Deborah Ross: Pity the father when the son leaves home

If you ask me...

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If you ask me, and as I've already said, it's a sad day for a mother when her only child finally leaves home, but it is just as sad for the father, even if that father keeps opening the fridge and saying in wonderment: "Look, there is still food in there! Amazing!" Sometimes, all the father does all day is open the fridge, and gaze on in wonder – "and no empty juice cartons put back!" – but the mother can tell he's devastated, and that when he says, "I'm telling you, we're going to save a fortune on groceries", he is just putting a brave face on it.

So it's sad for the father, too, who already misses his son horribly; misses being called "lame" and a "chump" and a "wally" and having his sandals laughed at, as well as his dress sense generally, and being repeatedly asked: "What do you know?"

He misses having his pants drawer raided, and his sock drawer, because even though his son was meant to do his own laundry, he didn't. He misses being grunted at and having every question answered with "Ee-a-ow" because the boy can't even be bothered to articulate "I don't know". He misses marvelling at his son's vast array of toiletries and saying: "All I have is a razor."

He misses being tapped up for money and lifts and beers and the guitar which his son will later sell on eBay, pocketing the cash. He misses being laughed at for his musical tastes, which may come before or after being laughed at for his dress sense (there is never any telling). He misses chastising him for neglecting the dog he begged for ('You talked the talk, now walk the walk'). And he misses all the things they used to do together, like row about the empty cartons and the bite marks in the cheese and football kit tipped out in the hall and the succession of missing items which, the father finally figured out, had also been sold on eBay, and which also pocketed the son a nice sum of money, but left the household without a camera, a pair of candlesticks, and a hand-blender. Sometimes, the father would stay up all night, just watching the kettle.

So it's hard for a father when his son leaves home, and hard even though the father may have already appropriated his son's slippers, and his CD player, and hard even though he keeps standing at the fridge door, exclaiming: "I think our grocery bills are going to be slashed by more than half!" Men, aren't they funny, the way they always feel they have to put a brave face on things...

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