In this exclusive extract from the brand new Sons & Fathers, Bono writes about his father Bob Hewson.
‘Your problem, son, is you’re a baritone who thinks he’s a tenor.’
With this impeccable one-liner my father, Brendan Robert Hewson, or Bob as he was universally known, nailed me.
He was great with a hammer.
Our house was, on the inside, a do-it-yourself dream. My mother was pretty good with an electric drill – practical, open-faced and a sense of humour as dark as her curls. ‘Iris!’ screamed my father from the top of the stairs one afternoon, having let the drill bit slip from the dowel between his knees into his groin, ‘Iris! I’ve castrated myself!’ She rushed out of the kitchen, I rushed after her, but on witnessing his DIY emasculation, she dissolved into uncontrollable laughter, to the point where she could hardly stand.
When she was gone, taken by a blood clot that turned like a switch in her head, 10 Cedarwood Road was no longer a home. It was a house of three males: my brother Norman (Nobby), me, and my grief-stricken father, who had now, to our sulking teenage eyes, become an unwanted figure of authority – a sergeant major, dishing out to my brother and me the tasks that my mother used to perform. My brother did good. I did bad. I was unaware of the hormonal drag that was going to pit me against this great man and turn me into a little bollix.
We danced until his death, the ancient ritual of son versus father. His last words were absolutely fitting. I was lying on a mattress in Beaumont Hospital beside his bed, having flown home after a U2 show in London. My father woke up in the middle of the night, anxious and whispering. His Parkinson’s disease had taken some of his beautiful tenor away. The whispers were percussive, animated. I called the nurse and we both leaned in to try and make out what he was saying. Through the strained rasping, loud and clear, burst ‘Fuck off!’ Then, ‘I want to go home. I need to go home.’
And he did. I’m looking forward to seeing him there. I doubt if Heaven will be as tidy as he battled for 10 Cedarwood Road to be, but this time round, that won’t be my argument … God, how we loved to argue in our family. And he was the best at it.
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Sons + Fathers, (Cornerstone Publishing) is available now.