Proud to be daddy's boy

By Paul Lester, September 28, 2010

I notice from scouring the personal ads, as you do, that a lot of Jewish women single out as the attribute that they find most unattractive in a man an over-reliance on their mum. In which case I am surely their worst nightmare, because even though I long ago reached full adulthood - well, full-ish - I still call upon the services of my parents more frequently than is probably right or proper. And I've been doing it more and more since I got divorced.

Really, I was just being kind - there they were, both retired, sitting there bored, staring into space, so I found them some stuff to do. By the time I was finished with them, they were busier than when they had careers. In fact, they pretty much arranged everything when I moved out of the marital home three years ago into my tiny but nicely furnished terrace. It would be no exaggeration to say that I woke up on day one in my new gaff and it was all done. The walls had been painted, the carpets had been changed, and with so many shiny white goods in place my kitchen resembled a branch of Currys. Who lives in a house like this? An overindulged, pampered mummy's boy.

And daddy's boy. It was my dad who sorted out the household appliances, mainly because I didn't have much to spend, and if anyone can make a little go a long way, it's him. A regular silver surfer, he will spend hours on the internet locating the best-value product - he makes Omid Djalili, the haggling meshuggenah from the TV adverts, look like a novice. Never knowingly undersold? That's the phrase he recites like a mantra when he davens. His ideal job would be running a competitive price website for competitive price websites.

His endless pursuit of a bargain typifies an obdurate character who doesn't suffer fools gladly. And if you are a fool, he will make it his business to find out. He tends to fire questions at you with the relentlessness and intensity of an interrogator - lucky he was a Jew, otherwise he might have ended up on the wrong side during the war. What line of work are you in? What are your prospects regarding promotion? How much do you earn, including overtime? And these are just things he asks strangers at the shops.

He's what you might call a classic old-school, take-me-as-you-find-me Jew, with the fearlessness and lack of shame that entails. He is the only person I ever saw stand up to my formidable ex-wife. Three years on, my children still genuinely believe he caused the divorce because of the day he came over to our house and refused to back down during an argument, which led to the mother - or rather, father - of all domestic conflagrations. Tense silences they were used to, but this was about the only time the kids heard real loud angry shouting. "It's because of papa that you and mummy aren't together, isn't it?" is a line I've heard more than once. He wouldn't necessarily be proud of that, but he certainly wouldn't regret standing his ground, and I'm proud of him for that.

He’s the only person I ever saw stand up to my formidable ex-wife

It's odd because I'm talking about him in the present tense, but then I haven't quite got used to referring to him as someone who really only exists now in the past. Because my dad died last month, on August 25, at the age of 77. It's a shame he couldn't be here to read this, because the nachas he got from seeing my name in print would have been multiplied several-fold by seeing an article, by me, about him, and in the world's foremost Jewish newspaper, noch.

I can imagine the conversation he'll be having next week with his friends in whatever the equivalent is of a deli in the afterlife. "Have you seen this piece in the JC about me?" he'll be kvelling, waving the paper in their faces. "My son wrote it, you know." He will then proceed to spend a considerable chunk of eternity assessing what their children have achieved, how much they earn, whether they've ever had anything printed in a national publication, and so on, until the manager of this spectral version of Bloom's is forced to politely ask them to leave. And then he'll secretly smile when he realises the column is slightly longer this month, so I'll be getting a bit more money than usual.

Last updated: 11:15am, September 28 2010