Friday, 23 February 2007
A letter from Sea
The picture above is of our Dad posing in the back garden of Ribblesdale Avenue - in the same place as an earlier photo of his mother Brigid.
I thought deeply about this and eventually decided that for all my words, nothing describes my dad, or captures his spirit better than this letter. It’s a bit of a miracle that it still survives. For those who come later and are confused by his reference to a ‘daughter’ his certainty was misplaced. The child turned out to be my brother, Tony and my sparring partner ever since. What comes across to me is the intense loneliness of a family man at sea for great tracts of time, his love for our mother, and the strong Victorian values that got in the way of so many things. As you’ll see in the next posting, I didn’t always measure up to his ideal.
This is your Dad’s first letter to you; don’t let your mother know or she’ll be jealous. She thinks I shouldn’t write to anyone but her. By the time you get this you should be about one month off two years old and will probably be full of mischief. Well your Dad was too when he was young so I suppose we’ll have to look with a lenient eye upon your misdeeds.
You have a lot of discoveries to make, some good and some bad, but you and I, Son will discover the world together. We might let your mom into it too. You’ve yet to feel the thrill of your first circus, your first visit to the zoo, your first Grotto and Santa Claus and your first Pantomime. All these things that delighted your Dad will delight you and perhaps I might catch the spirit of my childhood in just watching your face. Anyway old boy, until you are old enough to enjoy these things there’s plenty of fun you and I can have together.
Now young fellow, here is the serious part of my letter. Your Mother, God bless her, will, with the help of God give you a little sister to play with, but remember Son, she’s your responsibility to see no harm befalls her. Don’t forget, you’ll be her big brother and if you do the job well, when you are older, I’ll put the Dearest thing I possess in this world under your protection while I’m away, and that is your Mother.
You are still too young yet to realise it but she is also Your Dearest possession, and remember you can never be a man without being a good Son and I can forgive you quite a lot if I see you loving, obedient and respectful to your mother. What your mother has done and gone through for you, you’ll never know but it merits all the love and respect of your whole life. Whether I have your love or not is a different thing, but I can always command your respect if necessary. Still I’m not worrying too much because I think you’ve got the right stuff in you. Your mother is proud of you now, don’t ever let her lose that pride in you. If you do, you’ve lost a priceless possession.
I don’t know why I’m writing this to you as you can’t read yet, but it is just the mood I’m in and I’m giving my mood expression. But to continue, there are very few women in this world like your Mother. I was lucky like you, Son. I had a good mother and in later years when she passed on, as we all have to, if you can say to yourself I’ve never brought an unnecessary tear to those loving eyes, that my Son will be the greatest consolation to your sorrow.
But, little fellow you’re too young to think of sorrow, so make every day a holiday and your Dad will help you when he comes home. In the meantime you can have all the fun you like tearing up the first letter to you from your loving Dad. X