Dad: I never Really Knew Him

I’ve mentioned dad in a few of my previous blogs, and I have to admit, I haven’t really painted him in the best way, mainly because I probably never saw or experienced him at his best. He did many things wrong as a husband and a father, but mum would occasionally talk about him with pride and sometimes, with a little hope in her eyes.

Dad was very vain, taking so, so long to shave and dress himself for a night out. When dad passed away in 1994, my mum was devastated, despite all the heartache dad had caused her throughout their married life, she still loved him with an ingrained passion. Mum knew more than any other member of the family how vain dad was, but we (Me and my siblings) never truly understood how vain he was until mum finally received his birth certificate (Don’t know why she requested it) after his death. His certificate came by post several weeks after the funeral and what was recorded on it even took my mother by surprise. He had always told mum and my mother’s family members that he was born in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland in 1918. His birth certificate contradicted his fallacy, stating that he was born in a town called Mullaglass, Northern Ireland in 1914! For a reason that will always remain a mystery, he not only lied about his place of birth, he also took 4 years off his age 🀣 Of course we have hypothesized about his reasons for lying about his age but as for the reason his lied about his place of birth, that has always stumped us.

During one of those rare times he tried to be a father, he would always mention that he had smuggled cigarettes and booze over the border into Southern Ireland during the second world war. I dare not ask him myself but I asked mum why he hadn’t fought during the war. Mum would reply with a shrug of her shoulders and say “How the bloody hell do I know, ask your dad” but I never did. One thing was for certain, he didn’t like the English because he was always raging about being a proud, fighting Irishman when he was drunk and always shouting something about the English man being “Yellow and cowardly”! Yet he would drink with English men, socialising on a very regular basis and of course, he married an English woman!

His sister came to visit him once, travelling from Ireland to stop at our house for a couple of days. During her visit she told my mum a few things about her husband (Dad) that mum knew nothing about. As a family, we knew he could play a violin because he kept one stored away in a cupboard, only taking it out to clean it, tune it and play it for a short time. My auntie told my mum about her father, my grandfather, and how he made tin violins as a hobby and eventually as a means of bringing a little bit of extra money into the household by selling them. Grandad was a skilled violinist, and he taught my dad how to play. Apparently dad took to learning to play very quickly, and became very accomplished in a short space of time. Dad would tune up and play every violin his father made. Dad’s reputation grew and he was sent to a school that specialised in teaching music alongside a regular curriculum. Dad’s brother Tommy also had a natural aptitude for playing the violin, so they practiced and played together in a local orchestra. Someone from the Belfast Philharmonic orchestra spotted them during a visit to the area and they were both invited to audition in Belfast. Unfortunately, things became unstuck, caused by their own stupidity. Not only did dad and Tommy share a love for the violin, they also shared a love for drinking heavily. That being the case, they both turned up for their audition blind drunk. They blew their chance. Whilst Tommy backed away from drinking heavily, dad continued on his lonely course after the disappointment of letting himself down.

I did ask dad about his violin days a few times as I grew up but he would never talk about it, he said it didn’t matter and it was non of my business.

So somewhere in his distant past, I think he must have been happy because he obviously had a love and passion for music. We never experienced love or passion from him (Maybe if we’d all been born looking like violins!) He would do anything for anybody outside of the home, which is why people liked him.

His sister told mum that he never got over his mother’s death, and the drinking took over his life soon after her funeral. He would regularly get drunk and fall asleep on his mother’s grave, always woken up by the guy who looked after the graveyard in the early hours. He would work like a horse to help local farmers and friends, only accepting bottles of alcohol as payment.

So I guess he can’t have been all bad and I often wonder what he would have made of his life if his mum had survived long enough to steer him in the right direction.

I guess dad can’t have been all bad.

