I have written many times about my hereo worship of my father. A real man who is comfortable in his own skin; a provider and protector; an all-round great guy, popular with young and old alike.
But last week I realised that hero worship is best practised from afar. Two hundreds miles away, in fact. Further, if you can afford the bus fare.
I went to stay with my dad for three days. A brilliant break from the kids and the domestic drudgery of life as a Reluctant Housedad.
For the most part, all went swimmingly, because for the most part, we were sitting in the pub talking rubbish. It was brilliant.
But for the other part, we were at home, me sitting in the chair which had always, by default, been ‘mine’; him sitting in the chair that, for as long as I can remember, has been ‘his.’ At peace in each other’s company. Companiable silence.
We took it in turns to cook for the other; took it in turns to wash up afterwards. A dad and his eldest son (of four) united in the sheer bliss of there being no kids around to wait on hand and foot.
And then the telly went on – and that’s when the wheels came off.
Memories of the 16 year-old me came flooding back. The arguments, the battles, the maneouvring for top dog position in the household. There was only ever going to be one winner, back then, and it was He Who Kept A Roof Over Our Heads. After one row too far, I ended up punching a huge hole in the door (the scars of which still remain after he Polyfilled and painted over it) and soon afterwards, I packed my bags and left home.
Bad feelings don’t last long in our family. We fight; we make up. Sometimes within a few minutes of the events. And so it was after I left the nest. My dad and I became closer than we’d ever been, because out of each other’s line of fire, we could enjoy each other’s personalities. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and all that.
But during last week’s intensive three days together, the reasons why I left home in the first place came into stark relief. These reasons had not been evident before because there was always my mum in between the two of us, and when she became ill with Alzheimer’s, there was the mutual concern for her welfare that bonded us.
Sadly, Mum died last December, and without her presence, we were left to re-discover each other as individuals all over again. And above all else, the one thing I learned above all else, was this: I am my father’s son. Well, obviously…
All the things that irritate my wife about me are writ larger than life in my Old Man. He is impatient, quick-to-temper and a curmudgeonly control freak – all displayed in his control of the remote control!
Now in my house, with my wife and my three children, I am in chrage of the remote. It is part of the rite of passage of becoming a father. But on my father’s turf, he not only controls the remote, but also refuses to give any quarter in terms of its usage. And it drove me absolutely bonkers.
For all his qualities, all his intelligence, he has the attention span of a goldfish. I would like to make excuses and put this down to his 74 years on the planet. But, no, he’s always been like this.
He has an aversion, bordering on a phobia, to TV advertising, and thus as soon as an TV show breaks for the commercials, he switches over to another channel. It doesn’t matter what that channel is, he will switch to it as long as it’s not showing ads. Nothing wrong with that? Well, no, there wouldn’t be if after the estimated 2 minutes of ads he flicked back to the programme we were watching. But he doesn’t – he sticks with the new programme, until an ad break appears on THAT channel, then switches again, to ANOTHER, previously unwatched show.
And so, during any given hour during our telly-watching spells last week, we were watching five different programmes. This wouldn’t be so bad if those programmes were all different and distinct, but he has a penchant for cop shows, so we’d end up watching a bit of Cold Case, a bit of CSI-Someting, a bit of Law and Order, a bit of NCIS, and a bit of Columbo. Or it might have been MacMillan and Wife. Or Petrocelli. Or Canon. I have no idea – because by that point, I would be so confused about who did what to whom that I would be rocking on ‘my’ chair, gibbering like a lunatic and fantasising about buying a gun to deliver the ultimate justice to the mind-jellying gogglebox in the corner.
‘JUST TURN IT TO BBC, DAD, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!’ I yelled.
‘Why? There’s nowt on BBC.’
‘Yes, but there’s no bloody adverts. At least we’ll be able to watch something all in one go, from beginning to end.’
And so it came to pass that harmony was restored over an episode of Miranda.
Perhaps out-of-control remote controlling has its plus points after all!