June 18th 2007
Fathers Day is celebrated in the UK but not so lavishly as here in the United States. In fact at home it is ignored by many - my brother Cyril's son never acknowledges it for example - and his attitude toward it is not at all rare.
However, here in the United States the day is big. It is a national celebration. It took a number of years and a great deal of lobbying for it become established but it was Lyndon Johnson who officially proclaimed June 18th Father's Day in 1966 and Richard Nixon made it a permanent national holiday and signed it in to American law in 1972.
We were invited by our neighbours to celebrate this years Father's Day Breakfast being held at the local Elks ("Benefit And Protective Order of Elks") Lodge.
"Elks invest in their communities through programs that help children grow up healthy and drug-free, meet the needs of today’s veterans, and improve the quality of life." - I quote from one of their web sites, so forgive the bad spelling of 'programmes'. I think the nearest we have to the Elks in the UK is The Buffaloes, though not being a 'club' person I could be wrong.
Anyway, we were invited to the local Elks Lodge and an agreeable hour or more it proved to be.
Father's Day breakfast with the neighbours
We were greeted at the door by a pleasant smiling lady, "Happy Father's Day!" she exclaimed pinning a red carnation to my shirt. "They come from England,"one of our neighbours said. "All that way? Well, you sure are welcome!"
Anna - 'Coffee? Are you regular?'
We pay $6.00 for our breakfast, "You can have as much as you like," we were told. There was a self serve table. There was sausages, toast, pancakes, egg-bread, scrambled eggs, fried eggs - easy over, sunny side up, however you liked them - brought to us freshly cooked. All the servers smile, there are lots of "Happy Father's Day!" greetings. Coffee and orange juice is served at the table by another smiling lady, Anna her name, "Would you like corfee? Orange juice?" she asks. "Yes, coffee please." "Are you regular? "Er... yes, most days..." She laughs, takes a photograph for me of us all sitting at the table.
We sit and chat and take more photographs.
Father's Day American style - with our American neighbours - a most enjoyable couple of hours.
3rd March 2007
There has been no "Pinch punch, first of the month," from H today. Too preoccupied with her Mum's complaints about us going to Florida tomorrow, no doubt. (What, again! How long for this time?")
On Sunday I promised I would drop round to see her before we left, which I do, of course, and I am, gazing through the patio window at the leafless trees swaying about in the wind against a low cloud backdrop, grey and rain threatening, when from behind me she says: "It's alright for some - going off to Florida!" It's an accusation.
"You could come out there, you know that," I say, trying to imagine it. Failing.
A funny snorting sound. "Don't be so daft, boy. At my age. I'm nearly ninety, you know."
Nearly eighty-nine, actually, in December. She says it in a kind of boastful way - and yet on Sunday when I happened to mention she wasn't far off the big nine-oh, she got quite indignant.
"No, I'm not!" She said, sharply, "I'm only eighty-eight."
"Plenty of people your age..." I was going to say 'fly across the Atlantic' But I don't continue. We've been down here plenty of times before. She has never flown - never been out of the country as far as I know. Never will now, I guess.
I brought her some flowers, which pleased her. She fussed around putting them in water, made me tea, and gave me two slices of fruitcake.
"Your lawn needs a feed and weed," I said. looking at the large patches of moss.
"Huh! I'm not paying out for that. It can stay as it is."
She is still as sharp as a knife - especially when it comes to money. Knows the price of everything.
She does very well. Gets about her bungalow and potters in her garden without too much trouble. But she can't walk far. When she comes to the cottage we worry because of all the steps and have to watch her each time she gets up to walk into the kitchen or another room.
I wonder what it's like being "nearly ninety." But to be honest, these days, I am wondering all the time what it is going to be like being seventy. Another few weeks and there I am. I can't get my head around it at all. I mean - seventy is old. Sixty is okay. Sixty is still active, film stars are sixty, (Cher is in her sixties, Michael Caine is in his sixties. Okay, not Michael Caine. DeNiro, he's in his sixties (must be.) And I'm in my sixties, so I don't feel old. In fact I still feel forty, and forty was only ten years ago - wasn't it? It can't have been thirty years ago. Can it?
But in four weeks time, and this is the bit which seems surreal, I will be seventy.
"I want to ask you something," Doris says, serious voice.
I turn round, “Yes?"
"What's the matter with Heather's leg. Why is she limping so much?”
Why indeed, I wish I knew. Nor does Heather. She is not in any pain - she just limps.
When I get home Heather's limping leg is still on my mind and I tell her she must go to see Dr Darcy. To my surprise, she agrees. "As soon as we get back from Circle Bay, she assures me."