My Almost-Deadbeat Dad

giraffe plush toy close up photo
Photo by Akshar Dave on

My Almost-Deadbeat Dad

When I was only one year old,
My father really should have disappeared –
Just sloped off to the bookies on an everlasting Tuesday afternoon.
And all my life I would have told
Of how my sainted mother persevered,
And how, for all I know or care, he’s god-knows-where
And won’t be coming back home soon.
But somehow dad could never get it right –
He’d bet a pound or two, and down a half,
But always make it home at night,
And spend his winning on another toy giraffe for me.
He hung around when I was two, he hadn’t quit when I was three,
At four he was still keeping near –
At six, and ten, and seventeen – still here !
Forgetting birthdays till the day before,
And even then he wasn’t sure which one it was that year.

He should have been an alcoholic,
But he never got the hang of drinking.
He always loved to flirt and frolic,
Gave the eye to ev’ry barmaid while he nursed his half.
But I doubt he ever got beyond the winking,
I doubt he wanted sex at all – he did it for a laugh.
He’d walk a straight line home, far short of tight,
And always home in time to kiss goodnight,
His breath with just a hint of hops, but hardly stinking.

My mum would sigh and often chide him,
He’d just smile and promise to be good.
He rarely did the cooking, but he sometimes did the washing up.
I’d wonder how she could abide him,
But she did – I never understood.
He’d make this face I’d only seen before on Andrex puppies,
Whenever he had accident’ly smashed her fav’rite cup.
He spent a lot of time laid off, and mum would have to work
He’d sometimes pick me up from school, but like as not I’d have to walk,
But most of all, he always had to think what he should do –
His had no instant instinct for it,
Kinda wished he could ignore it,
Though he still got on and bore it, kinda saw it through.
He never planned to be a father – found himself a dad at twenty-two.

But you know, it seems to me
In a thousand thousand universes,
This one here is probably the only one in which he stayed.
All those other hims are chasing nurses or some three-legg’d jade.
I don’t know why he’s diff’rent, but some tiny little diff’rence
Has made him just too soft and weak to quit his wife and kid.
In all this multiverse immense,
His stopping hardly makes much sense,
But all in all, I guess I’m glad he did.

This poem is in no way autobiographical.

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