My da, Frank, is over six foot three so most people call him Big Frank. To us he’s big in more ways than one- he has a big laugh, a big personality and a big dose of patience which is probably his greatest ‘daddy’ skill. Nothing much has really ever fazed him over the years – despite the constant efforts on the part of his four children to try his patience. I remember once annoying the hell out of him while he worked in his office trying to get an important job out on time. He turned to me sharply and said, ‘I’m going to give you a clip ’round the ear if you don’t stop!’ A ‘clip around the ear’ was colloquial talk for ‘a whack ’round the head’. I laughed in his face. There was no way in this world that my Da would punish me in any way, and I had absolutely no fear that I would be clipped around the ear or anywhere else. So, I brazenly went off to get a few hairclips and told him to put them on my ear. He just laughed. I finally got tired of annoying him and went off to annoy someone else. It was such a typical exchange with him – us trying to get him riled and Da refusing to rise.
I’ve always hero-worshipped my Da, as lots of girls probably do. It must be an instinctive thing as I see it happening even now between Maggie and Johnny – there’s a certain adoration in her eyes when her daddy when he comes home from work or turns up unexpectedly. For me, Da was someone I certainly looked up to with awe and admiration – he was the smartest man I knew (a rumour no doubt propagated by the man himself), the most respected and he had a wicked sense of fun that I hoped I’d inherited. But the hero-worshipping was probably inevitable from a man who had grand aspirations for us all; after all he called himself ‘the King of the World’ and his girls ‘the crème de la crème’.
Dad absolutely adores books and learning. He’s probably known as a bit of an intellectual in our neighbourhood which is funny considering he left school at sixteen. But he’s terribly clever and bookish and always seems to know at least a little bit of everything. Or at least that is the ruse he has been keeping up all these years. I guess if we really were going to fall for his ‘king of the world’ routine, we had to also believe he was probably the smartest man in the world too. When I was twelve our Irish language class were working through an exercise with the teacher, first translating the English word into Irish and then finding the Irish answer in a wordsearch. There was one word left that none of us – even the teacher – could figure out so we were sent off to find it out as homework. That evening I asked my Da (cue: cleverest man in the world) and of course he knew the answer. But he was also deeply aggrieved that the teacher didn’t know it so he sent me in the next day with instructions to tell her what he thought. So, never one to question my Da, and confident that he was ALWAYS right I stood up in class the next day and said to the teacher, ‘My daddy says that you’re stupid’. We both got into major trouble that night when mum found out. But as dad winked at me conspiratorially across the table I got the feeling that while he hadn’t really meant for me to say anything, he was definitely impressed by my nerve. But it probably struck him then that we were all taking this ‘king of the world’ title a bit too literally.
Happy Father’s Day, Big F.