As my parents’ only child I often attempt to explain my relationship with Dad by saying I only have one team to barrack for. Whatever he does good or bad, he’s all I’ve got left in the way of parents. This gets him away with a lot. Dad can be infuriating & amusing, randomly & concurrently. The longer you’ve known him helps, sometimes, understand him but not necessarily. Often you are just perplexed. He doesn’t operate on a past, present, future basis. It’s all thrown in a time-sack and he randomly selects or invents whatever fact or memory he requires for the occasion. Grasping many of his quirky-come-peculiar conversations & behaviours requires some familiarity. I’ve seen acquaintances look at him quizzically, refocus, bravely nod and continue listening, which is really all that is required. As the year approaches its close, a few anecdotes from 2011 can be universally appreciated.
It started with the first dinner during his holiday at our house in January, where we’d gone to some trouble with a nice fresh seafood meal, commenced with a version of Dad’s customary pre-dinner grace of “I suppose I’d better eat some of this shit”.
In July, a verbal request to me regarding his “final wishes” after his almost fatal heart attack in 2010 and my advice to him to also convey those wishes to others, culminated in the agonising occasion of Dad announcing to an extended family gathering, apropos of nothing, his intention to be cremated and buried with my Mum, forty years dead, in complete disregard of his wife of 30 years and 3 other children – all present except one.
In November, the day after my birthday, I gripped the edge of my work desk to stop myself falling to the floor while chatting with Dad on the phone in my lunch break, in stitches & tears while he conveyed to me a late birthday gift of the story of his efforts to evict the rat which had invaded my stepmother’s car in search of food. Initially he baited a rat trap with raisins and set it inside the car. When the rat took the raisins but the trap didn’t take the rat he consulted with mechanically minded colleagues and adopted the suggestion of connecting a hose to the exhaust & feeding it into the car interior [I’m having trouble typing this as I’m still laughing…] to conduct an assisted rat suicide. That not working, he backed their camper van up and connected the hose to its far more potent diesel fume emitting exhaust. That didn’t work either. Apparently you can call the insurance company and make a claim for vehicular rat infestation. Who knew?
In December, somehow inspired by his brother’s Movember facial hair growth Dad took the trouble to suggest to him at a special family dinner at a fancy restaurant that he would have been better off getting a transplant from his nether regions to his [bald] head. At the same dinner he visibly and audibly couldn’t comprehend the non-availability of oysters kilpatrick from the kitchen when clearly it wasn’t much of a stretch from the natural oysters being offered on the menu. At least he didn’t start off with his version of grace.
So, that’s the highlights this year. We’re staying the night and having dinner with him later this week pre-Christmas. Must go and pack the wine.
Postscript: Why would I expect there not to be a postscript? To put his finishing touch on the year, Dad sick as a dog with a flu and having had a few beers, didn’t manage to negotiate the thank-God-plastic-not-quite-full wine glasses on the dinner table, rearranged them onto the floor and then only slightly embarrassed & contrite sat at the end of the now damp & sticky dinner table with my sister’s 8 year old stepson and in solidarity protested any sort of vegetable eating just because he could.