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THE ANTI-TEA TOWEL POEM for FATHER’S DAY
There aren’t any cards in Tesco’s, Hallmark,
or the ever-so-fashionable Farmers’ Market
to say to someone on Father’s Day
“Sorry your father wasn’t around for you, or
sorry your children’s father isn’t around for them.
This might just be a tough day for you
with all the constant reminders to send/make a card/
give power tools/cases of beer/boxed sets of DVDs”.
How can you give tools to a Dad who never wielded one;
who may be, or is definitely, deceased? Alcohol
and T-shirts don’t fit the bill for absent, drunken dads.
So this one is for you! To say we made it, we grew up
we survived, and mostly, raised children ourselves
with or without our fathers, and their fathers, to help us.
If I was here, I’d give you a hug, a present, a box
of chocolates, a bottle of something stronger
than shampoo.I know it doesn’t make up for the loss,
but it does say, I’m thinking of you. You’re not alone
in this one. Maybe next Father’s Day we can have
a party/picnic/pub lunch, together, to celebrate
our making our lives what they are, and to toast our
children’s futures, with or without Dad.
I wrote this because every year I feel that Father’s day must be hard for a lot of people. Now I know that I will never be employed to write sentimental greetings for Hallmark cards, because it is totally impossible not to descend into banalities! and little phrases that sound like cop outs. For a poem, It is truly terrible.
But the feelings are real, and I’m thinking of you this Father’s day. If you feel it’s a weird one, you are not alone in this.
PS I know I haven’t got any children, but I do work with a lot of kids, and I am a twelve-times auntie…
Father’s Day is a tough one for some people. Not for card manufacturers, or T-shirt sellers, or Amazon’s worldwide sites, but for those who grew up without a father, because he was absent, or deceased, or at best part-time and semi-committed.
I cringe when I see schools and clubs encouraging children to make cards to take home, because I know that not every household contains a father figure. What is the person who unpacks the child’s bag to make of this tribute to a man who isn’t there?
Of course, you will realise by now that I have my own issues around Father’s Day. My own father is either alive or dead. We are not sure which. He married my mother in 1959; they moved to Dublin, Ireland, and had seven children. My mother didn’t discover birth control until late in the day, and even then, it didn’t work! Ireland is a Catholic country, and large families were the norm. By 1969, my father was spending more and more time away from home, and by away, I mean ‘in Mexico’ or ‘overseas’. He never was a conventional person, and I believe he has fathered many other children in Mexico, or India (where he was raised) or both.
I don’t especially want to meet any of these other sibllings, or even to meet my father again. I saw my father briefly in 1997, after a 23 year gap. By this time I was an adult, and able to discern for my self that he was not of particularly sound mind. It’s a very long story, not one that I can go into right now.
My point is, and I realise that I will have to initiate this tradition myself, is that, as an alternative to being bombarded with emails about Father’s Day from, say Pet Specialists (yes, that really does happen), I would like to offer a alternative.
If you know someone who grew up without a father, because he was absent, dead, or ‘away on business’ most of the time, or so badly affected by the War that he rarely came out of his shell, can you spare a thought for them this day? Send them an email, or drop round with a present. Of course, a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers can never make up for the loss or lack of a parent, but it acknowledges that this is a tricky day for some people, and that their suffering is acknowledged too, on this day of celebration.
I rarely ‘preach’, let alone to strangers, but I wish to turn the tide of bitterness, regret and and sorrow that I experience on father’s day, every year, and if this post helps one other person, then it will have done its work. Right, I’m off to send some emails. Deep breath…
He passes the church yard
confetti clings to the wheels
of his trolley. Head
down, he wheels onward
driving through debris: petals,
fallen stars, hearts, grains
of rice. Fleeting tokens,
nothing more! Nothing lasts but
chunky rubbber wheels.
Cherry blossom snow,
sweet birdsong. Tiny pleasures
my child will never know.