Today is the 49th anniversary of the day my father died, just before his 30th birthday and just after my 5th. The elders of my family say dad was the spitting image of Clark Gable. I only have distant childhood memories and some photographs to go on, but the pics confirm there was indeed a striking resemblance. It’ll be his birthday on Monday, actually. He was born on the 29th February in a leap year but celebrated his birthday on the 28th in other years. He’d be 79 this year. I wonder what his middle-and-old ages would have been like. I think he must have been a good man, even taking into account the natural legend-building tendencies of families.
Some time ago, I wrote this to him:
I remember you from photographs and family stories. You, at the helm of the old yacht you renovated and learned to race and lost in that bad Fastnet year. He thought the pipe made him look older. You, skiing in Germany. Two years of love letters upstairs in a box. You and mum, signing the register in retouched Technicolor. Aunt Edna always said he looked like Clark Gable. You, holding the infant me in faded black and white. He cried the night you were born. You were dead by the time I could walk my own road, but later I saw your face every day in my shaving mirror. Did I grow my beard to escape from your long shadow? And did I go to sea to find my own legend in waves taller than yours? How can a man compete with perfection?