He was an engineer and academic, a successful and respected member of a community I have not been allowed to join; I would not want to sully his name, or associate him with the ideas that have brought me rejection and failure.
The foregoing only serves to illustrate the problems I have with tone, and why I have struggled for months to find appropriate words and emotions.
If a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
My Dad was an engineer and a craftsman, who could fix the car and the washing machine; he also contributed to development of the modern jet engine. He created our house from four abandoned cottages, and growing up on a partial building site with a workshop I learnt to understand woods, metals, stone, and their tools, as over the years saw a building stripped down and rebuilt. While none of this dictated that I should end up trying reverse engineering ancient structures from their foundations, it did teach me patience; archaeology, like engineering, is a largely a long term and non-repetitive working pattern. Engineers seeks real solutions that work, but above all, he taught me he taught me to question everything I did, and ask could it be done be done better?
I grew up believing that in all those virtues and abilities that make you a good and useful human being were embodied in my father, but, sadly, were lacking in myself. To say that much of my life has in some sense involved seeking my father’s approval for my work, is perhaps to touch on a more universal truth. But what do I know? I have had only one such relationship and now it’s over. I do feel that I never achieved anything that he could be proud of, that I let the side down, although clearly this reflects my perception of myself, not his view of son.
At the core of my issues with our relationship was my dyslexia, which was not something that really existed in 1960’s, children that did not respond to teaching were lazy or cheeky, both offences that required punishment. I had ended up at a prep school, and did not respond well to being disciplined and beaten for various transgressions. My relationship with my father was via weekly reports detailing every sordid detail my education and errant behaviour; he became just another disapproving authority figure that I would meet during holidays.
As result, he was always very pleased at the slightest sign of achievement in my life, and at some point in my education, spelling stopped being the only criteria by which my value as a human being was judged, and I emerged with a second class degree.
For all of my life my father was always there to rescue me and my family from whatever disaster had befallen us, usually as a result of my poor decision making. He stood by me and made it possible for me to bring up my four children as a single parent, while running my own business. However, my attempt to follow his successful transition from practitioner to teacher at his old University was a decision that in many ways finally ruined both our lives. He had to watch while any prospect of a career, security, personal happiness for his son and family were wiped, and he could do nothing to protect us.
Next . . .
He often helped by proof reading my work for the blog, and always tried to take an interest, by the end I think he had come to accept that there was nothing wrong with it, and he knew others though so too, it was just that they had to meet and discuss my work in secret; worthlessness is catching.
He was a deeply Christian and a good man in every way that matters, he would want me to forgive and move on. Four years ago, for his birthday, I gave him my most significant piece of work “Interlace Theory” – it was all I had; it still is.