We’ve had some wonderful fundraising news during the last couple of weeks but I’ll save that for another post. Other than a very brief health update, today is all about my Dad as it’s his birthday!
As I’m feeling good,
I’ve spent more time sitting up
And had more kids time.
Differences and Similarities
Where do I begin with my Dad?
He would be disappointed and surprised (I’m sure) if I didn’t start by telling you that my Dad drives me more mad than any other person I know. Or at least anyone I know personally and still spend time with! We have had many blazing rows over the years. The rows are usually because we both insist that we are right (he just thinks he is, whereas I know that I am)! We are too similar in many ways and clash accordingly.
When we went to Kilimanjaro, our team started counting how many arguments we would have by the end of the trip. They lost count before we even got on the first aeroplane! One recurring argument we have had for as long as I can remember (at least 20 years) is about onions. I don’t like onions. Dad says if there are onions in a meal that “you can’t taste them” to which I ask “what’s the point in adding them, then?”. His answer is always “they add flavour” and I say that it’s the flavour they add that I don’t like!
We have literally had this exact discussion word-for-word hundreds of times over the years. By now, you might think that it would have become an in-joke in which we recite the conversation without it being a serious discussion. Oh no, not us, we still each maintain the “rightness” of our position so it couldn’t ever become a joke. Too similar!
I had to go back eight and a half years to find a photo of the two of us not arguing:
(I can’t promise that we didn’t have an argument either immediately before or after!)
As you might have picked up on in a few posts, Dad is almost certainly a certifiable hoarder. The NHS website states:
A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. The items can be of little or no monetary value and usually result in unmanageable amounts of clutter.
One only needs to look in his office or garage to see the truth of that diagnosis for my Dad! Dad justifies his hoarding by saying that “you never know when something might come in handy”. Unfortunately, he is right about this once every two or three years. To him, this justifies keeping everything “just in case”. He has recently been planning alterations to the garage (which is not watertight). Dad is currently being bullied (mostly by me) into sorting out the contents of the garage and throwing most of it out. The boxes and junk hadn’t been sorted before they moved here just over four years ago and they haven’t been sorted since. (Dad thought that downsizing meant keeping the same amount of stuff in a smaller house!)
Dad started Project Garage by transporting four car fulls of boxes of books to our storage container (where our packed up stuff is, pending a house move). Rather than sorting out stuff in situ at home with coffee and other amenities, the Rents are having to go to the freezing cold unit to sort out books there. The books for charity are then taken from the storage container to the relevant place. The logical thing to do would have been to sort them out in the garage and then take the relevant ones straight to the charity shops, saving carrying, loading, transporting and unloading them. For such an intelligent person, he has little common sense! Especially when it comes to throwing things away. He said to me rather sadly the other day when I was imploring him to throw things out: “I know you’re right but I find it difficult to throw things away” (understatement of the century?).
Before you start feeling sorry for him, Graham counted eight spades and 15 hammers in the garage the other day, and that’s just one example of many. When we went through a similar exercise in Stockton before the Rents moved, there were over a dozen jars of clear liquids, which he asked what they were. Dad got quite excited and said they would act as a great accelerant to bonfires. He’s a nailed-on pyromaniac, by the way, which started by all accounts when he was young and set fires in the basket of the bike he was riding!
He is truly a mad scientist who, at times, reminds me of the Doc in Back to the Future!
In all seriousness, he’s one of the most intelligent people I know. (I joke with him that, although he’s got a PhD in Chemistry, I got a higher grade in A Level Chemistry than him!) Dad is renowned (in our family at least) as having a somewhat impatient manner in many respects. The soundtrack to my brother’s “relaxed” attitude to exams (GCSEs, A Levels and university) was my Dad yelling at him to revise and how he only did the “bare minimum”. What Graeme didn’t realise was that this was the single way in which I dealt with Dad better than him. I was not as blatant as my brother about my last-minute skills in cramming so my Dad didn’t see it. Simples!
However, even as he was complaining about last-minute work, Dad patiently spent hours and days over the years helping me and my brother with understanding and revision. Not just with his beloved chemistry but with further maths, economics and geography, which he hadn’t studied himself but went through them with us logically to teach himself and help us at the same time. That’s why he’s one of the most intelligent people I know: he can turn his hand to anything remotely scientific without being taught himself. (Mam took care of the non-scientific side, which is just as well otherwise we’d have been screwed on that front!)
I’m not surprised that Dad is a wonderful Grandad. He is so patient with the kids and explains things to the pair of them as if explaining to adults; he doesn’t talk down to them and never has. He showed Jennifer a pickaxe and sledgehammer yesterday because he’d found them in the garage and promised that he would show them to her. Every night he looks for the moon and if it’s visible, takes the kids outside to see it. Leo, in particular, is transfixed by the moon and if he sees a picture of it in a book he looks and points outside. I remember as a child at fireworks displays, Dad asked me if I knew why the fireworks were different colours. Did anyone else have this and does it explain my quest to find out the answer to something that I don’t understand? Even though our interests are different, we have a similar thirst for knowledge.
Dad will grumble about it but, along with my Mam, would do, and has done, more practically than anyone else for me, and, more recently, Graham, Jennifer and Leo to make our lives easier. From decorating to shower repairs and everything in between, he is tremendously able on the DIY front, which is ever-surprising to me as he is so clumsy!
I know I give my Dad a hard time. I used to think he favoured Graeme because they didn’t argue as much. I realised in my late teens that the reason they didn’t argue as much is that Graeme would just agree with Dad and do his own thing anyway, whereas I argued back to tell Dad why he was wrong! It’s no wonder I became a lawyer!
He spoke movingly at my brother’s funeral, which was an amazing and brave thing to do. Equally amazing, he made it to the top of Kili to scatter some of his son’s ashes after exercising for the first time in about 30 years.
Happy birthday Dad: I love you and I’m proud, infuriated and privileged to be your daughter!