Susan Hanks grew up with a dad who was sometimes grouchy. But age has brought understanding for her and a mellower time for him. As long as you don’t nick his chocolate stash or play Kanye West.
“Just like our Alan” has been uttered by many members on the Hanks side of the family. My mate Lou, on meeting Mr Hanks decided to call me Alan from then on. Yes, I’m like my dad. I’m stubborn, enjoy peace and quiet and deafeningly loud music in equal measure, and can’t abide anyone stealing food from my plate. Ask. I’ll share (sometimes).
Growing up, he was thunder pants (he remains so but with different connotations these days). He was the man who lived with us that smelled of wood and paint in the working week, Brut on a Friday night, stale booze on a Saturday and often creosote on a Sunday.
I was the paint brush passer who snapped around his ankles until he man-caved and agreed to take me with him to whichever hardware store had a sausage sandwich van located nearby (sorry Mum, that’s why I couldn’t eat my roast dinner).
Journeys were quiet except for the habitual argument over which radio station we tuned into. I found it difficult to accept his grumpiness at times, not understanding why working six days a week, seven leading up to Christmas to pay for our presents, and still having money worries was not the motorbike riding, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle that he had perhaps imagined for himself. I often clock up a 50-hour working week these days and totally get why a small person screeching to New Kids on the Block and nagging to go to Disneyland would be a challenging thing to return home to.
My dad is a very patient man. This was tested to its utter limit when he taught me to drive and I neglected the brakes, indicators and the entire Highway Code. I passed first time, but the compromise was Alan’s hair colour. It can be no coincidence that his first grey hairs appeared in 1998.
Adding to his wiry waves was the dreadful news that already having put his elder daughter through university, I now wanted to follow in her footsteps. An arty-farty course though, with no real job prospects at the end.
I can still hear the low, guttural, Brummie grunt that left his lips as my mum told him that it would turn out well in the end. She was right. He didn’t need a degree to teach him that, in a household of three women, he will never be right.
“We are all guilty of zoning out as he regales us of stories about the price differences between all of his favourite DIY stores and how he has trailed all the shops in pursuit of his favourite soap.”
In a world where I hear that men fear offending us by being ‘old fashioned’ in their approach, my father exists to bring his wife a cup of tea in bed every day, ensure she doesn’t have to go to the bar and carry the heavy bags. He would be offended if you declined his help. He knows he is welcome to visit my sister and I in our homes at any time, but that it’s probably best if he brings his tool kit (an old bag of screws and spare plugs and cable ties).
A few years ago everything changed. My father was knocked off his motorbike, a 60th birthday present from my mum. Life-changing injuries and an unfair outcome from the insurance has resulted in difficulties that could have driven us all round the bend.
He is still undergoing surgery to alleviate the pain he suffers on a daily basis, and yet the only thing I hear him moan about – extensively – is if we eat his chocolate stash (he’s the owner of a lab-made set of sweet teeth, possibly originating from a family employment history at Cadbury’s). I’m lying: he also moans about the state of Kanye West, but don’t we all?
These days, car journeys are far from quiet. He’s found his voice and boy does this man like to natter. We are all guilty of zoning out as he regales us of stories about the price differences between all of his favourite DIY stores and how he has trailed all the shops in pursuit of his favourite soap (he’s been using it since the 70s, why must ‘they’ make it so difficult to locate now?).
He has adapted to modern life in lots of ways. His love of emoticons has baffled us all as he often communicates using nothing else – the chocolate ice-cream, which we all know isn’t used to represent chocolate ice-cream, his favourite. He is aware of the works of SIA, whom he refers to as ‘the lady that wears her hair backwards’ and has bought a ‘machine’ that is designed to covert his vinyl to mp3. He just can’t work out how to use the bloody thing.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I couldn’t afford a present so this will have to do, unless you lend me a fiver? I could use it to replace the chocolate I ate from beside your chair on my last visit.
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Presenter on Moorlands Radio 103.7FM Drive Time, weekdays 4-7pm. Join Susan in 'shaking what ya mamma gave ya' for the daily Derriere Dance. Rhythm/leotard not essential.