It’s Sunday afternoon. The Grand Prix is on the TV, Dad is rooting for Lewis Hamilton (even though he moved teams and is one of the biggest bigots I can think of). I’m not really paying attention; I lost interest when my favourite racer Kimi Räikkönen dropped out of the top 10 due to a car malfunction. We sit quietly, content in each other’s company.
“D’ya know, I never thought I would get to this point in life” Dad says suddenly, still watching the TV. Confused, I turn my head to face him.
“What do you mean?” I ask. He pauses the TV.
“Well look around. To you, this all seems normal; watching the Grand Prix in a warm house, the garden looking nice and clean-cut, Mum asleep in the bedroom, your brother out with his mates, the dog – for once – sleeping under the table. To me, this is a life I never thought I’d have.”
I look at my old man, sat on his side of the sofa. He didn’t need to explain any more; I knew what he meant.
Being the inquisitive child I was, I constantly pestered anyone older than me about their life growing up – especially my parents.
Dad’s life was very interesting. He grew up with his parents and siblings in Greater London in the early 1950s. They were still on rations and times were tough. Tougher for my dad debatably – his dad wasn’t around a lot and so he became the man of the house quite early on. School wasn’t his strong point and finished education with but a handful of qualifications, so he headed into the world of work armed with his limited academic knowledge, his long dark hair, and the promise he made to his mum to work hard.
Living off of cigarettes and black coffee, Dad worked his socks off for the next 25 years. He moved through the job market and up the proverbial ladder, even moving to Canada for a period of time (he still goes on about how he wants to go back even now), until he ended up working for Hewlett-Packard. By this point Dad was 40. He was content in his ways, never thinking of changing his life or branching out; my Dad was a happy little introvert who worked with PCs, and that was that.
Until he met Mum.
Long red hair, striking blue eyes, and a power-walk that could cause earthquakes, my Mum was (and still is) a force of a woman. And my old Dad fell for her. He’s made no secret that he had never thought of getting married; he thought his ship had sailed on that one given his age. But they ended up falling in love and got married. Dad changed a lot for Mum – he quit smoking, started eating proper food, treated her like royalty and helps her wherever he can. And then when my brother and I came along he worked longer hours so that Mum could have more time off to raise us in those early years.
As we grew up, he took us on walks on Sundays (even when he didn’t want to), came to every football game and performance we had, taught us how to use tools in the toolbox properly and how to play draughts (which he now refuses to play with us because, and I quote, “we got too good”). He tried to help us with our homework and for someone who didn’t do great at school, he is one of the most knowledgable people I know. He taught my brother that it’s okay to cry, and told me that I was growing up to be as strong as Mum. He pretended to be Father Christmas for all the kids in the village at one point and was the talk of the playground (my brother and I earned MAJOR respect that Christmas). Dad taught us how to be ourselves, helped us discover the world, showed us that it’s okay to ask for help, and most importantly he never broke his promise to his mum: Dad has worked hard every day of his life.
The dog stirs and hits her head off a table leg. Whimpering slightly, she comes over to where we are sat and I stroke her head. Dad smiles at her.
“You wally” he says, as he scratches under her chin. I smile at him.
“You may not have planned for this life Dad, but you’re stuck with it now”.
“That I am Sweetheart” he replied, “that I am. And I couldn’t be happier.”