Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Father's Day

I got something of a surprise Father's Day gift this year. I was rooting through a drawer looking for something and I came across a small box. It had a few old tie-clips and things of my dad's in it – stuff my sister couldn't bring herself to throw away when she was clearing out the house but didn't want either. Her solution was to give it it to me! I didn't really want it either but, like her, I couldn't bring myself to dump it.

It sat in a drawer, forgotten until the other day. Looking through it, I noticed again something in the box that had always struck me as rather odd – what looked like a small piece of brass pipe-fitting of some sort. I had always wondered why my dad had it in with what was essentially jewellery. But the light must have been better that day, because it suddenly looked different. I picked it up and looked at it more closely. And realised that it wasn't brass, but discoloured silver. A little tingle ran down my spine. Because as far as I knew my dad had only ever owned one silver ring in his life. And I had seen him make it.

You see, years ago when I was about ten, I remember my dad explaining to me about how you could make a ring out of a shilling, provided it was one of the old ones that had a high silver content. Apparently someone had once shown him how to do it. The conversation must have put a little bee in his bonnet about it, because for weeks after you'd see him examining his change, looking for a really old shilling. Finally he found one. And then he began.

First he hammered it flat until he had a thin, smooth disc. With a metal punch he cut a hole in the middle, so that he had what was essentially a washer made out of silver. And then the work really started. He threaded it over an iron spike. For an hour here and an hour there after work he patiently tapped at it, gently folding it down upon itself. You couldn't rush it, he explained. If you did, it would crack and be ruined. Finally, after weeks, maybe months, he was finished. A shilling had been transformed into a shining band of silver.

I'd always wondered what had happened to it. I couldn't believe that I might actually be holding it in my hands after all these years. I took it to a friend, Dani who has a jewellery shop, Artists by Night, in the Estate Yard in 'Comer. And as far as he could tell it was what you'd expect if it had been made from a coin.

That was all the confirmation I needed. It couldn't be anything other than the ring I had watched my father make. We polished it and trembling with excitement I put it on. A Father's Day gift to me – from my father.

published in the Kilkenny Reporter, 20 June 2018 

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