Father’s Day. 07.30am. I sneak downstairs hoping to catch the family by surprise as they lay out a smorgasbord of gifts for me.
Last Father’s Day, I shuffled downstairs late and a little the worse for wear. I had an old egg yolk stain on my T-shirt and a few day’s stubble. I received a volley of abuse from Mother. She said my slovenliness was disrespectful to the efforts of my wife, children and those who died to defend freedom in the world wars.
This year I’ve cleaned my teeth
This year, I’ve cleaned my teeth and shaved and put on fresh pyjamas because I want to look respectable opening my presents at the breakfast table. Also, I want to avoid Father’s Day celebrations getting off on the same negative footing as last year. If my family have gone to the effort of buying to me presents and making a full English breakfast the least I can do is scrub up.
As I creep past Mother’s room, I hear her snoring gently, probably dreaming about ‘Avengers: The Age of Ultron’, which we watched as a family last night. She enjoyed the movie but was horrified at the number of cars, houses, shops, trains, planes, office blocks and streets which were turned over, smashed up, pulled to pieces, bombed to the ground and generally messed up by the Avengers team.
Mother thinks Hulk is a real stuntman
‘We couldn’t have afforded to destroy so many sets when I was at Denham Studios,’ she says, reflecting on her war time role as an assistant editor.
My daughter explains the sets are made with CGI and not real buildings.
‘It’s more like a cartoon than an old fashioned movie.’
This explanation seems to satisfy Mother.
‘The stuntmen are better than in my day, especially that big green one,’ she says pointing at Hulk, as he runs up an office block, ripping out windows as he goes.
The fact Mother is not awake does not worry me. She’s been delegating her gifting obligations to my wife or daughter for years now. She no longer wants to watch me opening presents so there’s no point her getting up this early on Father’s Day.
Something about the room is amiss
But, as I step into the sitting room, I start to feel something about the room is amiss.
First, the curtains are still drawn and a coke is lounging on its side on the carpet. Second, I can’t see any cutesy Father’s Day cards or colourful packages with my name on them. All I can see are sagging balloons left over from my son’s 18th birthday earlier in the week.
In the kitchen, no one is around. There are no piles of gifts, just plates in the sink.The place is like the Marie Celeste, devoid of life, not even a pot of coffee warming on the stove for me. I can almost hear the faint echo of my son’s last game of ‘Mortal Kombat’, finished, only a few hours before, mocking me. ‘Die, die, die’, it says.
This is how the patriarchy ends, then. Not with a bang but a whimper. Not with a sold-out farewell tour to Fatherhood, but a sink full of unwashed plates.
Women have washed the dishes for millenia
I have no right to be disappointed, of course. For Millenia, women have woken up every morning to face a sink full of dirty dishes alone. Why shouldn’t I suffer the same fate? And, to be fair to the family, they’ve had a lot to organise this week: two events for my son’s 18th; the return of my daughter after months in lock down and a crunch week at work for my wife.
I completely understand Father’s Day was just one event too many for them to think about. Perhaps letting me watch both Premier League football games yesterday without complaining about it was my Father’s Day gift?
I’m not disappointed though. So, I give myself a little time to brine in vengeful thoughts like a Medici Pope. I try to invent sarcastic jokes to throw at them when they come downstairs but none of them quite zing:
Q: Who put the fun into Father’s Day?
A: I don’t know. I couldn’t be F***ing bothered to get out of bed that day to find out.
A: I don’t know, I outsource that sort of stuff to Serco.
I realise I’m going to have to work a lot harder before I get anything into the Father’s Day Book of Jests and Japes, when my daughter’s boyfriend comes into the kitchen.
‘Morning,’ I say.
‘Morning,’ he says.
‘Father’s Day,’ I say.
‘Jeez, I had no idea. I better go text my Dad right now. Thanks for reminding me,’ he says and shoots upstairs to get his phone.
Father’s Day is a fraud
Father’s Day is a $12bn event worldwide, apparently. I don’t believe this is a credible number. It’s just a fraudulent figure based on the goodwill value of tweets, texts and WhatsApp messages hurriedly sent by guilty family members who have forgotten to put the celebration in their diaries.
To console myself I unwrap a couple of my favourite sausages from Huntsham Farm, who produce the finest rare-breed meats. I pop them into a pan on a low heat. These sausages will be solace enough for any Father’s Day breakfast.
I look out into the garden, any vengeful feelings slipping away slowly as the sausages spit and sizzle. The cat is sitting in the middle of the lawn, meowing. I open the patio door. The cat leans forward and picks up a dead mouse in his jaws and slinks towards me, dropping it at my feet, like a gift.