I’m in the back-seat of my mother’s car. It is nine o’clock
on Christmas morning. She, her husband and I are driving to see my youngest
brother, his wife and their two sons for an hour.
It’s their turn to spend
the day with the family of my brother’s wife.
My Mother: Mind, your Aunty H may drop in as well, but your
Dad won’t be there so it’s alright. Your brother asked him along but he said “Whey
I’m tae busy for that, man”.
Me: Mmph. Sounds about right.
I’m hung-over and disorientated by the light and
warmth of the balmiest Christmas day on record. I’d
been up late wrapping presents for my children – neither of whom I’ll see for
another two days.
My Mother: You’re ok with H though?
Me: No problem.
Save for a brief confrontation at Younger Brother’s wedding
five years previously I’ve not spoken to my father in over twenty-five years
due to mutual astonishing stubbornness and animosity. I don’t expect to see him
ever again. His sister – my Aunt H – and I had ‘words’ at the same event but
parted on good terms.
We arrive at Younger Brother’s house and exchange gifts with
all concerned, including my nephews who, despite not being old enough to speak,
are ridiculously charming and handsome. Tea is offered and I sit and amuse the
children in lieu of doing so with my own.
My mother looks out the window.
My Mother: Ah here comes Aunty H. Oh…
A moment later.
My Mother: Aaand your Dad.
My younger brother freezes. His wife looks at me in horror.
My mother – who has not seen my father in far more time than I – does not look
content. Her husband – who has never met my father – does not look like he is
having his ideal morning.
Me: [Clapping my hands and rubbing them together whilst
putting-on my best ‘game face’] Well. THIS will be FUN.
My mother, her husband and my brother’s wife discretely
retire to the kitchen. I entertain my nephews alone in the front room. My
father walks in, sees me and stops dead.
Me: Merry Christmas.
I’m smiling. After a split-second my father's shoulders relax and he
grins at me.
My Father: And to you.
He sits down on the sofa opposite the armchair I’m in.
My Father: Aye I’m bliddy shattered me, like. Up till four
Me: Christ, what were you doing?
My Father: Y’knaw, wrapping presents and that. The young’uns
didn’t even get to bed till midnight so by the time we’d had a chat and a bit
cup of tea and wrapped presents and stuff….
Me: Yeah I was up late doing the same for my children. I’ll
see them in a couple of days.
His hair – which was always grey – is now snow white. I
don’t know how old he is. Maybe in his seventies. He has a lady-friend who has
grown children who still live in their house. As I discovered later. And we
chat like normal people. Because it’s Christmas morning.
After awhile I go outside for a smoke. My father and Aunty H
leave the house a moment later on their way to their own festivities and say
goodbye to me on the front lawn.
My Father: Here. For the bairns.
He puts a bundle of cash into my hand. I check it later. One hundred pounds.
Me: Thanks J…[I nearly call him by his Christian name]
...Dad. I’ll make sure they have fun.
He nods at me and walks to his sister’s car. I put my
cigarette out and walk back into the house.
Everyone looks at me.
Me: Well. That was odd.