The Hairy Ape made me think about my Daddy and I don’t know why?

November 6, 2015

My thoughts on The Hairy Ape are here: https://wherewordsend.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/in-which-i-overthought-the-hairy-ape-until-my-tiny-mind-imploded/.

So, if you clicked this link, this bit isn’t actually about the play at all, but about family and ancestors.  I probably shouldn’t share it.  But now I have.  I won’t go over anything I said there.

In all honesty, at times, as the play went on it was hard to focus on entirely for me because I started to think about my Dad.  It made me want to share the story of my Father with the entire world.  I suppose The Hairy Ape offers the story of a man whose story would less often be heard.  Whatever the reason, it made me think of how wonderful my Dad was and how few people will ever know it.  I don’t understand why, for my Dad was absolutely nothing like Yank in any way.  But once you start thinking… as Yank could tell you, it is hard to stop…?  I think it was that bit when Yank is first on Fifth Avenue that got me.  Yank’s at-odds-ness with his location. Has anyone not known that in a sense in a similar way with others they’ve known?

Am I the only person to think of men from their family/that they know/have known while watching this play?  I said my Dad, but he isn’t the only one I thought of.  I really want to talk about some of what it made me feel, but I’m really confused about exactly what or how and it feels too personal to share.  But I am going to try to write something.

I never knew this man from my family, so it is easier to begin with him:

IMG_5498

His name was James (guess they probably called him Jimmy, but I know so little about him that I don’t even know this) and he was a merchant seaman.  No-one still alive knew him beyond when they were a very young child because he died during the second world war.  He was lost at sea.  But he worked on ships (before the war too) and there is this photo of him.  He looks so innocent to me.  He was 36 when he died.  Later, his wife (who had 6 children, the youngest two babies when he was lost) was invited to go to London to see the memorial there, but she could not afford the travel cost so never got there, never saw it.  When I think how easily I decide to just nip down to London, it seems crude, obscene.  I feel desperately sad for her and my life in comparison seems so easy I feel ashamed.  And for this man.  Look at him.  He didn’t know his own children.  I wonder what he was like.


It is a very personal thing to write about real people you knew.  My Dad is dead so I can’t imagine he’d care what I said.  I actually can’t imagine anymore what he’d think of any thing anymore.  Sometimes I wonder what he’d think of who I am now or what I do as he never knew what I’d be.  I’ve no idea.  It’d be so sad were I to write about him and nobody cared, but why would anyone?  The saddest thing of all, for he was so much better and more interesting a person than I will ever be.

My Dad had a scar across his knuckles from a time when he was a child and his older brother was chasing butterflies with an axe but my Dad, as his brother brought down the axe, put his hand in the way to protect a butterfly.  When this brother died, many years later, he sobbed in the porch.  He’d left the house because he didn’t want anyone to see him cry, but child-me found him there.  My Dad was kind and funny. When he died I felt I lost anything remotely humorous and fun within me too.  I don’t want to write much about him and I can’t bring myself to share any photograph. I shared that one thing really to highlight simply how unlike Yank he or his life was. Just to reiterate how it wasn’t the character himself who made me think of him.

But circumstances meant my Dad worked from when he was a teenager in a tobacco factory.  I know he hated it as he told me so.  He told me it was something he would have changed if he could have.  He didn’t even smoke himself (seems a bit weird to think of it I guess, considering the age he began working there?) & all sorts went on in said factory.  And it didn’t matter so much for him, for he had a life outside with family, football: he’d record himself singing his favourite artist’s songs (he’d insert my name in them sometimes and pretend he wrote ’em and we’d laugh!) and he rode his bike – his favourite place to be was outside – freedom.  He rode from Liverpool to France once.  Clearly his work did matter to him though, or he surely would not have mentioned it to me?

But my Dad had wanted to be a carpenter and he made all sorts of incredible stuff for us always.  At some point when he was still young, a man offered him an apprenticeship to do carpentry.  I don’t know if it was through work or outside.  Whatever the case, as he was over 21 the man was not allowed to take him on.  So my Dad worked in that factory his whole life.  Thankfully he took early retirement when I was still little, ’cause he didn’t live to be old.  But he made things.  He could have made that his life had he had the opportunity.  But he didn’t.  When I think about the wonderful man that he was, all the people he helped, how he could talk to anyone and how few people there are now who even know of him…  Even the idea that every person who will ever know me from this day forth will never know my incredible Father… If I think about it, it feels unbearable.

The play also made me think about what my parents gave me I guess.  My intelligent, insightful Mum and my kind, funny, full of personality Dad who both could have been much more than they were made my world such that I could do and be more than they had the opportunity to.  Not just that I never wanted for anything, but in the way they enabled me to see the world and my place and possibility in it.  Not that there is a single great thing about me (and they definitely didn’t succeed in raising my self esteem, clearly, haha!  But I blame ME for that!) but I could never thank my parents enough for all they’ve given me the chance to be.

So, while I was watching it, The Hairy Ape made me feel close to my incredible Dad.  Who has been gone for years so there is no need to be sad, but I will miss him always.  If you’d known him, you’d understand.  And while I fear this distracted me a little from the play and made me sad, I also thank the play for it as it is nice to feel close.

I am worried it is really odd that I felt this though.  And feel almost skin-crawly with shame that I wrote it down.  Sigh.

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One Response to “The Hairy Ape made me think about my Daddy and I don’t know why?”

  1. […] I don’t know whether to write this, because it is both a wild digression and feels too personal. But small things in the play once Yank has made it outside made me think not just about Yank, but about other people.  Insecurities he displayed actually made me understand for the first time insecurities I have seen in other people I have known (none of whom are at all like Yank I may add!)  Or perhaps I should say, insecurities in Yank made me realise oddities about people I know or have known even are/were insecurities.  And if you want to read more about this, I’ve written it separately here. […]

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