Thank you to Donna at MummyCentral for asking me to join in this Father’s Day meme on the theme of ‘Dear Dad…’ Be warned: it contains gushing sentimentality and excrutiatingly emotional anecdotes. But, hey, it’s only once a year – and he’ll never read it. Thank the Lord.
1) He worshipped my mum. I’d catch them kissing and cuddling in the kitchen when I was a teenager – which at the time, was utterly nauseating. But I really understood the depth of his feelings for her when she had to go into a nursing home because she had severe dementia. He visited her every day, sometimes getting a lift, often taking two buses there and back – and sometimes going twice a day. The tenderness with which he fed her, and rubbed emollient into her dry legs, moved me to tears. She died in December 2010 and pretty much every day since he has gone to the plot where her ashes have been interred.
2) He knows the price of a pint in every pub in town – and will only drink where it’s cheapest. At weekends, it’s the Jolly Carter where a pint of bitter coasts £2.10; but on a Monday, it’s the Queens, which has a ‘happy Monday’ offering of £1.82 a pint. This is up north, mind. When I tell him how much beer costs Darn Sarf (£3.85), he spits his pint out. Well, not quite – that spit would be worth 15p.
3) He literally cries laughing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a chortle or a guffaw: the tears spill out of his ducts. Whenever he watches Tommy Cooper, I think he’s going to have an hilarity-induced heart attack.
4) He loves animals, especially dogs. I once saw him beat the crap out of four twenty-something yobs when he caught them throwing bricks at a mongrel and they refused to stop. He’s had two dogs in my lifetime – both called Sam. He was so upset when Sam 2 died that I named my youngest son after him.
5) He has never told me he loves me. A few years, while I was gong through a metrosexual phase, I wrote him a letter to tell him how much I respected, admired and, yes, loved him. He never replied, and he never, ever mentioned it. But my mum told me he was utterly mortified. ‘You don’t have to tell him you love him,’ she said. ‘He knows.’ And I know the reverse, too – he shows it all the time.
6) He has an astonishing ability to connect with people and make friends. When I was growing up, I used to think he knew everyone, and that everyone was called Jim, for that is what he called everyone (even the women) from bus drivers to pub regulars to shop assistants.
7) He has an incredible moral compass and a very defined sense of what is right and wrong. This was instilled in us from a very early age, and even though he and my three younger brothers are as hard as nails, they have never got on the wrong side of the law. And neither have I (without the hard as nails bit).
8) His obvious love and pride in his grandchildren. They don’t see him often enough, but when they do, the connection is instant, the trust immediate and unconditional. They are in thrall of him, and he them.
9) He’s also called Keith – a name that has become much-maligned over the years. But he is proof that Keiths can be cool. He wanted to call me Luke, but my mum insisted that the first-born son took the father’s name, just as her brother, Tom, had taken his dad’s (the man my own first-born son is named after).
10) The fact he lives 200 miles away. Because despite all of the above, the man drives me bananas. I can just about handle three nights staying with him because, at 74, he is very, very set in his ways. I won’t tell you about his infuriating relationship with the TV remote control…