25 March 2010

My Old Man


I've been worrying all day, wondering whether to post this. You see, it's a deeply personal piece of creative non-fiction. I wrote it late last year, inspired by a writing prompt from my creative writing group. The writing prompt was simply 'old'.

***


The keys in my hand are warm, familiar. I can smell the metal. I glance around the living room for the last time.

My head is flooded with memories of my life in this house.

I see myself laying face-down on a scratchy orange sofa, my foot up so that my dad could try to tweeze out a piece of cocktail stick. Swinging between two chairs over a sea of cocktail sticks was not my finest hour, but I was only seven.

My dad could fix anything. He wore a white coat but he wasn’t a doctor. He was an horologist, a healer of clocks and watches. He could take a watch apart, clean it, repair it, oil it and put it back together with no parts left over. It would not leave his workshop until it kept perfect time.

He had a motto. He said there was nothing he could buy that didn’t need to be repaired, modified, improved, changed, altered, corrected, rectified, upgraded, adjusted, adapted or converted.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t need a thesaurus to compile this list. He kept it on a yellowing piece of paper, on a shelf in the kitchen, behind his angina spray. I now keep it in my purse.

When I was small my dad used to take me to Woolworths. He would sit me on the counter and buy me gonks.

When I was big we would sit in our places at the dining table. We nattered on a Saturday. We played ‘if I won the lottery…’. We said how much we would give each other. Dad wouldn’t move house, but he would buy a bloody nice car. I would move to a big house and do voluntary work. Satisfied we wouldn’t let the millions go to our heads we would turn to watch the dusty garden birds queuing up to take a bath in the plastic pond liner.

‘Christ, you’ve put on weight Sandra! Here’s what you should do. Cook your dinner, put it on your plate and then put half in the bin’.

‘Shut up dad, stop going on at me!’.

‘Do you want a choc ice? I’m trying some Lyon’s Maid ones, chocolate’s a bit thin’.

‘Yes, thanks.’.

***

Dad didn’t always pay me so much attention. I am sat in the brilliant sunshine. Navy blue curtains billow around me in the breeze from the open patio doors. The curtains are stiff and sticky and smell of smoke. I pull them back to proclaim to the previously shady room that I’m bored. ‘

Close the curtains Sandra, I can’t see the telly and Borg’s playing.’

I go outside with mum’s wooden racket and play tennis with the aphids.

***

Dad and I once stood here by the sofa, shifting our weight from one foot to another in unfamiliar new shoes. Afraid to sit in case we crumple our clothes, keeping watch for the be-ribboned Rolls Royce.

‘Are you sure you’re doing the right thing Sandra?’.

‘It’s too late now dad’.

‘Do you love him?’.

‘Of course I do’.

‘Christ Sandra, you need a cork for that arse!’

We start to giggle. Farts are funny, it’s a fact. The laughs get bigger in direct proportion to the farts. I run to the kitchen to dab my eyes with kitchen roll.

‘Car’s here Sandra’.

***

I moved back home many times over the years; after a failed marriage, after travelling, when mum left, after dad had his third heart attack.

Each time the layout of the furniture was different, but the house was the same. Same woodchip, same smoke-stained paintwork, same white coat hanging over the radiator. Same chats about the neighbours, clocks, the lottery, the birds in the garden, my weight, the price of fags (‘I’ll give up when they reach £x per packet’), whether dad had been to the fish van this week, whether they’d had jellied eels.

The last time I moved back home was as a carer. In some ways I was the parent and he was the child. I looked after his physical needs, just until he was better.

***

‘I’ve got a date on Sunday dad’.

‘Where’d you meet him?’.

‘On the internet’.

‘You be careful Sandra, he could be a paedophile, he’s probably been grooming you’.

‘Dad, I’m 36, not 6!’.

‘Sorry, course you are. But I’ll always think of you as 6. You’ll always be my little girl’.

***

You never met Andy, or your beautiful grandchildren. You’d be so proud of me dad. You’d never tell me, but I know you would be proud.

***

‘Sandra, I can’t breathe’.

‘Okay dad, I’m coming’.

‘I’ve been sat here for a while, but didn’t want to wake you before 6’.

‘Oh dad, that’s what I’m here for’.

‘I know’.

The ambulance arrived quickly. The paramedics, bulky with their coats and bags, worked efficiently. As they carried you down the stairs, your eyes were open, but I could see that you had already gone.

‘It’s 6.53 dad’.


***



For my old man
17 July 1932 - 25 March 2006



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46 comments:

  1. I'm not good at this kind of thing. So all I can do is send you some hugs. X

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  2. I am sitting here balling my eyes out for you Sandy, I send you hugs on what must be a hard as hell day xxx

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  3. Oh my, I am in tears over here. This is an amazing piece of writing, so raw and so very honest. I am thinking of you today Sandy. Sending you many, many hugs and thoughts xxxx

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  4. Oh Sandy - you've got me going now too. Floods of tears. There's such detail here, such memories. Beautifully written post. And today must be very hard.

