Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

And when did you last see your Father?

I enjoyed this read. For its well crafted, earthy recollections. For the honest reflection by the author on self and others. And however uncomfortable the journey the personal nature of the relationships described and the grief experienced sometimes made it, it felt a privilege by the end to have been invited to share it (part of the author's therapy it seems).

I was particularly intrigued by the effort applied (something I've tried to adopt in reminiscing about my father) to avoid the "rose-tinted spectacle" syndrome. So Blake records the contradictions - the unsnobbish protector and defender of ordinary decent folk had his big house, his Merc, his live-in maid, and was acutely aware of his social status; the sentimental family man could be a bully and tyrant; the open-hearted extrovert had a trove of secrets and hang-ups (pg 92). It's interesting, integrity is a quality I think most people admire, and yet so often we're all a seething mass of contradictions, which on closer inspection can be consistent.

Having lost my father, it was fascinating to see similar consequences emerging for Blake as they did for me. And I start to write to friends when their fathers die, something I never used to do, something I feel ashamed at not having done before (pg 206). Galling at one level to be so stereotypical, and yet simultaneously comforting, a mark of the very essence of what it means to be human maybe.

The title and story that entails (particularly closing pages, from 216 on and back cover), suggest that the father he saw dying in those last few weeks wasn't him experiencing the fullness of his father? And yet his father was still relating to him from his deathbed, visible and knowable. The final recollection seems representative of his father (the task orientated do-er), and yet without all the other reminiscences and the description of his final weeks, we would be the poorer for not knowing them. Are we not known in relationship to people and things, throughout time, and that to suspend any of those elements, seems artificial and impossible.....?