My Father In Reflection
03/07/1938 – 18/10/2018
The series is a journey of reflection and a final honour to laying the ghosts and demons that have been with me since l was five.
My Sister was always Daddy’s little girl, even as little back as 2017 when they were on holiday together and mistaken as a couple [Passport Control Greek Style 1984] they had always been close, way closer than my Father and l had ever been. He always assumed that l hid behind my Mother’s skirts, and that she and l were closer hanging on to the premise of Fathers/Daughters and Mothers/Sons are naturally closer. I didn’t really follow that philosophy, l loved both my parents, but equally both were hard to love at times. So usually l didn’t find myself particularly closer to one or the other. I preferred my distance when it came to too much madness.
But my Sister, well she could manipulate Dad, and he allowed her to perform that action, more so than his wife was allowed to get away with and most assuredly more than his Son was allowed to. He was oblivious to her demands of him or so he would say, l very much doubted that, he just pretended to be.
In the tale that follows, you will see a reference to my Mother being jealous of my Sister’s relationship with my Father, was this a truth? Yes it was, because of my Father’s behaviours in so far as allowing my Sister to literally get away with murder at times, he would gleefully encourage the relationship between those two to worsen, and sit back and watch it all unfold. My Father loved drama, so did my Mother and she too could be overly dramatic at times. But Dad and his reference to the malice, well he makes out he didn’t know, but he did, very … very much so.
My Sister and my Mother for years were not the best of friends, and when my parents divorce finalised, my Sister was a terrible person, she was still living with my Mother in the family home and made life for my Mother, terrible. She with 100% conviction blamed my Mother for the divorce. I was by this time not living at home. But l heard about it from my Mother one day, heartbroken and damaged by my Father’s Daughter and then the very next day l would hear a slightly different and more upbeat version from my Father who found the whole thing … funny. I have no single doubt in my mind, even today that he would have motivated and encouraged my Sister to be evil to my Mother. None, because my Sister is a snake in the grass.
In recent weeks, l have seen that behaviour from her displayed all too openly, and the little l trusted of her before, is now way less. Over the years following my Father’s divorce to our Mother, my Sister has done remarkably well financially out of him. She was his number one child.
I have been married once, 14 years, my Father and Mother once [to each other] 30 years, my Sister twice, no idea for how long combined. Suze has been married three times, we have no plans to marry. At one point we did think about it, but then things changed when post-menopause entered the arena, and then we began thinking perhaps not. This tale is about my Sister when she was 16 and wanting marry the ‘then’ love of her life, Jim.
My Father’s observations of ‘Jim’ may seem unfair, they’re not for once they are pretty accurate!
When l was 16  l was already regarded as the ‘elephant in the roon’, and when my Sister was that age  she was just classed as a rebel!
It was a great shock, a shock made worse by being totally unexpected. It was, in male vernacular, a ball shatterer. It came, as I recall, on a wet Sunday afternoon when my wife and I were idly ignoring something forgettable on television. We both stared at my daughter, sitting on an armchair a few feet away in the lounge. She appeared quite composed and sounded quite rational. For my wife and myself, the world had just come to a crashing halt.
“What did you say?”
“Jim and I are engaged.”
I have two children, a son and a daughter, who arrived five years after her brother on the day Bobby Kennedy was killed. We have always been close, she and I, something that, over the years, has seriously affected my then wife, now ex wife. She used to say, “If you want to find Ben , look at Jenny’s little finger; he’ll be wrapped around it.” It was meant as a joke, but it was used too often to be one. Up to about the age of thirteen my daughter’s usual form of address for me was “Daddy Darling.” Impossible to resist.
In later life she confessed to me that her mother had always been jealous of the close relationship between her daughter and her daughter’s father. There was no need for any jealousy. There is perhaps nothing quite as pure as your love of your children, fierce and undemanding. Now thinking back at that time and reassessing, with more educated eyes, photographs of the family group where my daughter and I have been playing together, the look in my wife’s eyes seems one of pure malice, a malice not recognised at the time.
I am an old fashioned man and an old fashioned father, someone who has never really been comfortable outside the time warp of his own upbringing. I saw my role, not consciously perhaps, but certainly somewhere in my psyche, as helping my son to become a man and protecting my daughter.
“Oh! When did you decide this?”
At the time relations between the young lady and I were delicate. She was only sixteen and was growing into a woman with all the physical and emotional changes taking place which she didn’t understand. Clearly dads did not know or understand about periods or boyfriends or anything very much. Our relationship had still not recovered from my refusal to allow her to go off to Greece with a mixed bunch of girls and boys of the same age.
I resisted the urge to ask if she was pregnant as being unlikely to help. “Do Jim’s parents know about this?”
“No, we wanted to tell you first.” She appeared defiant as if expecting a fight.
“Congratulations. I am delighted.” Nothing was further from the truth, but it was obvious her heels were well prepared to be dug in.
“Me too, darling.” To her eternal credit my wife hid her horror at the prospect and we both hugged our daughter.
“You don’t think I’m too young? You aren’t going to object?”
“Why, do you think you are too young?”
“Nooooooo, but l thought …”
“There you are then. You are a grown woman. If you have thought this through, that’s fine with us.”
My daughter felt she was being conned, but couldn’t work out how. The problem, apart from her age was Jim. He was just about the last person on earth we would have wanted for a son in law. He was about the same age and was, well how do I put this? He was a total dick; long greasy hair, spotty faced, a fully paid up speaker of Estuary English and unemployed.
My wife was on the ball. “Right, let’s organise a party. We must celebrate.”
A crisis had been averted, but perhaps only for the present time.
About three weeks later I noticed she was not wearing the ring that Jim had given her and I enquired about it.
“Oh, we thought that we might be too young, and have postponed things.”
Needless to say, Jim disappeared from the scene not long afterwards. It would be pleasant to record that a fairy tale ensued. In real life, alas, fairy tales rarely happen. Marriage to Tom, a relationship with John and marriage again to Peter all followed and all failed. She is now awaiting her Decree Absolute from Peter. Those relationships all collapsed, as did my marriage. Our relationship, my daughter and mine endures. She will always be my little girl, whether it is chasing spiders from her bedroom, spraying mosquitoes, soothing cut knees, or being there when divorce occurs.
We joke together today about those distant times. She knows I was right about Jim, but who’s to say she might not have been better off with him than the others?
Written by my Father B.M