Life

WOMAN ON THE VERGE: Take a moment to celebrate our dads

June 21st, 2022 3:30 PM

By Emma Connolly

I had a Mary Poppins moment during the week and nearly took flight with a marquee that was doing battle with the tail end of Storm Alex. It was touch and go for a while, but I just about managed to stay on terra firma.

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Dads can always be relied on to dole out the best advice – even if we rarely listen to them. I definitely paid the price for that this week as I clung for dear life to a marquee pole!

• It’s Father’s Day this coming weekend – consider this your official reminder. Sure god love them all the same, the dads don’t tend to have the same fuss made over them really as the mums, do they? I remember we used to cheekily give our dad gifts that we could enjoy ourselves like a deck chair (that he’d rarely get to sit on), or a cassette of some group we liked ourselves. It’s one of those Hallmark days but what about it? Da, dad, daddy, pops, the auld fella, whatever you call him, give yours a squeeze and tell him in your way what he means to you.

• If I was to describe my dad in a word I’d say … original. And if I had two words I’d say … most original! I remember when you’d be in your pal’s house, and you’d meet their dad and they’d just ask you something straightforward about school or whatever and that would be it. Conversation over. Ours was way more of a wild card. You could never be sure what he’d come out with and friends’ reactions would veer from shock to extreme shock. We’d be mortified, but a bit delighted all the same even if we didn’t admit it. The same if he was collecting us from a disco, he’d be the one with the seat down, fast asleep, and the dog out the window on the look-out for us. It tended to attract a crowd. Not great if you’re a touchy teen but you know … memorable.

• He had a thing for roads with grass up the middle. He couldn’t resist them. If there was a motorway that would take him from A to B, or a crazy labyrinth, he’d take the latter every time. Tom Crean, Tim Severin, Paddy Keohane, he was fascinated by them all and many the wing mirror paid the price for his quest for adventure. He loved maps, and plotting out journeys. Even when Sat Navs came in, he’d always have a map handy – just in case like. I can remember once we headed off on holidays (destination unknown on departure, but it was nearly always Kerry). We must have driven for around three solid hours, maybe more, and I was sure we had to be nearly there (wherever ‘there’ was) only to emerge on a little lane just a few miles from where we lived. To be fair, that wasn’t his most popular move with the family. Another time we went all the way to Donegal in the back of his work van, which had no rear windows. You probably wouldn’t get away with that these days, but  it was one of the best adventures of my life even if I didn’t really see a single thing!

• He gave brilliant advice even if it wasn’t always what you wanted to hear. He used to be aghast at my loose regard for my finances, and had to dig me out more than once. His simple advice to get ahead was to earn more or spend less. I once had this idea that I thought would make me a millionaire – I was going to buy an ice cream cart, and sell ice creams under Timoleague Abbey. Simples! But after a ‘business meeting’ with him (Him: how many do you think you’ll sell a week? Me: around 10,000. Him: what’s that based on? Me: eh, just a feeling. Him: have a spark of sense would you!), the idea sort of melted away. He had a brilliant business head, and was never without a notebook or a back of an envelope to ‘do the sums.’ I still have some and I treasure them. 

• One of his best bits of advice was not to peak too soon.That’s something I should have heeded last week. My sister turned 50 (the second eldest sister has asked to clarify that it’s not her ...yet), and we had a celebration in my house to mark the occasion. We’ve a little marquee that’s handy for things like this and two nights before the party I had strong-armed my brother and husband to put it up. Wind was forecast and they strongly advised waiting, but I insisted and for a quiet life they gave in. Next morning it was a bit gusty alright, but I wasn’t too concerned … until I looked out to see the tent about to take flight to Barryroe. I dashed out and clung on to a pole for dear life, fearing I was going to do a Mary Poppins on it, while roaring for help. The puppy appeared first, as enthusiastic as ever, followed thankfully by the brother who had a few choice words that included ‘told, you, so’ and down it all came again. Yeah, so timing is important alright.

• In restaurants my dad was a terror for ordering things that weren’t on the menu at all. There was many the poor waitress that was left flustered by his request for apple pie, or bread and butter pudding. With custard of course.

• Staying awake in mass was a huge problem for him. He claimed it was outside of his control, something to do with the Holy Spirit. He didn’t just nod off subtly either, there was lots of jerking, and shaking, and jolting ... when one of us would give him a dig to stand up for the Gospel. He wasn’t overly devout but he had a thing against Saturday night mass, didn’t think it counted, and he was a great fan of the after-mass chat.

• He had a very eclectic taste in music and there are loads of artists I can’t listen to any more as they remind me too much of him. Cold Play, Sam Smith or Christy Hennessy, to name but a few. I don’t know anyone who can cut the lawn as good as him, he loved newspapers, he would suffer the most horrendous headache if he even had a single alcoholic drink, he was partial to the odd Hamlet cigar but we wouldn’t allow him indulge very often, if at all. I know it’s childish to feel jealous of those who still have their dads, but I do. But in his own words there’s nothing for it but to drive on.

• That was a bit indulgent so … thanks for listening! Finally, Donegal postie Ken Ring has forecast a very wet summer, the wettest for six years. I can’t remember last week not to mind last summer but this doesn’t sound good. June, he says, will be the best of the three months, which isn’t too inspiring considering how it’s been so far. He’s quite specific in his predictions and says there’ll be strong wind on August 19th. Guess what? I’ve another family party in the diary for the 20th. Might leave putting the marquee up until the last minute this time though!

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