There comes a time in one’s life when we evaluate our derivation, where we look back and try to align who we are within our daily existence by finding out where we came from at a deeper level. Those who have been through it know that it often comes with a combination of age and the (supposed) wisdom it carries, often alongside a pivotal change in your life that make you ask not just who but why you are the person that has arrived here.
For me, the age was here already (though not sure about the wisdom) and the final part came with the personal tragedy of losing my mum suddenly a year ago. It left us with a resulting struggle to care for a dad with a failing, dementia-addled mind and a Parkinson’s-riddled body. Like most families, we wanted desperately to keep him in his home for as long as possible.
As anyone would expect, we soon realised how difficult that was going to be. From personal and mental care to cooking, cleaning .. (you get the idea) to take over the whole of a person’s care is an incredible task and one which me. my brother and the whole family struggled with, but for me it was different, because he was my dad and we had always had football to carry us, to unite us, to bind us. A love of watching and talking about the beautiful game in the frame of our support for the club that runs through our veins, Manchester United.
It started simply, one night in October when I was on tea duty and dad was asking why that strange boy kept peeping from behind the TV (he wasn’t, there was nobody there). I had got used to it by now and was on twitter asking for advice about the possibility of editing up an all time great Man Utd team for my new save for the imminent release of FM18 (like you do). I’d got to the point when I was selecting my best XI.
“So dad, I’m doing this thing on the internet, asking people who their best Utd team was – what are your thoughts?” I asked.
He looked away for a minute from the boy who wasn’t there and simply replied …
“Big Dunc,” without elaboration, and none, of course was needed.
What I didn’t know and what came out (in a very long, complicated conversation interrupted by the peeping boy again and two budgies who were apparently dancing on the table) was that he had watched him. Live. Real. Actually in the flesh. And I had no idea. I mean, he’d told me about Best and Law and Charlton loads of times but never once mentioned this (by the way, it wasn’t a delusion, it was confirmed by my aunty afterwards).
“You mean you actually saw him, in the flesh?” I asked.
“Yeah, one of my first games. I was only a kid, don’t remember much except everyone wanted to see him. I knew he was different,” he said, before smiling to himself at the two dancing budgies as they reappeared, as real to him as Big Dunc in his new, strange world.
What followed was me starting to look forward to my turns at looking after the old fella, because then we could work on our team again, on the Utd best XI that we had started to build. Between the boy, the budgies and the occasional lurking black dog (that was a scary one) it took about a month to put together with Big Dunc, of course, as the hub.
As time went on our shared love of the beautiful game continued to bind us. It was difficult to watch games with him as he was so distracted but we went through the motions with the usual current complaints of many a Utd fan about how Jose is ruining our ethos until we win again and agree that he is just ‘misunderstood’.
A weekly ‘premier league predictions’ chart soon followed and we even had a points system based on the sky PL prediction show, where at 530 every Friday night we would go through the fixtures on pause writing down our scores. It normally took us around an hour to get through the half hour programme with conversations such as ..
“Ok, dad, Arsenal and Liverpool. What do you reckon?” I’d ask, (followed by my five minute summary of the pros and cons, injuries, you get it ..)
“Hmmmmm .. a draw, definitely a draw.” he would reply,
“Ok, what score then?” I’d ask
.. pause ..
.. pause ..
(looks around room)
.. pause ..
“Dad! What bloody score?”
.. pause ..
“3 nil to Liverpool,” he’d say, the crafty, wind-up bastard 🙂
But it didn’t matter because our joy of the beautiful game was doing it again. Binding us like it always had and always will, especially because out of the 8 weeks we played it for my dad won 4 times, my bro 3 and me once. And I organised the fucking thing! 🙂
So skip forward two months to now (because we have to get to FM sometime, right?).
I am happy to say that Dad is now very safe and content in a care home about a quarter of a mile away from here, in his beloved Salford with, as always, the sight of Old Trafford just a few streets away down across Langworthy road and Chimney pot park.
He’s doing ok and I am pleased to say that, while the the peeping boy and budgies have gone, Ben Kingsley is now on the scene and living in the care home alongside dad, who, according to him, “is a pain in the arse, going on about when he was Ghandi all the time,” (I kid you not – the care home he’s in is where Kingsley grew up and my dad’s lounge was his front room – look it up).
But what, I am sure you are wondering has this got the fuck to do with a new FM save? Well unless you’re a complete gobbin you know it has something to do with Utd and probably Newton Heath, but other than that you’ll just have to wait for the next post to find out 🙂
See you soon new friends, get speculating and watch out for those black dogs ( and the dancing budgies, they’re a right pair of tricky bastards).