Thinking of my father

Sitting quietly after dinner, I found myself thinking of my father's notebook. As a teenager, I had found this one day in a drawer and begun to read without realising who the author was. It only slowly entered my head that this was a more fluid, younger version of my father's hand and that it was a notebook that he had kept as a young man in the Royal Air Force (during his National Service).

Also what had arrested recognition was the pattern of thinking (and what was being read) so distant this seemed from the man I knew (or thought I knew). I had prior glimpses of this person - an allusion here, a remark there - and I remember vividly my surprise when my mother mentioned my father's early love of the ballet (to which he had taken her). But all this (on the surface at least) had disappeared and the notebook in my hand was testimony to a road not traveled. My father had made an accommodation with his 'expected' life - family responsibilities, the demands of work as an engineer - and this other life - of spiritual intimations, of literature, of beauty - had disappeared.

It explains much of our relationship at that time - both his recognition of my yearnings and his withholding of approval. This latter, I feel now, a protective reaction - just as he had put away these matters for the sober lineaments of 'real life', so would I have to and better sooner than later.

But I did not (though I still carry in my head his sceptical, disappointed voice about their value) and latter, again only in glimpses, you caught sight of his reluctant, yet fierce, pride in your refusal to lay spirit (and ideal) aside and try and forge a life that captured them (if only fleetingly at times).

Nor did he die disappointed, in his daily practice of kindliness, he caught something of the reality of what he had sought in that notebook, and if it did not soar (as he would have liked) it was an intimation of immortality nonetheless and he could (and did) die content.


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