My Dad and my sister visited to collect a car. Prior to their quickly returning north, Emma and I took them out to a spit and sawdust kind of pub for lunch – it seemed the right thing to do.
Just as Dad was finishing off his gammon:
Shane: Y’ know I was rootling about on the computer – looking for Thomas Wexford.
Dad: (coolly) Mm.
Shane: Can you remember exactly when you last saw him?
Dad: (unfazed) Oh, bloody hell, that would have been a while ago – he’ll be 47 now.
Shane: (thinking 'present living tense') Do you remember, though, when it was that you last saw him?
Dad: (trying hard) Er…
Shane: You see, I remember – (lying) though it might just be a fragment of my imagination - us bumping into him near the town hall in Castle Market – I’m fairly sure it was just you and me – but I must have been really young.
Dad: (puzzling) …
Dad: I don’t know.
Shane: Was I born when you last saw him?
Shane: What about Roy (my brother)?
Dad: (thinking) Hmm-, I can’t remember.
Shane: (thinking ‘fucking alcohol dulling the senses’) Mm, ok.
Dad: He worked on the sites.
Shane: Building sites?
Dad: Mm – he went all over with that.
Shane: Right. Did you know where he was living?
Dad: Apart from Colliery Hill (their former family home), I didn’t.
Shane: (thinking ‘But how could you not’) Mm.
Dad: He was into that heavy rock stuff, y’ know – the music. There was a big gang of them that went round together.
Shane: (Glad to note the social element) Right. (pause) Any girlfriends?
Shane: Or boyfriends?
Shane: Do you think Len (Dad’s older brother) knows anything about where he might have gone?
Shane: Mm. Do you remember when you realised that Tom was gone?
Shane: Cos obviously there wasn’t like mobile phones and stuff, so was it like he just wasn’t in touch for a very long time, or did he say that he was going away, or –
Dad: (distantly) I can’t remember, t’ be honest with y’ – I think he just went.
I let it go. Soon after, Dad went to the loo. I looked at my sister (Amy) - very much in the dark.
Shane: Y’ know, this search for Thomas Wexford – the fact that it’s clearly so long since he (Dad) had anything to do with him –
Amy: He could be dead!
Shane: Well that’s what I'm beginning to wonder – that’s why I’m not being all upbeat and excitable about looking for him – the fact that he’d just disappear for nearly 30 years without even a chance trace of him – I definitely think it’s possible that he might be dead.
Amy: Bloody hell.
Shane: (spotting Dad) He’s coming back.
Dad: (to Amy) You ready to go?
Emma looked at me, gave me a quiet sad raised eyebrow and a shrug and confirmed that we needed to go too.
Half an hour later, with Dad and sister gone, we were en route to a friend’s house. Emma returned to the lunch-time conversation.
Emma: You were a bit full-on. (pause) I just froze, I thought ‘Be still, give nothing away’.
Shane: He seemed ok, though he clearly doesn’t know what happened to Thomas – I’m sure of that now – did you hear the ‘He’ll be 47 now’?
Emma: Mm. (pause) I suppose it could have been a building site accident or something like that.
Though not inappropriate, it still seemed like an odd statement for her to be making with an upbeat tone of voice.
I will leave it until Thursday before making further enquiries about the yet to be delivered death certificate of Thomas Wexford.