For my Dad on Fathers’ Day

I think this may be the only photo I have of my dad as the centre of attention, proposing a toast at the wedding of his brother Alec.

Like everyone else’s dad, especially men of his generation, he could have been so many things. He could have gone to Grammar School, but my gran couldn’t afford the uniform. He won a scholarship to go to art school, but it ran out after a year, and he had to leave. He was a rambler, a birdwatcher, a singer in the chapel choir. And for fifty years he was a woollen spinner.

In his heart, I think, he never accepted it; he bore it. He just got on. It never struck me at the time, but it does now, that he had no ‘best mates’. He was sociable, he was good company, but never had any close friends. It bothers me, quite unreasonably. It never seemed to bother him.

I’ve found myself writing about, and for, him more and more recently. For this Father’s Day, I thought I’d share the first poem I ever wrote for him, and the most recent.

Maestro

His hands cross-hatched as a chopping board

from breaking yarn- a million creels.

I think he dreamed moors and opera, in the mill;

his nails were horny, blue with old dark blood,

caught by flying shuttles in the humming  sleet

of shivering threads. Miming in the din,

the racket of machinery, the deafening beat

of spinning-mules, close air thick with lanolin.

Chapel  choir –  his tenor voice came reedy-light.

Round and ringing if he thought he was alone

with Jussi Bjorling on the gramophone,

the gathering wave of ‘None shall sleep’;

a duet to bring a dreamed La Scala to its feet,

his voice like a moorland wind, and rich as night.

.

The latest one was harder to write. My dad’s father, grandfather John, by all accounts, was not an affectionate man. My dad was, but he found it hard to show it, spontaneously. He wasn’t cold, or distant. But something in him was withheld. This is just to say, ‘I love you, Dad’.

What remains

.

How do you know that this is love? Is it

the moment that draws you in, the saving stitch?

One moment out of all the moments,

out of all the wrong notes, the missteps.

.

Because I thought he didn’t know the way of love,

didn’t know the tune, the words, 

they were what other people spoke,

they were borrowings, and he wasn’t one

to accept with grace, always on guard. But

.

he’d go out, not saying where, come back

and give his grandchildren each a Marathon.

He wasn’t a man to pick up a child

so a child could slip into his shape

as cats do. A silent gift of chocolate bars

was him articulating love.

.

What they remember of him, my children,

what they tell of him, is Marathons.

Remember when our granddad gave us Marathons?

What remains of us might just be love

but the story’s always Marathons.

.

6 thoughts on “For my Dad on Fathers’ Day

    1. Ah…..thank you, Elfwoman xxxx

      From: “The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb”
      Reply to: “comment+cj3m5l4s3sssl3dg9paebiadp2q9@comment.wordpress.com”
      Date: Sunday, 21 June 2020 at 18:37
      To: John Foggin
      Subject: [The Great Fogginzo’s Cobweb] Comment: “For my Dad on Fathers’ Day”

      Like

  1. My grandad loved me and I loved him. He used to pick me up from school on a Monday. I was excited to see him ….. and excited by knowing that in his pocket there would be a Bar Six all for me.
    Thank you for bringing these memories to mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. That’s when I know the writing worked. The ultimate endorsement. x

      From: “The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb”
      Reply to: “comment+cj3m5l4s3sssl3dg9pj6af6d94xb@comment.wordpress.com”
      Date: Sunday, 21 June 2020 at 21:39
      To: John Foggin
      Subject: [The Great Fogginzo’s Cobweb] Comment: “For my Dad on Fathers’ Day”

      Like

  2. Lovely poems, John. Strange, the details the memory holds on to. And strange too, the variation in parent/child relationships – each one unique. You may be very similar in appearance to your father, but the temperament sounds very different! Jean xx

    Like

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