I’m not going to say how old I am. Let’s just say ‘the wrong side of forty, too close to fifty’. So I’ve known my father that long. But yesterday I realised how little I actually know about him.
Dad’s a quiet man, reserved, not demonstrative; though we were never in any doubt he loved us. He never talks about himself, but prefers to talk about things that matter to others. What I know of his early years has come from what Mum has found out – mainly from his sisters, not him.
It’s not that we haven’t tried to find out about his childhood. But if you ask him a question he’ll do anything to avoid answering. I know he lost his father at sixteen, but when I asked him once what Grandad had died of, he just said ‘old age’. I tried to argue that people don’t die of old age at sixty, but he just shrugged and said, "He did.” So that’s all I know about my grandfather too. Dad just doesn’t like talking about himself or his past. As you can guess, I didn’t inherit that trait! I’m like Mum, full of stories, whether anyone wants to hear them or not.
Yesterday, four-year-old Sausage was showing off her skills to Grandma and Grandad. She counted to ten, then she did it again in Korean, then she counted to five in Italian (I’ve no idea who taught her that). Grandma clapped, but Grandad just winked and said, “I can count in Arabic.” Mum and I sat open-mouthed, as he proceeded to count to ten in Arabic. After all these years, we neither of us knew that he could speak anything but English. But it seems he learned it when he was stationed in Tobruk for his National Service after the War. He’s seventy-nine years old and still remembers, sixty years on. How I wish I could get inside his head and find out what else he knows.