I feel if I’m going to be properly on trend I should write a post about Dads. I feel a bit odd though. Internally bruised. I’m not sure I could handle any more emotion. Suffice to say I really love my Dad and every day I appreciate him more. That relationships are rarely uncomplicated and some are worth working on.
An encounter at the weekend highlighted some of the things I love most about my Dad. A visit to the home of Steve’s brother-in-law who is very well off, through his own business endeavors and has furnished his beautiful lavish home with high-spec objects and valuable original art left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a knot in my heart. I didn’t supervise my brats closely enough for his liking and he found it necessary to dress me down and list the cost of his acquisitions.
For a start I was struck by his concern over the three million painting while I’m not absolutely sure we’ll make the mortgage next month and how we live worlds apart. Also the fact the kids would never dream of touching a painting with their hands, they’d already surveyed the sculpture in the hall with interest, their hands tucked firmly behind their backs. We spend enough time in galleries for this rule to be engrained. At the time he was making his points Ida was cuddled on my lap and I was distracting her from inevitable toddler boredom by drawing funny animals on a notepad.
He’s used to venting freely I suppose – on people he pays not to deserve courtesy or respect and the fact he accorded me none means he has lost all of mine.
The point that seems most lodged in my tender side is that I think he believes as we can not purchase art in the way he does we could never appreciate it. Perhaps we didn’t understand it was expensive because he’d taken the price tags off or were too ignorant. Whereas the kids were on their very best careful behavior because they know to respect other people’s belongings and beautiful things.
I remember being fourteen and awkward. I’d just returned home after a separation and there was a painful distance between me and everyone and everything else. The only thing I was enjoying at school was art and I ate up the artists section in the library and books on my Dads shelves. I had a passion for expressionism, Burra, Klee and Egon Schiele whose works I pored over and pinned postcards of up on my bedroom wall. There was a private gallery show of his Schiele’s early work and some sketches and my inarticulate spiky Dad took me up on the train to see it. It was in a very exclusive gallery where you had to make an appointment to enter and as we rang the bell I burned with the shame and embarrassment and awkwardness of it. I growled at him that they’d be expecting us to buy something and he replied calmly that for all they knew we might. “It’s not for people like us” I hissed at him vehemently and he swung me round and met my eyes, something my darling Dad doesn’t do often. He replied hotly along these lines, “Do you think he painted this stuff for them, the people with cheque books? Do you think beauty and truth only show when you put a coin in a slot, do you think Teutonic plates stop moving because someone has bought an acre on top of them?” My dear Red old Dad. Familiarity with his socialism and marxist flirting, sitting bored senseless at countless trade union meetings and fund-raising, consciousness raising rally’s had dulled my eyes to his sincere belief in genuine equality. I loved him fiercely for it right then and now.
Poor Paul. I doubt he’s around kids much. I bet he was mostly busy while his boys were young. He seems driven to collect and possess. He’s buying up vinyl now, sitting back he says it’s for the sound quality but all he talks about are the odd pressings, what they cost him and how they’ll gain in price. This is why he’s so successful. Don’t get me wrong, he’s earned every pound I’m sure. He knows the price of all his beautiful displayed investment items but I’m not sure he knows the value of much.
See that all sounds very airy and who gives a damn. Still I spent an hour crying on my bed when we got home with the kids sat either side of me puzzled. Ida was blithely unaware but Zeph had picked up on the disapproval. We talked about it, the possible reasons behind it all, how he’d done nothing wrong and why I was so upset. Steve said later it’s because I wear my heart on my sleeve. Which is a massive overstatement of my recent attempts to live with a more open heart. I am the last person in the world to expect the things to be fair but it seems I want it fair for my children. I suspect this is going to be a hard lesson to relearn.
It could have also been that I had to physically restrain myself from shouting, losing my temper and mirroring the aggression aimed at me. The crescent marks from my fingernails on my forearms are testament to that. As I cradled my daughter on my lap I bit my tongue, mentally forcing myself to think the best of the person in front of me and to avoid a scene at the hastily arranged sixtieth birthday celebration of someone I like very much and who has a pretty unequal deal I think. It was so last-minute because she finally gave up hope of her husband or sons marking the day in any way.
My dad has already talked to me about his plans to do sixty special things with and for my mum next year as she’ll be sixty. As I write this I feel a surge of pride in his value system. Lovely Dad.