I don’t wish to disparage any fathers nor undermine their offspring’s good intentions in celebrating their importance – after all I use mine often enough here and I both love him dearly and miss him still – but in my life I not only had a highly influential father but an equally important uncle. And I’m not aware of a day to celebrate him. He was a father, too so perhaps I should just piggy back on my cousins’ memories.
He was also a grandfather, uncle, great uncle, husband and goodness knows how many labels beside but, whatever the capacity, he was a universally loved good bloke who wasn’t at all blokey and a hit with men and women alike.
Ted, Teddles, Nunkie, I only really knew him when he returned from his part time emigration to Australia at the start of the 1970s. I have one specific early memory which I will come to later. I’d heard the stories, seen the smiles on my parents’ faces when they talked about him but I was too young really to remember much about him before he and my aunt left.
On their return he ran various pubs and just spread enjoyment wherever he went. He was the ultimate in preaching what today is covered by the acronym YOLO. A day at a time was looking too far ahead. He dealt in minutes, cramming in as much laughter as he could. He subverted authority with a wink, undermined carefully structured parenting with charm and took no one very seriously, least of all himself. When told he needed fresh air and exercise to address a heart condition, he moved the shove ha’penny board so it sat near the open back door of the pub. He might frustrate you but you never stopped loving him.
If I had to pin down one feature that made him stand out it was he listened to you – really listened; and he remembered too so he always seemed to have something very personal for you, making you feel really special.
His humour drifted from the shaggy dog to the scatalogical, and I have inherited it. A running joke between my father and Ted on the subject of bogies, for instance, led to this Limerick of my father as a gift to Ted:
‘Nose pickings,’ said Mrs McGraw,
‘Have practical uses galore.
By rolling and moulding,
And carefully folding
You can make condoms, cheap, for the poor.’
I could see in Ted a man whose purpose in life was to make it better for others. It was a conscious thing, and if he took anything seriously it was that.
My father taught me much. My uncle showed me how to use those gifts to try and make everyone’s lives just a little bit better. I miss them both dreadfully but looking back I realise how lucky I was to have had two fathers.
Maybe you also have another male relative who needs celebrating alongside your fathers. If so then this, my one real memory from the period pre emigration, is for them. One evening after I woke up hearing voices, rather than letting mum put me straight back to bed, he sat me on his knee and, surrounded by all the other adults, sang me this.