second fiddle

It’s an easy, long standing joke; one which I naturally inhabit as second child, and one which I play to. 

In the local pub, to neighbours, while sitting next to Mum:  “No, I thought I’d come home because my brother and his family are visiting tomorrow and there’s always a party when they’re here.  There wasn’t even any milk last time I came back.” 

During a cobbled lunch when the six month old tot is lumped onto a rug in the corner of the room: “Get used to it, kid; regular second child treatment.” 

These truths are underscored with a thick line of knowing, black humour. 

Home-made biscuit tins were full, old toys taken out of hiding, meals planned, activities considered, “my” bedroom converted into a playroom.

It’s understandable that a two-point-four family would generate more excitement in a grandmother (my mother) than her difficult, unfathomable second son.  This is acceptable.  (I’m not without comparison to The Stone Roses’ Second Coming). 

This time though, Dad disappoints.  I’d mentioned wanting a car and he’d mentioned looking around here, at home, and back in London too, as there would obviously be more to choose from down there.  With a sturdy and knowledgeable sidekick in my father, I would feel confident in landing a reasonable vehicle.  The more research I did, the more I suspected that there would be a better deal to be had in London. 

In nearly three years there, he has never been down to visit me in London.  I make the effort to sponsor and support him when he runs the London Marathon – and will do again soon.  He also comes down now and then on brief business trips, but we don’t meet up.  I naturally bow to the familial obligation of returning home now and then to feel emasculated and underdeveloped. 

He’s just.. well, not all that bothered really. 

As well being slightly lazy (never cooks or cleans, takes long afternoon dozes), I think he may fear London now, despite living there for a few years in his crazy hedonistic youth.  He’s grown used to a slower pace and the roads he knows which connect villages and small towns.  I sense he’s not assured in managing city traffic and is unnerved by newness generally: easily panicked by plans and travel, never prone to impulse, a meticulous planner.

Yet for all that, a good man: always there for his family, generous with cash, helped out my brother and his family as much as you’d expect with funding houses and cars and children.  The second child has been less demanding in this respect.  

As we trailed a handful of limited garages in our local area, I gleaned from his answers that, having actually thought about it, he wasn’t all that keen to come to London and help me.

I was grateful for his imparted knowledge, The Things To Look For, and that he was willing to take me round these local garages.  But I wanted him to want to help me out that extra mile; make a two hour trip to London sometime, perhaps stay overnight.  It’s not a common sort of request.

Never one to persuade anyone to do anything they seem reticent about, I steered him away from the idea.  Even though I came to understand that I wanted him to counter me and say, “no, no, I can come down.”  It sank in, the familiar realisation that Dad isn’t really all that arsed. 

“So don’t feel you have to if you…” I said in the car as we drove home from the last small garage, because we often speak to each other in incomplete sentences.  “I mean I’ll happily just go it alone if you’re..”

He didn’t say anything, made a phatic murmuring noise – of which he has a great range.  This one’s meaning was a non-committal yeah, you can do.

A common father-son communication breakdown; I should simply express my wish for him to make the effort.  But I want him to want to himself.  And he doesn’t, so he won’t.

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One Response to second fiddle

  1. Pingback: men and motors « Swashbuckled

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