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  5. That was beautiful. and so so sad.

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  6. You've made me cry....it was beautiful. That's all I can say. xxxx

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  7. Floods and floods of warn, hot and heavy tears and driping down my cheeks.

    I am so, so sorry for your loss, a farther is a special person indeed to his daughter.

    I am sure that if you are anything like me that you will see your Dad in Andy, maybe not in looks, but in morals and thinking. MadDad is getting more and more like my dad.

    I miss my dad more now the boys are here, what a perfect tribute to your Dad

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  8. That is the second time a post has ever made me cry...absolutely amazing piece of writing and your Dad would be so proud of you. Just lovely, lovely, lovely x

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  9. excellent writing, so heartfelt and beautiful. very sad though.
    sending *hugs*

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  10. I can hardly type for the tears, I am sure your dad would have loved your boys and Andy, and would have been so proud of you. Beautifully written.xx

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  11. I cannot say anything to justifie the post , your dad would be so proud of you .

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  12. Oh my goodness. What a tribute to a lovely man with a gorgeous smile. You've brought him to life for me and now I'm crying for him and for you. I hope you're OK today x

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  13. Sandy you're a born writer. You should be writing brilliant novels that move people just like this. Your dad was a lucky guy having you too x

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  14. I don't know what else to say to this beautiful post other than give you are great big virtual hug.

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  15. Hun I cried as I read that. You Dad sounds like a wonderful man and he would be so proud of you for where you are now and for how beautifully you write. Thats is such a precious tribute tp him. xx

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  16. Such beautiful writing. I'm sure he's looking down on you and your family now with a big smile on his face x

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  17. As soon as you said that he never met your husband or his granddaughter I started crying, managed to keep it together until then. That was just too familiar to me. I'm sure your Dad is very proud of that piece of writing x

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  18. So moving, made me very emotional. A lovely tribute to your dad.

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  19. Sandy this is such a beautiful, moving tribute. I fear for the day my dad won't be there anymore, there is nothing like that relationship is there?

    Gorgeous writing, Px

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  20. Thank you everyone for the lovely comments, good wishes and hugs. I feel quite overwhelmed. Please forgive me for not replying to you all individually.

    Tonight I spoke to my best friend, who this week became a widow at the age of 41. There have been plenty of tears here today, both for my dad and for her husband, but I'm sorry I made you all cry too.

    The Mad House, yes, Andy is like my dad and I'm quite similar to his mum! x

    Mumsrock, yeah, I could, but I spend too much time blogging ;-) x

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  21. Oh Sandy....I don't know what to say. That was absolutely beautiful and I am so sorry for your loss. My love to you and your family!
    Karin

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  22. Beautiful - quite beautiful and poignant

    I'm so sorry for your loss

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  23. Okay, can't see for the tears, but a great piece, thanks for sharing it Sandy. xx

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  24. Beautiful tribute Sandy and thinking off you today. xxx

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  25. As everyone has already said this is a beautiful tribute to your dad. He was incredibly lucky to have you as his daughter. He must have been so proud of you! I love my dad too and know it would be so hard to lose him. Lovely piece of writing. So happy I read it x

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  26. That is just beautiful. I love how your use of verbatim conversation just brings your dad back to life on the page.

    Lovely picture of him too.

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  27. Thank you everyone for your lovely comments. I'm really touched. x

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  28. Oh my goodness, this is so, so beautiful. What a lovely post in memory of your father. You made me cry.

    I'm sure he would be exceptionally proud of you.

    MD xx

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  29. What a beautifully written heart felt piece, thank you for sharing Sandy, I am crying into my Sunday night glass of wine!
    What a truly brilliant writer you are and a lovely person too x

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  30. Can't find words for this one. Xxx

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  31. What a wonderfully written post Sandy. What struck me was the way you showed all sides of him, that no one is perfect, but you obviously loved him so much.

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  32. Thank you all for your wonderful comments x

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  33. Wow Sandy. That was beautiful. Such a brilliant picture of him and of your relationship. I'm sure he would be so proud of you. Hugs. xx

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  34. That was such a great post. Beautiful and touching.

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  35. Hi Sandy. I wanted to come here to read this for myself after I heard you read it at Cybermummy. It's absolutely beautiful - stunning writing and a wonderful tribute.

    Your father has such a kind face.

    xxx

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  36. OhmiGod, I cried listening to you read this on Radio 4 and I"ve just cried again, reading it here. Beautifully written and so so moving.

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  37. Gappy, thank you so much, that means a lot x

    Mamma Po, thank you. I'm sorry I made you cry, twice x

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  38. Thank you for such a moving Born to Write entry Sandy. Best of luck with the competition.

    Liz
    Save the Children

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  39. Beautiful...It made me cry and reminded me of when I lost My Mum. Very well written x

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  40. Liz, thank you. Very much looking forward to the conference and meeting you x

    The Syders, thank you for the lovely comment. I'm sorry for your loss x

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