Monday 25 February 2008

Bert(part 2)

In December 1979 my father wrote to me for the first time. It was frank, honest and written as an adult to someone he considered, but was not yet, an adult. At the time he was 62 andI was 24. I am now 53 and feel I can at last reply.

For many of the years in between I would have been able to show you the letter; I knew it was important but I didn’t know what to do with it. I kept it with his old air force kitbag, faded blue canvas with his name initialled in yellow paint, in a box of important stuff on a shelf in one of the sheds. I could have shown you the envelope in which he had posted it, shown you the stamp baring an image of the young Queen Elizabeth and even now I can describe the black ink handwriting engraved on the crisp white paper that he had chosen. But, now I can not find the letter.

The blue kit bag is gone too: I only used it once when as a young man I hitchhiked and employed it unashamedly to help get lifts, until the embarrassment and frustration of being picked up by a young service wife and dropped in the middle of nowhere, near a base, led to a several hour long delay and detour in my plans.

In the letter my father wrote of his fear that he shared with my mother for the direction or non direction they saw in the decisions I was making about my future. It was the only time he spoke to me like this. Before he had chosen to communicate through discipline and shortly after he died when a heart attack hit him at the kitchen sink as he washed the dinner plates and my mother dried. She did not have time to say goodbye, only to catch him as he fell.

Thinking about one line that he wrote woke me this morning: he said that the trouble with my generation was that they had had too much freedom too quickly. As a 24 year old I found such a thought aggressively antagonistic, though this was not his intentions.

Today I would like to sit with him and discuss, man to man and friend to friend. Is it ever possible to have too much?

Maybe over a beer, though neither of us are drinkers, more probably over tea in his garden which was his real passion and achievement.

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