My Father the Leprechaun

by Allen Roy MacPherson

3. Ad/Vice 

“The worst vice is advice.” – John Milton

Though my father discouraged many of the paths I wanted to pursue, dismissed others and ignored some, he did give me three pieces of encouraging fatherly advice, though they were really more suggestions and parental requests than advice or encouragement. They weren’t delivered all at once but through out my pre-adult life.

Firstly, he said, “You should always go to church like your mother does.” He never went to church but offered assistance wherever he could, including paying for the renovation of the pastor’s rectory. As a youngster, I always thought he had a falling-out with God.

Secondly, he advised me, “You must never dye your hair”. I had started greying from in my teens.

“It’s a sign of distinction” he liked to say, and touching his receding hairline and his pated baldspot, he sometimes added this story, “when I was a young trade unionist, I earnestly prayed to God to give me some grey hairs to make me look older so the older opposing employers [all either English expatriates or Middle-eastern Emigrants in thoses days] would take me seriously and not treat me like an upstart. It seemed to me that God was a bit hard-of-hearing because he gave me this cursed balding head instead. But then he later blessed you, my son, with what I requested. Never dye those grey hairs”. When I was 48, which now, 11 years later, doesn’t seem so old, I was unemployed and desperately in need of a job and by then almost completely grey. A prospective employer suggested I dye my hair. Affronted, without thinking, I blurted out, “Only clowns color their hair”. I could have maybe told him calmly, “My late father’s one request before he died was that I never dye my hair and I have to honor that” but unfortunately I have always been impulsive. Shoot first, ask questions later. The prospective employer explained that he dyed his hair. I never got the job.

Thirdly, my father demanded, “Never write your name as McPherson and never let anyone write it that way either. If they do, insist that they correct it, because you’re Scottish not Irish.” I am in fact, Jamaican.

A friend once told me this “Most men usually have one of these four vices: cigarette-smoking, womanizing, drinking and gambling” then he added “your father is the only man I know who have all four”. I only smoked for two-years of my life and only menthols like my father smoked because I couldn’t handle the harsher, non-menthol ones (like the local Craven A, the most popular in my country). My father smoked all his adult life, cigars more than cigarettes and pipes most of all. He died from a car accident at 70 and not from lung, lip or throat cancer. In truth, his cause of death remains inconclusive, though, in my opinion, only due to a confused coroner. I was in the courtroom, during the Coroner’s Inquest, and heard him use the word ‘Maybe’ and/or the phrase ‘May have been’ at least six times in his statement on the determination of the cause of my father’s death.

The maybes and may-have-beens included according to that so-called specialist expert, “blunt force cranial trauma”, “ST-elevation myocardial infarction”, ‘circulatory cardiogenic shock, or physical shock due to acute stress disorder or cold shock”, but he especially doubted the latter and mostly doubted the others thinking that “it more likely may have been lethal trauma caused by deceleration”, but most likely “may be respiratory impairment as a result of immersion or submersion in or under a liquid, complicated by extreme low body temperature with aspiration of vomitus, and/or ARDS, which is acute respiratory distress syndrome.” Then he clarified that for the confused judge and jury, half of whom were dozing, the other half sleeping, “that is, Yo’Rhonor, drowning. Drowning with death.” Death by drowning, I interpreted that to mean.

My father could not swim. Therefore he could not teach me to swim.

“Non-swimmers rarely drown”, he informed me, “it’s swimmers who drown, because they are confident and get overconfident and go to depths and distances where even angels fear to tread… water.”

I never learned to swim. He died from an automobile accident but not by it. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. This was, because he had stopped the vehicle. He did this, even though he was on a bridge. He had been drinking and driving and was still drinking. The other driver had drunk more and was still drinking more and driving. The impact sent my father through the front sidewindow, out over the railing of the bridge, falling over 300 feet into the water below.

He was not alone. She was unconscious but alive. I had seen her before; half-naked, she was sitting on a collapsible couch in my father’s office, in a long-discovered, now-destroyed color photograph taken by my father. She was no assistance to anyone, not my mother or myself, nor the coroner’s court. Her only ever comment on the accident was, “I never knew he was married!”. The other driver had blacked out before the crash. To my consternation, the droopy jury let him off the manslaughter charge and the bored judge fined him JMD20,000 for  exceeding the speeding limit and JMD50,000 for driving under the influence of alcohol. JMD70,000 (USD510) for my father’s life. 

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