Pushing my hand into my pocket for my car keys, I caught a glimpse of myself in a window and it was my Dad looking back. With the passing years, I realize how much like him I have begun to look and how even my mannerisms are inherited from him.
If it is not possible for behaviours themselves to be transmitted genetically, then there must be some element within the genetic coding that predisposes a person to behave in a certain way.
If there is an abiding image of him, it is of him standing in the kitchen, ready to take my mother somewhere. He is wearing a pale blue windcheater, an open necked shirt and pale grey cotton trousers. He has his wallet and his car keys in his hand, and is impatient to go. He has been ready to leave for at least half an hour before it was necessary. It is an image that expresses much about him that I seem to have inherited.
Dad was always early, sometimes absurdly early. If he was planning to catch a ferry, he might be at the port three or four hours before boarding commenced. He would always insist that time must be allowed for potential traffic jams or accidents. He hated cities because he hated traffic, he would drive miles extra to be able to roll along at a sedate forty miles per hour. He would listen to the traffic news on the BBC local radio stations and seize upon reports of congestion as evidence of the need to leave even earlier than he had planned.
Holding his wallet and keys meant that they could not be mislaid or forgotten. Dad developed routines for doing things, places for keeping things, because he knew he had a capacity for forgetfulness. An image returns from the summer of 1989 when I had gone to visit them, his watch and wallet and change and keys set beside each other overnight.
The capacity for forgetfulness seems to be hereditary. This afternoon, I went to Sainsbury’s for bread and returned with milk, tomatoes, breakfast cereal and cheese, and no bread. The obsession with earliness seems similarly to have been passed down in the blood. I would always prefer to be an hour early than to arrive five minutes late. Arriving at school at seven o’clock each morning, I am always delighted to have avoided the traffic.
Dad lingers in unexpected ways.