The Ties That Bind – Episode 33

Characters from the serial, Evelyn and Simon with Lynda and Alex in a bar.

“You OK, Dad? You look deep in thought.” Dan tried to keep his question light.

But his dad had been quiet for most of the evening and all he seemed to be doing was doodling on a pad of paper, so Dan couldn’t help feeling a flicker of concern.

Dad had been improving so much lately. He hoped he wasn’t taking a backward step.

“I’m all right, Dan. Just thinking.”

“Anything in particular?”

Phil twirled his pen around in his hand.

“I had a call from my boss this afternoon.”


“It was about me going back to work. They’ve offered me part-time hours for a while, to ease me back in. It’s quite decent of them, considering.”

“It’s good to know they’re looking out for their staff,” Dan said.

He was itching to say more, to ask questions, but he’d learned not to push his father too much.

He needed to let him say what he wanted when he was ready. Keep things as natural as possible, the doctor had said.

“Fancy a coffee?” he asked. “Or a beer? Lemonade?”

“Actually, a coffee sounds good. I’ll make it.”

It was odd how quickly Dad could switch from distracted to motivated, Dan thought. But he realised that it was his way of dealing with situations.

He wanted to talk, but perhaps it was easier to be doing something at the same time, rather than sitting still, feeling as if he was under a spotlight.

Sure enough, as he filled the kettle, he started to talk.

“I don’t know if I mentioned to you that I haven’t been happy at work for a long time, Dan.”

“Yeah, I know, Dad. You stayed because of us.” Dan handed him two mugs.

“Well, there were the financial commitments that come with having a home and family.”

“You’ve been great, Dad.” Encouragement was key.

Phil shrugged.

“It’s what people do.”

“But if you were so unhappy in your job, it must have been really difficult. I’m not sure I could have done it.”

“Wait and see how you feel once you have your own family.” Phil spooned coffee into the mugs.

“I guess so. But surely it’s of more benefit to the whole family if everyone’s in a job they enjoy – or at least don’t actively hate?”

Phil sighed.

“The trouble was, I didn’t really think I could do much else with my life . . .” His shoulders slumped a little and Dan interrupted desperately.

“I’m grateful to you, Dad. We all are. Like I say, you were great.” He punched his father’s arm gently.

“But you’ve burned yourself out, so it’s time you did something for yourself.”

“That’s what Janie said.”

“Really? I thought I was the brains of the family.” Dan chuckled and was glad when a smile returned to his father’s face.

“She sent me some links and advice about retraining. There’s a lot more out there than I thought.” Phil gave a rueful grin.

“She told me I’m behind the times.”

“All parents are.” Dan grinned again.

“There was one piece in particular that caught my eye.” There was an unexpected gleam of hope in Phil’s eyes as he handed Dan his coffee.

“Yeah? What?”

“It was about starting up your own business.”

“Wow! That’s great, Dad. Cool. Doing what?”

“You know I’ve always been keen on gardening and so many people seem to find it a real chore, so it might be possible.”

“That’s a great idea,” Dan said. “Good old Janie.”

“I’m only thinking about it. I mean, I’m still not back to full health.”

“I know, but if you’re only at work part-time, you can take your time and look into it thoroughly, find out about start-up costs, grants or whatever,” Dan said encouragingly.

“It’s a big decision.”

“Sure it is, but someone once told me that there’s never any harm in making an enquiry. And you know who that wise man was, don’t you?” Dan nudged his father gently.

“Hey, mind the coffee!” Phil laughed. “Thanks, Dan.” They clinked their mugs in a toast.

To be continued…

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