Over recent days I’ve read a number of dad-related posts and wondered about the huge range of father experiences out there. It got me thinking about one of my favourite songs on fatherhood, Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle”.

When you coming home Dad I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then.

Playing the song again just now, I cry at the end. Again. It occurred to me, my son was just like me. An emotional surge part loss, part relief. Half my life has been spent trying to un-knot the smokey ropes of paternal control, with mixed success. Half a life spent in therapy, seeking a space to unpack, the trust to grow, the acceptance to heal… with mixed success. If development can be measured in dollar terms, this journeyman has spent a small fortune trying to avoid the conclusion the son is just like the father, only to reach a point of middle-aged resignation. I’ll always be part him, part me. More of the latter is the goal, now. Less furious demands for total eradication of the paternal legacy, the ‘him’.

“My son turned ten just the other day.

He said “Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play.

Can you teach me to throw?” I said “Not today

I got a lot to do.” He said “That’s OK”

And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed, 

And said “I’m gonna be like him, yeah,

You know I’m gonna be like him.”


And what would my son say of his father? What will he say to his friends, his lover, his own child? He was born, child of older parents, four years after my father died. Does it seem strange to him that there are so few stories of his unknown grandpa? Maybe you don’t miss what you never had. Like affection, trust, warmth. Yeah, right.

Well he came from college just the other day

So much like a man I just had to say

“Son, I’m proud of you can you sit for a while?”

He shook his head and said with a smile

“What I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys

See you later. Can I have them please?”

I miss it. Or what I imagine it is. Warmth, trust, connection. And when Harry Chapin reminds me in four verses how brief the parenting lifetime really is, it focuses my attention very sharply indeed on enjoying each hour I have to observe, hug, play with and occasionally admonish this child, this individual, this precious human I’ve been gifted. Not given to keep, but to nurture as best I can with my clumsy insights and wrinkled heart.

When I lived in Germany for a year, I painstakingly translated a poster in the train carriage of my daily commute.

“When they’re young, give them roots

As they grow, give them wings”

Neatly put; wonderfully true, in an aspirational way. But as my boy bounds towards teenage-hood I want to shout, Slow down! What’s the rush? The anticipated grief of his launching into his own life fills me with such wonder and pain it feels as if my chest is being wrenched open with a pneumatic jack.

We went to a giant hardware store on the weekend, just for light globes and gardening gloves, this boy’s Daddy doesn’t do DIY. While I was trying to work out which globes were dimmable (dim being the operative word), he wandered to the next aisle to look at the signs. I went on to grab something else from another part of the store and was gone longer than anticipated, by me and by him. When I went back he looked scared. The big twelve-year-old was a little boy again, where’s my Daddy? I checked: are you OK? He nodded, I felt guilty. As we walked towards the checkout I thought, a good parent would check the child has a plan for such circumstances; what would you do? Where would you go if you were uncertain? But then he reached out and took my hand, and all my words vanished.

So did at least one heart-wrinkle.



This is the first new content at Lonely Keyboards. Hope you can join me for what is sure to be a varied journey. The above post connects to my other blog, Vinyl Connection, via a simultaneous post on the album Verities and Balderdash by Harry Chapin.





  2. Well, LK. I guess I’m here for the duration and glad of it. You might have guessed I’d be pleased with this side project given my leanings as I wade through your back catalogue. This one is very moving, with nary a hint of the saccharine that I love in my iced tea but not so much in my reading.

    Fathers… been lucky enough to have benefited from two, one biological and one step, that could not have been more different one from another but were both positive influences. There’s always baggage, much of which I recognize as being on me, but I’m trying as much as possible to see myself and others as what we are — imperfect humans — and going from there. As for my own fathering, who knows? It is for them to judge, but hopefully the fact that my two 20-somethings and I are going together to see Megadeth in concert this Thursday signals… something

    Liked by 1 person

    • Presuming that they are not leading you towards the mosh pit of eternal torment, yes, I think it does signal something we might be bold enough to call ‘positive’.

      Not sure how I’ll go sustaining two blogs (especially given my inability to get a single post out lo! these past 10 days) but it seemed important to try, and responses like yours above encourage further dribblings. Thanks.


  3. This is *so* lovely, Bruce/VC/LK. Cat’s Cradle is a classic, and can easily be transposed to mother/daughter relationships as well, i.e. I, too, have spent much time trying to avoid particular conclusions. The boy is very fortunate to have you in his corner (question: has he read this piece?) and I have a new favorite expression of love: “With more love than I’ve had pancakes….”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very happy you enjoyed it JDB. And yes, I think the song crosses gender, culture and other barriers!

      As you might imagine, I was not at all touched by that particular expression of affection from the twelve-year-old (who, I’m both excited and alarmed to reveal, is ‘quite interested in comedy’).

      (He hasn’t but I should invite him. He’s read excerpts from other posts that reference him).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for noticing that hole! (So used to the VC theme; not entirely sure about this one yet!).
    Button has been added top Right.

    (I notice that you have appeared in the Follow list, so no further action needed, other than receiving my gratitude).


  5. Pingback: Fathers’ Day at Stereo Stories – Stereo Stories

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