Once upon a time I had two dads, one with hard brown eyes and the other with soft ones.
The dad with the hard eyes was a police officer who worked long shifts. He had a short temper and shouted at us for making too much noise. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, long hours, four children and a wage that was barely enough to support a family.
I hated it when mum used those immortal words, “Wait till your dad gets home!” The sound of the front door closing made me dread those hard, flat, angry eyes,
“Apologise to your mother,” or “Get up to your room now!”
It was worse when I got older and given a curfew, all my friends were allowed to come home when they liked. Dad wanted to know where I was going and who I was going with. He disapproved of my ‘going to town’ because that was ‘his patch’ and he knew all the bad pubs and clubs. Without explanation he would ban me.
In hindsight he was being protective, but it caused conflict and I hated him laying down the law.
My other dad, with his soft brown eyes, would make me laugh. “Give me your hand and I shall tell your fortune, he said. Taking my palm, he peered at it, “I can see a farmhouse,” I looked closely and saw nothing but a criss-cross of lines. “And here,” he said, “is a pond.” He then spat in my hand.
Holidays were fun too. We’d walk up hills and down the other side. We’d collect seashells on the beach and climb rocks. He built us, not just sand castles, but racing cars with seats and steering wheels.
He’d cover us in sand so that just our head was showing or take us to a field where we would chase moles that only he could see.
Whereever he went, we followed. He’d do silly things like walk with a limp and we’d copy him or he’d run and then walk and we’d all bang into each other.
He couldn’t tell a joke because he always forgot the punch line, or the laughter in his eyes gave it all away.
The police officer finally hung up his helmet and the hard brown eyes became soft all the time.
Now we’ve grown up and left home, dad and mum have their second family, four adopted children who have never seen the policeman with the hard eyes.
Dad may not have the energy to run along beaches any more and walks with a real limp now, but he still tells fortunes and his laughing eyes give away all jokes!