I saved and saved up all my pocket money to get my Dad something special for Father’s Day. Mum took me to the shops and I went directly to Darrell Lea, running off before she could offer advice involving socks or cheap whisky. Darrell Lea in those days was an absolute mind bender. Tiny glass bottles filled with striped tooth-cracking sweets. Rows of glistening caramel fudge. Straps of liquorice in vivid black and, get this: red. Shelves and shelves of cellophane wrapped delicacies to make taste buds zing.
I walked round and round, breathing in the sugar infused air and forgetting why I was there, until my eyes lit upon the tiny eggs of excellence, known as scorched almonds. I knew I must have them. I counted out my silver and copper and secreted them away, ready for the big day.
My Dad looked at my face when he opened his present, and so he knew how special I thought it was. He looked at my eyes, and not at the wrapping, and so when he carefully tore it open, he saw a way to build me up and create another blanketing of self confidence, his mouth turning up a little at the corners as he told me scorched almonds were his favourite things ever.
I will never know if that was true, or if it became true with time, as the years added up, every time I remembered. And every time he pretended to be surprised that the familiar box, with the comforting clunks inside, were his scorched almonds. “You remembered my favourites,” he would say, and my chest would puff up, prouder than an airbag, and I knew I could arm-wrestle the world right there, and I would win.
It has been a few years since I have been able to give my Dad his scorched almonds. A few years since we have been able to sit together in silence, eating our almonds in our own ways. Him: crunching through the thick chocolate to get to the nut quickly and eat it all as one. Me: slowly sucking the weird, shiny layer off first, then allowing the chocolate to dissolve and dissolve until finally chomping the almond, with tiny traces of chocolate remaining in the grooves.
It has been a few years, and still, every year I buy the almonds, and every year I eat them alone. Alternating between his way and mine. Remembering all the times he built me up a little bit and then a little bit more. Until the layers of confidence, resilience, tenacity, strength were as thick as the bitter-sweet chocolate, buffering, protecting the nut inside.
Vale Peter Cartney McShane, and Happy Father’s Day.
It still hurts like a bitch.
…From The Ashers xx