I love my dad, also known as Tache and Grandad Tache. You won't be surprised to learn that this is because of his long-adorned moustache, a facial feature which has become so much part of his identity that it has also become the name by which all of my family - me, my husband and my two boys - call him. Despite being encouraged to shave it off, by my mother mainly, he has stubbornly held onto this facial hair statement, in spite of its bristly-ness and the idea that he would look better without it.
And he might look better without it, although I can't imagine it. He has always been moustachioed as far as I remember and so, there must be an attachment there, even if he knew that it would grow back if he decided to de-fur himself. But Tache is not a vain man. Far from it. And I think that this is one of the reasons why he holds on to it: because he is happy to look that way and feels no immediate need to change it.
I respect him for this.
There are other reasons for it too, I think. My great grandfather, Albert, also had a white moustache (visually, a cross between his namesake, Albert Einstein, and author, Thomas Hardy) and there is no doubt of the family resemblance when looking through the pictorial archives as my dad looks very much like him, more so than his own father.
Funny, isn't it, how family features can skip a generation and manifest themselves in grandchildren?
I know that he was a man that my father greatly respected and of whom he was fond and so, the moustache could be seen as an homage to Albert. Now that he is an older man himself, he might be gratified to see these traces of his ancestor in the mirror every morning, a nod to his past and a reviver of memories. Or it could be that the only reflection on this that Tache has ever had about the similarity of his appearance is limited to the one he sees in the surface of his bathroom cabinet - I've never asked him. Perhaps I should. I suspect that it is more to do with wanting to keep it than any more cerebral notion but maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe he's scared to see what he looks like without it. It would be weird seeing a different version of yourself, one that reminds you of your youth but does not actually represent that anymore.
It would be like losing a friend or a part of yourself, I would imagine.
Personally, I hope he keeps it. Having seen photos of him without it as a younger man, he looks bare and different. Less mature, less distinguished. A man I don't know. This, of course, is true as photos of me with my dad are all with him with a moustache, it having arrived, I have discovered, during the time that my mum was pregnant with me. The man without the moustache is the man who courted my mum (which I think is a grandiose term for two people getting together but is fitting for the era). The man without the moustache is the man before he became my dad. It's like when you see photos of your parents at school and you recognise them because they look like them but they're also a little alien to you because you've never known them like that and never will. It is a strange feeling, that knowing and not knowing paradox.
There are few photos of me with my dad as a baby but the moustache is a definite part of them all. It is darker then, matching the hair and the sideburns but the same shape. It is easy to see the older man that my dad is now in those early photos although the slim youthful figure has been wrapped up somewhat in portliness, not unlike that, of my grandfather, Cyril, Tache's dad. But the face is still the same.
I could never have imagined Cyril to manifest himself in my dad but there he is, in the rounded tum and the rolling gait and his relationship with my sons. I'm not sure where the similar walks come from as it is that that is most pronounced and reminds me of Cyril. I know that bad knees are common in our family. Perhaps it's from the farming and the hard physical pressure that is put on joints from day to day. The knee is passed down through the generations as a result of shared common practice and that turns these diverse men into carbon copies. I too have a dodgy knee although I can't profess to having earned mine from hard manual labour. No, mine was a product of a rather nasty skiing accident in Italy on day one of a week long trip. Rather more glamorous circumstances perhaps but the result is the same.
I like being reminded of my grandad, although it is bittersweet. He unfortunately died of cancer on my dad's fortieth birthday, would you believe? What a way to commemorate it.
What I remember of Cyril before the cancer reduced him to literally half the man is a man full of life: a gregarious man who loved to talk and had a penchant for toffees and knickerbocker glories; a rounded, solid man whose walk was a waddle, so that his body looked like an inverted pendulum as he walked; high-waisted trousers and a wax Barbour jacket; wrinkling his nose as he squinted whilst reading the Farmers' Weekly, a must-have agricultural magazine of the times; a love for animals, especially dogs and cats; a sentimentalist, crying when long lost siblings were reunited on the TV by removing his glasses and mopping his eyes with an enormous handkerchief; always having a small tube of indigestion tablets handy so he could take one (or two) to ease down his dinner; a man who treated me by taking me to Browns' chip shop and café to sit in the old style booths and have a strawberry milkshake and egg and chips; a loving grandad who always said "Ta" when I hugged him on a Sunday when he came for lunch.
My dad is not totally like him now: Cyril never had a moustache. But the similarities are more noticeable now than I ever thought possible. When my dad was a younger man, they were so dissimilar. Tache used to call my grandad "Bundle" because of his shape - it seems affectionate nicknames are a thing in my family - and this would be fitting for my dad now, if he hadn't already been given his timeless Tache moniker.
Cyril's girth may be from toffees whereas Tache's is from sausage rolls and chocolate eclairs. Cyril was a garrulous man, always with a tale to tell which he would impart in an entertaining way to anyone who would engage with him and my dad has become the same.
I recently had the good fortune to go on holiday with both Tache and Unk, as I affectionately call him, my dad's brother as well as my husband and boys to Northumberland to visit the remains of Hadrian's Wall, a trip that Tache had always wanted to make. Whilst we were there, we often got separated as Tache and Unk chatted with people various: whether behind a counter or on the path walking, I could hear Tache regaling people with chit-chat just like Cyril had to the guests that we had stay with us on the farm where I grew up. It took me back.
And Tache has developed a lovely relationship with my youngest son, nicknamed Bear, who shares his love of locomotives and plays with Tache's model railway whenever we visit them. He was also keen to spend time with Tache whilst we were away with them in his caravan and clambering over the ruins of Roman forts with him and this is great to see.
Tache has also continued the tradition of giving nicknames as he calls his youngest grandson, "Triple B" which stands for "Bed Breaking Bear", when the bed that "Bear" has been sleeping in at his grandparents' house collapsed one night and Tache had to fix it.
One other thing that I learned on our trip away together is that I look like my dad. I may have a moustache but I am no bearded lady, thankfully. I am not nearly as hirsute nor the moustache I wear not as thick as the one my dad sports. No, that is not what I mean. My husband, through observing me whilst walking the rugged terrain of Northumberland told me that I too have the rolling gait, the short steps and shuffle of my father; that to look at me from behind, is like looking at a younger female version of the Tache himself with long hair and slightly better fashion sense.
I like this idea.
And I like it even more knowing that the moustache was born during my gestation and never went away, never. It makes me feel like I am synonymous with that moustache in some way; that Tache, my dad as I know him, was born at the same time as me, which has some truth to it anyway. Even if my brother had already arrived two years before, Tache was moustache-less then.
I quite like the bond that gives us, imagined or otherwise. It makes me feel happy and linked to lineage. It makes me feel warm towards my father and his moustache, whatever the reason that he still has it. I don't pretend to think that he keeps it as a reminder of me like some sort of hairy keepsake but I do like the fact that he has not chosen to get rid of it, to lose it.
And so, it would seem that the similarities between generations continue once more down the line, yet again as I don't want to lose the Tache either.
About the Creator
Mum, blogger, crafter, reviewer, writer, traveller: I love to write and I am not limited by form. Here, you will find stories, articles, opinion pieces, poems, all of which reflect me: who I am, what I love, what I feel, how I view things.