‘Father And Son’

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It was the 60’s and as I look back it definitely was a great time to be alive.  The world was changing, and it was the youth and their music that was changing it; a time of the Beatles, flower power and Vietnam.  It was into this new world at age nineteen I found myself on the island of Jersey, smack in the middle of the English Channel; a Mecca for the vacationing English middle classes, and a tax haven for the super rich.  My chosen career at the time was in the catering industry, but no I did not want to go to catering college, I wanted to learn from the ground up, and so it was that my father secured for me a position as bartender in the ‘Southampton Hotel’ right in the heart of down town Saint Helier.

A few weeks after I assumed my new post, my parents arrived with my young sister in tow for their annual vacation.  They didn’t stay at the ‘Southampton Hotel;’ they stayed next door at the much grander ‘Pomme D’or Hotel.’  With its uniformed doormen, nightly cabaret, and twenty-four hour room service, the Southampton paled into little more than a ritzy hostel.  But with his second son tending bar only a few steps from the front door of the Pomme D’or my father had the perfect excuse to escape my mother and baby sister, and indulge in his life long love affair with Scotch and water with a beer chaser.  I remember one morning while I was off duty I joined him in the cozy lounge bar for a friendly father son drink.  He ordered his usual whisky and water, with a half pint chaser, and although I didn’t drink whisky I ordered the same. ‘No son,’ he said shaking his head, ‘your mother would never forgive me.’  I ordered a Bacardi and coke without the beer chaser, and all was well.  A small thing, but I remember it because it explained a lot about my parents’ relationship, and the heartache his drinking had caused over the years.  The implication that I would emulate his social appetite was just too much for his conscience.

It was in one of these father son tête-à-têtes, and with the persuasive ambiance of a few swills that I convinced him of my need for independent transport.  The next day, leaving my mother and sister basking by the poolside, we set out across the length and breadth of Jersey in search of my first car.  No not a brand new car, a used car.  Which was fine with me, all I needed was any kind of boneshaker, as long as it impressed the girls, and had ample room in the rear seat for me to consummate my constantly arising teenaged desires.  It’s at this point that I should probably explain that the island of Jersey is approximately forty-two miles long, by about twelve miles wide.  So any vehicle within a reasonable age had little likelihood of having clocked up many miles.  Being an island, rust could be a problem, but my father in his wisdom rejected anything with the slightest trace of corrosion, which meant that anything older than five or six was out of the question.

‘Yes, that’s the one,’ I said to a gleaming red Mercedes sports convertible, visions of lustful nights spent parked out on Five Mile Beach; and I almost had him, but I think the lecherous glint in my eyes betrayed my youthful avarice.  Finally after much speculation and vacillation we settled for a 1962 Hillman, stainless steel twin overhead cam Singer Gazelle.  It was five years old, had 6000 miles on the clock, red leather bench seats, with a stick shift, and a walnut dashboard, and boy was I on top of the world.  Even my mother was jealous, she was going home to a mundane Morris 1000 that on a good day couldn’t pull the skin off of a rice pudding.

Vacation over I drove my parents and young Evelyn to the airport.  I was more than a little sad to see them go, because in those two weeks, I think I had become closer to my father than at any time in the past.  Until then in his eyes, I had been a boy, but now I was becoming a man; and in his way he had recognized my transition.  Strangely, but not uncharacteristically, almost as if to mark my transition to manhood, he took a gold pinkie ring from his finger and gave it to me with his blessing.  He had always been a kind and generous man, and I would come to treasure the gift of his ring even more than my new car. 

I didn’t know it then, but this was to be the last time I would ever see him.

In dedication to my father, whose tragic death at aged forty-seven would most definitely mark the end of my adolescence.

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One Response to “‘Father And Son’”

  1. Lovely story, and heart-breaking ending. I like your soliloquies.

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