OPINION: I knew something was up the minute he stomped through the front door. Eyebrows and mouth downward-slanted and a dark cloud swirling around him, my hubby trudged his way down the wooden-floored passageway, muttering to himself as he neared the lounge.
I looked up in concern. 'Bad golf game?' I asked, battering a bowl of chocolate cake mix within an inch of its life.
'Did your mate beat you again?'
He looked at me daggers. 'As it happens, he did,' he replied snakily. 'But that's not the problem. I feel let down, under- valued and totally ignored, as it happens. And it's all your fault.'
As one who is, on a daily basis, blamed for nearly everything (including, the other day, at fault for not reminding my daughter that the school skirt she'd chosen to wear was the one her backside looked big in), I wasn't unduly alarmed.
'What's wrong?' I enquired calmly, stirring the Russian fudge in its pot on the stove and adding some chocolate melts to the cake mixture at the same time. 'What have I done now?'
He scowled menacingly. 'Not one of my three children has wished me a happy Father's Day . . . not one! I haven't been cooked breakfast in bed, I haven't been given scorched almonds, I haven't had a card made for me or even received a hug or pat on the back.
'All three of them have forgotten Father's Day.
"And it's your fault, because you forgot as well, and then didn't remind them.'
I smiled serenely. 'Actually, I didn't forget,' I said happily. 'I wished my own dad a happy day. The thing is, you're not my father so it's not my job to do anything for you on Father's Day.
'You'll just have to take it up with your own children, I'm afraid.'
He snorted with derision, something he does when he knows I have a valid point.
'Okay, I will then,' he said immaturely, then asked me where they were.
In their bedrooms, at a guess, I replied, gazing with concern at the pancake-flat meringues frying crisply on oven trays in the Fisher & Paykel. They sure didn't look like my grandmother's legendary taste sensations.
You see, for my extended family, Mother's and Father's Days have never been a huge deal. As kids, we probably made a card from some discarded wallpaper and a bit of glue for mum every second year, and I do recall journeying down Smart Rd to the corner dairy for a tea towel or other "housewife item" that at the time seemed appropriate but in hindsight wasn't.
As far as Father's Day insinuated itself onto the family calendar . . . well, it didn't. I remember making Dad a cake one year, although it could have been for his birthday, and I'm sure we made sand scenes at primary school when I was about 7 for the benefit of our dads. Mine was a lovely panorama of blue sand with a hydrangea border - I think I got a special star for it.
I once asked my Aunty Jenny why we had special days for mothers and fathers, and why we had to buy presents when it wasn't their birthday. She said it was a stupid populist fad from America that promoted false consumerism for the benefit of conglomerates, or something along those lines. However she coined it, special days just lost their gloss from that day onward.
My hubby's family, on the other hand, are well and truly ingrained with those special yet supercilious celebrations.
He won't even breathe deeply on Mother's Day before he rings his mammy to wish her a good day, and texts his Irish aunties religiously every St Patrick's Day to sing When Irish Eyes are Smiling (generally very loudly).
Birthday wishes are sacrosanct for his family too. Last year, he rang his mother so early on the morning of her birthday that she was still asleep. And even though his brother and sister quite frequently forget his special day, he prides himself on never forgetting theirs.
It was probably that thought that forced Little Weenie 14-year- old out of her bedroom on Sunday afternoon. 'I feel so guilty,' she said wanly, licking the saucepan clean of all traces of Russian fudge. 'I think I'll make Dad a cake. The poor man's having a bit of a terrible Father's Day. We owe it to him to do something - particularly you, as you forgot to remind us.'
Quiet Middle Child bounced down the stairs from his bedroom.
'Poor Dad,' he said plaintively. 'We should have remembered. He's so hurt. It's all your fault, Mum. You should have reminded me.'
I looked up from icing the chocolate crunch slice. 'Why don't you take Dad down the beach and throw a rugby ball around?' He looked at me like I was a transvestite at a Catholic wedding. 'That's taking it a bit too far, isn't it?' he asked incredulously. 'It's only Father's Day, not Christmas!'
Much later on, hubby sat on the couch chewing the unusually textured cake his daughter had whipped up for him, read a few lines of the book she'd bought him and talked to his Eldest Child on the phone about work, friends and our annual New Year holiday with close friends. He looked happy, a dad amongst his family, valued and celebrated. Finally.
"So,' he said casually, as I collapsed on the couch after my marathon cooking session to watch a bit of Miranda, 'what are we doing on Friday then?'
I screwed up my nose in confusion. 'This coming Friday?' I said, questioningly. 'The day after Thursday, the day before Saturday? I dunno.
'Why do you ask?'
He rolled his eyes dramatically, eyebrows and mouth fell southward and he wound up for another hissy fit. 'If you don't remember - after more than 25 years - what that date signifies to me, then there's no hope,' he said miserably. 'Forget I asked.'
You'd think, after all that time, that he'd recognise when I was winding him up. Happy birthday babe!
- © Fairfax NZ News
What's your view of sand mining?Related story: Environmental group urges mining fight
with Rachel Stewart
Matt Rilkoff's perspective of contemporary life
with Gordon Brown
With Kathryn Calvert
The self-confessed bard of Brixton, offers views on life, politics and Akubra hats.
with Glenn McLean