It would’ve been my old man’s 84th birthday today.
At 9am precisely, and in no particular order, he’d have commenced a ring around of his three offspring in turn. After my siblings Ian, Helen and I had bestowed birthday wishes upon Malcolm, in his engaging Leeds accent, he’d have expressed gratitude for his presents.
Our trinkets ordinarily a decent bottle of red and a CD. Habitually bequeathed gifts to Mally on his birthday, Christmas and Father’s Day. His love of a glass of merlot and music removing any uncertainty he wouldn’t be in clover on removing the wrapping paper.
Footnote – He’d never ring before 9am. The thoughtful Yorkshireman deeming contacting individuals before that time as inconsiderate.
A creature of habit, despite being his birthday, dad ordinarily wouldn’t make major adjustments to his daily routine. The undemonstrative fellow happy enough with his usual tarries for a game of bowls, a drive with my mum to the White Rose Shopping Centre, or mixing with friends at the community centre.
On his birthday evening he’d cook him and mater the M&S ‘meal for two’ purchased that afternoon. Fare consumed with an accompaniment of a “right small glass” of merlot. In the background played music from one of the aforementioned CD’s. This aural backdrop thoughtfully played at volume allowing him to judge the musical calibre, but not to the detriment of conversation.
Footnote – The “right small glass” of merlot was indeed right and small, but that act of not wanting to appear overly indulgent was, on occasion, negated by becoming 2-3 ‘right small glasses’.
On some birthdays, such as his 80th, family and friends would congregate at chez Strachan senior to toast the man they lovely unconditionally (and still do in his death). This a genuinely beautiful person who looked for the good in everyone. The only male adult I’ve ever met who I’ve never heard use the ‘f’ word, which bearing in mind I’m his son is f***ing unbelievable!!
I’ll be forever indebted to my unassuming father – A gentleman in both word and deed. He taught me so much and ensured my childhood was one of warmth, love, protection and security. An erudite man, he seemed to know the answer to any question I posed.
That is apart from when I enquired at the age of seven “Where do babies come from?” A query which led to the response “Ask your mum!”……. When I posed the same question to her she responded “Fine Fare.” This a small supermarket on Durham Road, in Gateshead, where my parents did their weekly shop.
My mater’s answer causing much confusion as, when accompanying them there, I never witnessed any shelves stacked with newly born children. Subsequently, I assumed the babes in arms must’ve been in the shop rear.
That assumption may sound daft, but as a seven year old it seemed infinitely more plausible than the place classmate Harry Bell told me from whence babies appear. Eventually, though, I came to realise Harry’s parents were a great deal more candid about the birth process than mine.
Since his passing in October 2017 after a year long cancer battle, the void experienced in my life has been cavernous. I’m now living with my mum at the East Ardsley home dad loved; the chambers where he bestowed his brood immeasurable happy recollections. Consequently, now living in chez Strachan senior, the triggers to his memory are copious and frequent.
There’s not a day passes without me stopping dead in my tracks, overwhelmed at a recollection evoked. These occasions momentarily extracting the air from my lungs until recomposing myself a second or two later.
Each time I sit in his easy chair, his familial throne within the cosy chamber he’d quaff glasses of red, along with chilling to the refrains of Sinatra, Bobby Darrin, Tony Newley, Mel Torme et al, I subject myself to an emotionally masochistic odyssey. My level of melancholy fleeting, but as tortuous as the day he passed.
The only time I openly wept since his passing was when was potting a rhododendron in his memory – The catalyst to the waterworks mixing some of his ashes into the root compost. The moment blindsiding me, causing my strict ‘You shouldn’t cry, Gary. You’re the eldest male in family now’ policy to experience its first and, thus far, only lapse.
To close I just wanted to include one of the Frank Sinatra songs yours truly played for the old man in his hospice room. He was heavily sedated at the time, but to try comfort him I held his hand while listening to this lament inquiring ‘Where Are You’.
In the absence of a forwarding address, it’s a query that’ll stay with me forever.
Happy Birthday Dad!….. I love you and miss you every single day!