“I’d always know’’dad to be a strict and distant father,” recalled Anita as she told me her recent experience. It would have been a hilarious one if it weren’t so pathetic. “He was also a bit of a tightwad,” she continued. “In spite of the fact that he ran a fairly successful Public Relations firm, we kids never had all the interesting toys kids of our status had.
There was this doll I really wanted when I was 10. A few of my friends had it and Mum promised I would get one on my birthday. ‘Too expensive,’ Dad had told me. Mum had to make me settle for a much cheaper doll instead. Looking back, it seemed like my birthdays as a child had been a disappointment.
“It wasn’t a question of money as he had some A-list clients, he just hated spending money. Whenever he promised to take mum abroad, he often reneged on his promise and went on business trips instead. She could well afford to go on her own as she had a good income from her late parents’ estate, but dad wouldn’t hear of it. It wasn’t all about the money. 0k, so he was tight, but why couldn’t he just give us more of his time instead? That cost nothing.
“Even after we started having children of our own, you scarcely see him at his grand children’s birthdays. Last Christmas, my eldest son had a role as Joseph in their school’s nativity play. He was very excited about his grand-dad’s promise to attend but, as usual, only mum arrived. ‘Dad has to work in the office till late again?’ I snarled. My mum just sagged. ‘See, I’ve brought your dad’s camcorder. We’ll record everything so he’ll get to see it after all.’ I harrumphed. Thank goodness my son’s performance was brilliant and I happily recorded everything as mum is always all fingers and thumbs when it comes to electronic gadgets. 1 couldn’t wait to see the footage myself, before dad did.
“After I’d transferred the film onto tape, 1 got my son off to bed, then settled down to relieve his moment in the spot-light.
“I smiled at the kids’ antics and their teacher’s efforts to make them behave. And then there was my son as Joseph, squinting from the stage trying to spot me. The film was almost at the end as I listened to our applause when suddenly the picture flicked onto something I didn’t remember recording. Was this something Dad had recorded? Oh, my God! I blinked, couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing – my Dad, stark-naked and filling the screen. It looked as if he was in a posh hotel; abroad maybe? Despite the fact that the picture was wobbling, I could hear a woman’s voice laughing in the background – and it wasn’t Mum.
“My eyes nearly went off their sockets as a well-groomed woman in her twenties came laughing into focus – naked as the day she was born. Then they kissed and ended as a heap on the bed. I hit the ‘stop’ button. My dad. Playing around? That cheating, double-crossing, swine! Working away? Playing away more like! I couldn’t sleep that night and I didn’t have the courage to tell my husband what the matter was. I knew I had to confront Dad with what I’d seen. I didn’t have long to wait. I got back from dropping my son off at his school to find my flustered father waiting for me.
“`Mum said she lent you my camcorder … ‘he started. Yesssl’ I hissed, waving the video tape at him. ‘And very interesting it was too.’ Dad tried to deny everything at first. Pathetic. I told him I’d seen all there was to see. Then he just struggled, dejected. ‘I have a great respect for your mother,’ he begged. ‘Please don’t tell her.’ All the pent-up resentment boiled to the surface. ‘You have a great respect for her?’ I yelled, ‘All those years she begged to be taken abroad on holidays with you and you ended up disappointing her – only to take a gold-digger instead. When was the last time you thanked her, bought her a decent present?’
Then this idea hit me on the spot. I know, deep down, I could never tell her. I couldn’t hurt Mum like that. But Dad had to pay somehow. And I knew what would hurt him most – a blow to his pocket. ‘If you promise to take her on your next trip abroad as a treat, that would about do it,’ I told him. But why stop there? Dad was a selfish grand- dad. And when was the last time he’d done anything nice for me? ‘I almost forgot Dad,’ I continued, twisting the knife in, ‘David’s school has already started making plans to take some of the pupils on summer holiday. I told him I’d ask you if you could help.’
“I’d asked him once and he flatly refused. So, I was blackmailing him. But whatever nip of guilt I felt was neutralised by how Dad spent little on his family. He didn’t argue and promised to shell out on my son’s summer holiday. These days, Dad now spends more time at home and is always surprising Mum with little gifts. He’d asked for the tape and I’d gladly given it back to him. I’d made my point!”