The third thing that triggers memories of my father are plastic knives and forks.
My father suffered with severe O.C.D. in many ways although he was adamant that he was fine. He never wanted to be seen as having any kind of problem, mentally or physically; it made him look weak. To him, he was just being clean and cautious; to me, it was suffocating.
Whenever we visited any fast food restaurant, my father would struggle. He called the employers “commoners”, accusing them of being filthy working in that environment. I shut off every time he spoke. He was happy to eat there but nothing was done with pleasure, always criticism.
He could not cope using his fingers to eat. No matter how clean they were, he refused to pick up the burgers with his hands. Unfortunately, due to his unwillingness to interact with any strangers, I had to fix his problem for him. He would never go to the counter to order. As a child through to an adult – it was my job to do so. His social intelligence was so poor, he couldn’t even order a meal from the waitress. He would just hand me the money and tell me to return the change to him, reminding me that it was HIS money and not mine. I hated that. I wasn’t planning to pocket his 20 pence but he happily accused me of it, of course, it was just another way of asserting his power over me.
His one particular demand was to ask for a plastic knife and fork. Years ago, this was not always an option. That infuriated him. It would lead to a fit of anger and insults flying out of his mouth about the “ignorance of the pathetic restaurant staff”.
If I was able to present him with his request, he would not grant me with a “thank you”. The two words I NEVER heard him say to me in my life.
Instead, he would methodically arrange his food around the tray and carefully slice his burger. He would not even use his fingers to eat his fries.
After the meal, I would be the one who had to clear the table. My father had paid for it after all (not that I had a choice either way).
At home, my father kept a stash of plastic knives and forks usually for entertaining guests at his frequent dinner parties. I once asked him why he did not offer them regular knives and forks. He just answered by saying,
“They can’t cope with metal ones, they use them like neanderthals, scraping my plates!”
What lucky friends (!)