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Son of a Gun

FATHER’S DAY falls this Sunday but I’ve already had the best possible rise out of it: for five days last week, both my adult children were at home. My son returned to London last Thursday, my daughter will at month-end. But every second with them both was magical. We are all on the long and winding road that leads to we all know where (even if some us hope and pray it ends somewhere else). I am farther down the road and love to turn and watch them run, dance and leap down it.

But I will chinks out my remaining time in baby steps.
My own father taught me an incredible – it is the right word – amount when he was alive; but he taught me even more in death. In the early Nineties, my father’s last years (he died on 4 April 1993), I often turned up from London myself on my parents’ doorstep. And they’d just let me into my old room.
When Vodka Hitler took Europe a hundred years into the past on 24 February, I was staying with my mother, as part of the extended celebration of her 86th birthday. She’s always been as excellent as I have been hopeless with numbers and, when I said, “This last happened in 1939” she replied, at once, “I was three!” World War II ended the year she turned nine (though that’s my arithmetic, and she might well have been 13).
In the near 30 years since he died, I don’t think I missed my father more than in that first month of Putin’s Sin. If he’d lived, my father would be 90. His late adolescence/early adulthood spanned his university education in North America and the start of the Cold War. Mine spanned the Rolling Stones, the Mighty Shadow and Catch-22. For all his brilliance, my father’s simplistic view of the East-West conflict made capitalism (though a severely regulated form of it) good and every commie bastard bad.
I suspect I would have been far more pessimistic than him about Russia’s state murder today – but he would probably have been relieved to know I was not one of the dunce-intellectuals blaming the invasion of Ukraine on NATO belligerence.
If he had not died so early – two years younger than I am now – I really don’t know what our relationship would be like today. We might have continued growing increasingly close, as we were in his last years, or may have drifted far apart, as we were for most of what I must call my own adult days – although I cannot imagine him letting anything get between him and his only granddaughter.
When my father lived, all his children’s spouses had been led to St Anns, like mad people, and lunch at his house every Sunday. When he died, we spread out. South America. North America. Trinidad. Barbados.
All three of my sister’s sons went to the same high school in Parkland, Florida in the 90s and 2000s, and one that became famous – notorious – on Valentine’s Day, 2018, when a deranged young man murdered 17 students there with the same kind of gun used in Uvalde recently.
Had they been my children’s age, all my sister’s sons could easily have been shot dead at their school on the same day.
That’s how small our modern world is.
The actor Matthew McConaughey at the White House held up a pair of green Converse sneakers, the only thing that identified one victim in the Uvalde murders; the rest of this innocent little girl was so torn apart by the bullets from a weapon of war that her own parents could not recognise her.
And Americans will still elect a majority of Republicans in November.
Who will tell you plainly they will always repeal Roe v Wade and force rapist pregnancies to term and never repeal assault weapon bans, because they need them to shoot prairie dogs in the old slave states.
Even his Cold War upbringing would not have prevented my father from understanding what a hot mess Trump’s America is now. An atheist all his adult life, my father would have discerned that a zealous religious minority – itself made up of a majority of white supremacists convinced they are being replaced – were destroying the best things America stood for: religious tolerance; political and personal freedom; and economic opportunity. America’s hatred of children and love of guns can only lead it to ever greater disaster.
Before he died, after 1990, my father told me he would never have a gun in his house because it could lead to one of his precious grandsons being accidentally killed.
His best friends may well have called him euphemistically ‘a son of a gun’ – and they might often have been right.
But I’m very glad to say that I most definitely am not.

BC Pires is asking not for whom the bells toll in Ukraine and Uvalde

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