MY DAD SAID “Was I a good dad?”
Then the gulping back of tears…
I went into the care home today and sat with dad. It is very hot in Glasgow at the moment so am all sticky and uncomfortable, but I sat on his bed and held his hand as I always do. He is still mobile but yet shaky and his mind his slowly defrosting but he always knows me.
We sat in the quiet, I smiled at him and he stared at me with the same blue eyes he gave me.
“Was I a good dad?” he asked.
Now after months in the care home and the surging emotions that has brought, I thought nothing could grab my throat and make me gulp. This did.
“Dad, you were not a good dad you were a brilliant dad” I said. He squeezed my hand.
“I know you drank a lot back then but I don’t recall a violent man staggering screaming drunk, the worst you did was sing Frank Sinatra badly and stand on the dogs paw” I said.
He laughed “Oh Major the grumpy bastard dog would have got me back!” he said. I laughed remembering our old loyal adored but utterly grumpy often bitey black mongrel/Alsatian cross dog that died in 1975.
“Yes he would” I agreed.
“Dad, you taught me to read, you taught me to swim, you carried me over puddles and you built me a bike and a skateboard- you never once told me I was stupid. You opened up the back of the TV and showed me how it worked and pulled all the valves out and taught me to solder. You were a dad who bent down to talk to kids when new dads back then had just came out of living under or serving in WW11, you were a happy dad who actually liked being with kids” I spoke.
His blue eyes never left mine, I could see he was thinking back and his dementia was being a determined barrier to stop his brain making clean synapses — but he got there.
“I loved my kids, I loved being with you because I was spoiled as a kid and I knew love” he said. My wee working class, inner city, jailed for fist fighting and violence repeatedly, recovering alcoholic dad speaking about knowing love. My heart swelled with emotion.
“I never knew who my dad was because my mammy Martha had me at 16 years old” My dads voice was strong and his brain was sharp today.
He continued “My grand parents raised me but Martha was always there and she told me she was actually my mum, it wasn’t a secret. Back in 1932 you got shamed and put into care for that but not Martha, she never cared a fuck what people said, never revealed who the father was and I was raised by my Old Maw and Paw and i was loved and spoiled. I am so glad they didn’t have a religion or I would have been sent away”. He looked off into the distance.
“Hurrah for the Godless family” I added. He laughed and said ‘Janey Godley the Godless’ (Godley was my middle name I changed it legally in 1995).
I showed him the photo in the newspaper of me sticking up two fingers to the racists throwing Nazi salutes at the war statues in George Square.
“Good for you, oor Andy died in Holland and it broke Old Maw’s heart, they bastards throwing Nazi salutes near that statue where she used to lay a wreath is disgusting and your uncle Jimmy six years in a Japanese POW camp…never stop giving them the fingers!” he sat up pointing at this.
I calmed him down.
“You were a fabulous dad and still are, you know dad having to put you into this care home was the hardest decision I ever made” I said and I knew the tears were dripping off my nose.
He leaned over “Janey, am treated like a king you had to do something hard and I trusted you to do it and am next door to you, you got a care home in the next street to you, that’s amazing” he added.
We held hands and spoke about life, Ashley, my comedy stuff coming up and then he looked tired. I kissed him and walked out as he shouted
“Love you Janey, I love you so much”
He says that every day and has done since I was tiny. I am so lucky.