Father and Son

Raymond Friel

Unbearably buoyant the night before
My return to Blairs, I’d be brought back down
To earth by Dad’s Polonius routine.
He’d been there in the black and white Forties,
And had to leave, he said, only because ...

Now, in the grey-skied secular Nineties,
Home with a girlfriend who’s not a Catholic,
I psych myself for one of our wee talks.
A curt ‘she’s lovely,’ though, is not the fierce
Sectarian wrangle I’d predicted.

Thin-armed in his vest, fishing a tea-bag
Out of a garish SCOTTISH POWER mug,
He urns to theology ... the garden
He’s pottered in since the leaden handshake.
‘It’s the only chance I get,’ he mock pleads.

I’m beat but listen, behind the big sighs
I always did; deep down, like him,
A believer in the examined life; and God knows
He’s put the hours in: steeling himself
For the strange revelations of the king.