Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Prompted by Dale's recent post:
I think of my father particularly at this time of the year. He died in April over a decade ago, during the bluebell season.
I was eleven years old and heading towards a difficult adolescence, my sister, L, around one year. At her bedtime and because she insisted, my father - in his late forties by now - would carry her around the living room, moving from picture to picture, object to object, stopping briefly at each.
Goodnight ships (in front of a picture) ... goodnight other ships ... goodnight table ... goodnight trees ... goodnight window.
During the ritual my sister clutched her favourite stuffed toy, a koala bear. The pronounciation defeated her. The rest of the family followed her lead and called it Kayola.
He was at his best with babies and very small children: something tense and taut unwound and his defences lowered a fraction to display a quiet tenderness. He would have doted on grandchildren almost certainly, but neither L nor I were cut from a conventional nor a maternal cloth.
Our relationship feels easier at this distance. I struggled. So did he. The difficulties - there were a lot - matter less, his integrity and humour matter more.