39 thoughts on “Dad: I never Really Knew Him

  1. People who drink, or other types of drugs, are weak people of spirit, perhaps even more sensitive than others, although it may seem otherwise. The loss of a mother at an early age can cause irreparable pain if It is not about professionals and thus being able to channel this loss … I think that his life was not entirely happy and he was looking for joy in alcohol to escape his grief … Thank you for sharing a piece of your life, Johnβ˜ΊπŸ˜‰πŸ€—πŸ˜˜β€πŸŽ„πŸŒŸ

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I have a friend who died recently and he just wasn’t geared to family life at all, but had friends everywhere he went. Fatherhood is a tough gig with no preparation or instruction manual.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. It’s something about fathers or men. Mine was always drunk but rich as he had worked in Barclay’s and I was born when he was 55 I never really knew him but for being on his lap as he drank White Horse whisky and I had plenty of Coca Cola. I think he was the greatest Dad ever. I knew nothing about him that I once told our teacher he was a soldier and then a teacher but asked Mom after he died and was shocked to learn he was a banker.

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  4. I wonder it this is an universal thing; children not knowing their fathers properly? Although I share a great relationship with my dad, it feels that there are some aspects of his personality that I am unaware of…
    Wow! Music really runs into your family! Do you also play the fiddle?

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  5. This really spoke to me, losing my dad to alcoholism so many years ago.

    You’re very kind always to come to my site. Forgive me for not visiting more. Loss and liquor is something I know all too well. When I attended my first Open AA meeting, before I got sober, it was then I truly learned, alcoholism is a disease, not a mere indulgence. It really helped me understand my father more.

    A lovely essay John.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Modesty is overrated John. I don’t read a lot of blogs. It’s why my readership is so small. I do like Sorryless on Fridays, and Patricia’s Monday Musing. It’s more a time factor than anything. But in the New Year we shall try to do better. Yeah, getting sober ain’t for sissies, but life changes for the better. Sure wish my dad had found AA. sigh. Thanks, as always.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I can relate to that my friend. Luckily my parents were as good as it gets and they were your dad’s age. Daddy was born in 1912 and mom in 1919. While my dad was caring and had great, healthy lifestyle – my uncles, his younger brothers were different. Both drank and smoked. My youngest uncle lost all interest in life after my grandfather passed away. He blamed himself for his death. Luckily he was never married and didn’t spoil any other life. My father looked after him till he was alive. After my father’s death we siblings looked after him till his death two years back. He was a kind soul but got lost somewhere.
    May your dad’s and my uncle’s souls RIPπŸ™

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You stirred up a lot of feelings with this one. Many of us are obviously in the same boat, or at least a very similar one on some level. It’s comforting to share the stories and feel connected.

    Like

  8. That was so thought-provoking John. I’ve been lucky with my dad, who was uncommunicative when I was a lad but wants little more than to talk about the past, now that he’s in his 90s.
    As I read your post, it was your dad’s Irish background that caught my mind’s eye. The country has a very special culture and a past that is full of pain. The guilty madnesses of Catholicism, the invasion and domination by England, the famines, the mass emigrations. Maybe those things trickle down mentally for generations, in unseen ways? I’m guessing that alcohol was always the most available crutch for so many Irish men, opening the door to addiction.
    As one of your readers pointed out above, there is no manual for fatherhood. Most men do the best they can.
    Wish I had heard your dad play the violin. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I believe everyone is born into this world with issues to resolve and the saddest thing is to see them live long lives with never even trying to resolve them. Regardless, if nothing else, he had a son to be proud of.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I there’s one thing I’ve learned in my long life, it’s that people are what they are and rarely change, even if they realize their shortcomings. In short, your dad was human, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This really resonated with me. We never really know who someone is, and as humans we are all flawed. My dad was also Irish, from Tipperary. He won a scholarship but his family was poor, and the rich part of the clan refused to help him financially because their son had failed the exam. My dad left Ireland for England, and missed it for the rest of his life. He was not a drinker, he took the pledge when he was young, but my mum’s family were bug drinkers. It’s funny when you look back and can see that if you are able to mentally able to overcome the crap life sends your way, able to weave it into your fabric of life, but not let it defeat you then you are truly blessed. My dad was not a violent man, but looking back now ai can see that he did suffer from depression for most of his life. I learned to understand why after his death, when our Irish relatives explained that he was so clever it was expected he would become a scientist, or doctor. Blimey I should write a blog in this! Like I said it really resonated. Loved it John.❀️

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