reinvigorate a performer like a fresh audience. It was really heartening to see him in full flow, regaling people with tales from his prison service among other things, and he hit it off very well with everyone, which I think helped perk him up. I had heard from the friend who booked his flight that he was getting frail and should probably use a cane, so I feared the worst, but need not have. He had the schmooze gene that I lack, so I envy him, I really do.
One of the highlights of his visit was his chance to reconnect with one of the taphouse owners. They met when I first took him there during it’s inaugural year, and the two of them hit it off immediately. I realise that seeing two elderly people flirting may have a high “Ick factor” for some people, but it’s all harmless, and she’s always asking after him, so when they finally did meet, they spent the whole evening locked in conversation.
One thing I did learn from him is that my Mum had wanted a third child, but that he didn’t. I suppose it goes a long way to explaining why she was always so sweet on my daughter, but I suppose women always want a daughter or grand daughter, so I probably shouldn’t read too much into it.
I also got to hear in great detail, and several times over about his Friday lunchtime pub sessions – who picks him up, who drives him home, how many pints he has, who drinks real ale, who supports which football team. In fact, I could join them for the first time and be up to speed in about 10 seconds. Mind you, at least it means he gets out for some socialising at least once a week. He is most definitely not the kind of person to go to a Senior Centre and, as he puts it, sit around with a bunch of old farts.
One thing that really annoys me though, is the fact that he will bring up things from 40 years ago as if they only happened last week. We all have events from our youth that we’d rather forget, but he seems to take great pleasure in bringing up anything that crossed my mind for about two minutes when I was barely a teenager. Anyway, I suppose I shouldn’t really complain.
Stories apart, he can still manage to make life awkward for me, but that’s for another day.