I’m not much of one for family. They are just there – like the Pennines or the seasons, or, if you live in Manchester – like the rain. There are different kinds of rain but you know you’ll always have one kind or the other and often closer than you would like. It’s a given.
Only soon it might not be. I got back of holiday a couple of weeks ago to be told my Dad had a cough (cue analogy to weathering and erosion or some such). Later this week we find out if/how the cancer can be treated and how long they think he’s got. There you go. Simple as that, part of the coastline crumbles into the sea.
So today is Father’s Day. Do I go along and tell him off for 60+ years of smoking and then having the gall to get ill? There can’t be anyone that doesn’t know the risks. I even grew up telling him that this would most likely happen. Always there – Dad and smoking. He wasn’t the only one. I remember Uncles and friends of the family all smoking (we must have all reeked of it but everyone else’s parents smoked so who was to notice?). I remember the party one year when they all decided to give up together.
And they all did. Except for my Dad.
We all are all made by our environment. Years of watching my Mum nag him helped me grow up to be someone who very specifically does not nag. I also do not tut. I also realised that there is next to no chance in changing a person. My Mum seemed to have wanted to stop Dad smoking ever since she met. At that was over 50 years ago you’d think she’d have got the hint before now. I’ve even known my Dad wind her up to an argument so he can go off and have a smoke in peace on holiday.
Current husband smokes. He smoked when I met him and I have never nagged him to stop. I haven’t even asked him to start smoking outside. He’s tried giving up a couple of times and I’ve been supportive but he always goes back to it. He might not smoke a lot, but he does smoke. (By coincidence my previous chap smoked cigars. I might not like it but I do seem to have ‘form’ with smokers.)
Last week I finally asked other half if he would consider the possibility of maybe giving up smoking for good. (You can see I was really forceful about it.) He’s still smoking. He tells me not to panic, not to upset myself as – after all – the final diagnosis has not been determined. His own Father died of a smoking related cancer. If nursing your own Dad doesn’t make you reconsider then I doubt if what your wife says will make much difference.
I’ve grown up expecting this, there’s nothing I can say or do that will stop it. And I’m so angry at my Dad but I cannot say “I told you so” because that does no one any good. I can’t tell him I’ll miss him, because we haven’t had the final word yet and we don’t know how long things will take. After years of waiting for it I’m trying to be the objective one but I still expect to fall apart when the time comes.
Father’s Day. The day we celebrate bad DIY (yes, that shelf did fall on my head), being shown up in public (dancing to Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones), putting your foot in it (“no, I only meant you were all in proportion”, “oh, so I’m fat all over, thanks Dad” – conversation on holiday some years ago) and having the sartorial elegance of socks and sandals with milk bottle white legs and baggy shorts when abroard. The day we also say “I love you” with a card, often sarcastic and either mentioning money or farting, because we are all too stupid to say it out loud.
This is my Mum and Dad and my brother at his wedding a few years ago. I can’t quite think what the scenery is going to look like when one of them is missing.