I haven’t seen my dad in far too long. I mean, I have seen him – although due to his knack for wielding his phone at whatever angle pleases him during video calls, I’ve mostly seen his forehead – but I haven’t had the chance to be with him, much less wish him a happy Father’s Day in person.
You may recall that my father is an incredible man who raised 11 kids by himself after my mum died, but since dwelling on that risks becoming sentimental, I’ve spent much of my career cynically documenting his funnier behaviours for profit. There are dozens I’ve never mentioned. So many that my siblings will text out of the blue to remind me of the time he declared he could understand ‘most’ European languages (after discerning that most Spanish words sounded ‘a bit like English words with an O at the end’), or the famous 16-round competition of Christmas puddings he undertook every winter of my childhood (a ‘scientific and rigorous’ ruse to eat said puddings every week from September to New Year’s Day).
My brother Dara mentioned one that’s truly befitting of today. Dara was 12, and had popped outside to grab his cello from the Volvo my father kept as a less mortifying vehicle when journeys didn’t require the 12-seater minibus. Dara engaged the electrical release to open the boot, but the car rolled and his leg became trapped. Dad heard screams and ran outside to find Dara sprawled on the concrete like an upturned tortoise, his cello a shell creaking under the weight of the Volvo slowly rolling over his tiny bones.
Seized by adrenaline, Dad raced to the car and heaved with his bare hands, lifting 1.2 tonnes of Swedish engineering for long enough that Dara wriggled free. If my dad was stunned by his own exertion, such introspection was short lived, and he was soon giving Dara a treatise on how the electronic release should have been deployed. ‘You don’t key the ignition,’ he said to Dara, who was limping indoors sporting a 1,000-yard stare, ‘you turn it to 1, so power goes from the battery to the electrics.’ Dara nodded on uneven feet and marvelled, not for the first time, at my dad’s ability to make the miraculous mundane.
My father is no stranger to emphasising sillier achievements – as the only one of us capable of taking a tan, he’s been known to brandish his browned arms in triumph over his mottled, pale children – so it’s odd, but distinctly him, to downplay such a feat.
Like any proper journalist, I had the story confirmed when I recently video called to ask about it, three decades later. After one minute recounting the moment he literally lifted an actual car, he spent a further eight explaining the mechanism by which electricity is drawn from a Volvo’s battery. Not that I ever doubted my father for a moment, you understand, it was simply good to hear it from the horse’s forehead.
Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats