I haven’t written about my father before.
He is a difficult man to write about.
He died 32 years ago and I still miss him.
He was a very quiet man – quite the quietest I have ever met. When he spoke, he was always worth listening to. He had a very sharp mind and a very dry sense of humour. He was a civil engineer by profession, but he should have been a philosopher.
I remember one incident that gives a little insight.
Many many years ago, we used to get a lot of Jehovahs Witnesses to our door. My mother used to slam the door in their face. But one day, she was out and they called. My father invited them in.
I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I remember the scene and the gist of it.
The two lads sat there in their immaculate suits, on the edge of the seat. Their faces were aglow. This was probably the first invite they’d had in weeks. They had all their pamphlets and were raring to go.
“What can I do for you?” says my Dad, lighting a cigarette.
“We have come to share the glory of our message” they beamed. They looked like a pair of crows on a telephone wire.
“I don’t believe in all that glory stuff” said my Dad, without blinking. In fact he was a regular Mass-goer, but he wasn’t going to let that spoil a good debate.
So they spent half an hour trying to convince him of their message. They quoted the Bible at him. He quoted the Bible back at them. Every argument they would put up, he would counter it. I felt sorry for them. They hadn’t a chance. I knew he could logically argue that black was white.
You have to understand that my Dad had nothing against these two. He wasn’t trying to convert them. He just occasionally felt like a debate.
They began to get frustrated. They lost every argument, and eventually fell back on the basic argument the you must have faith.
“You must believe in God” they said in desperation.
“Why?” said Dad. “Why should I believe in anything when I don’t know that anything exists?”
They were beginning to despair. I knew my Dad’s argument on Nihilism and it was his ace card.
“But you exist” they said.
“How do you know?” said Dad. “You imagine you see me but I could be a figment of your imagination”
“But we can see you, and hear you, and you are talking to us” they said.
“That could be all in your mind. You can’t prove that I exist”
They were sweating at this stage. They looked distinctly uncomfortable. Their pamphlets were in disarray. My Dad looked relaxed with his cigarette. He looked serious. He actually looked like someone who wanted to be convinced.
“But I know I exist” said one “and I can see you and I can hear you so you must exist.”
“I know I exist” said Dad “and I know I imagine I’m sitting here talking to two nice young men. You could come over and kick me in the shins, but I would just say that I imagined that you came over and kicked me. That doesn’t prove anything. I know I exist, otherwise I couldn’t have these thoughts, but the rest of it – you, the house, my son there, all of it could just be part of my imagination”.
They ran before he could change his mind.