Just an idea I got this morning, a propos of nothing:
I’ve had those socks since Peter was three and he graduates this year. They’ve got a picture of a boozy Homer Simpson lounging like a slob with a glass of Duff’s in his hand. Peter didn’t choose them of course; Barbara would have done that. She might have said to him ‘Which ones do you think he’d like?’ pointing to a few and thinking at the same time, ‘….make your mind up. It’s really not that important.’
I can see him grinning like a cat as he made his choice just like a grown-up because it was a present for his dad, not sweets for a good boy. He’d been so proud giving them to me on Father’s Day, as if those socks were the greatest gift in the world. He always wore his heart on his sleeve, did little Peter. Absolutely transparent, you could see what he was thinking.
I’ve had them for so many years now and watched the colours fade and the elastic go slack. Each year I chuck out old clothes for the Mencap shop and it’s that time of year again.
I glance at the phone and know that it won’t ring. I’ve followed his progress on Facebook, of course. I trawl through hundreds of photos of drunken parties and hope that the thing he’s smoking is not what I think it is. If he would just call me, I wouldn’t even tell him to stop smoking, I promise, but I know he won’t. You’d think I’d learn after all those years but I still listen for the start of the ring tone. I didn’t expect a card, of course. I don’t suppose young people send cards these days.
I don’t even know why I expect him to take an interest in my life; I lost interest in my parents when I left home. I guess boys are like that; like father, like son. The trouble is that I left him long before he left me. It wasn’t my choice but sometimes life is like that and I can still remember the sound of his screaming as I left, leaving him with Barbara and the new man in her life. I remember it as if it were yesterday. ‘Look,’ they said, ‘This isn’t what we’d planned but we can’t change what’s happened. We have to put the children first.’ And, when I left, I couldn’t even turn round to get a last look at Peter because I don’t think a son should see his father crying.
But time has a way of smoothing out the jagged edges of memory and we even go out to dinner with them sometimes; always get a card at Christmas. I think we were all very adult about the whole thing. They even like Sebastian. Never thought they would. But they’ve compartmentalised that little part of my life and I don’t think that they discuss it in polite company. That was the problem, you see. Little Peter wasn’t told. He found out by accident. Until then, he thought Sebastian was just my best friend. I squirm when I think about it. How different it would have been of he’d been told before he’d learnt how to be real adult with all that hypocrisy and prejudice. Regrets. I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention. I wish Sebastian wouldn’t play that music so loud.
He popped his head around the door.
‘Have you finished yet?’
He picked up the Simpson’s socks and tossed them into the air, catching them in his mouth. He’s always doing crazy things like that. I grabbed them back and he grinned.
‘Are you finally going to throw those ragged old things out?’
I squeezed them in my hand and put them back in the drawer, closing it gently.
‘Maybe next year.’