By Ken Bruen

You don’t want to hear about me daughter, stop now……

I grew up in a neighborhood where being tough was the ideal

I never…………….not once, wanted to be a tough guy

All that macho posing and worse, kicking the living daylights out some poor unfortunate,

I couldn’t

And carrying a knife

I hated that

Still do

A knife to me is the ultimate symbol of yellow

And I’ve been stabbed twice, not always with a knife

So OK, maybe I’m prejudiced

The past few months, I’ve had to spend a lot of time in hospitals and had





The doctor said to me

“Those scars on your body, what were you doing?”

I told the truth


His face………….like he believed that?

He looked at me, my physique obviously not built for street fighting, he said

“Tough guy…………..right"

The sarcasm wasn’t wasted

I was going to try and say

“I’m interested in strength not macho bullshit.”

And then I thought


The short version of ‘The Serenity Prayer’

I had an email 2 days ago , taking me to task……………quelle surprise!…………for not only my frequent obscenities but how I was so uneducated I couldn’t even spell the f-word

And yesterday, let’s call them Dick and June

wrote to me to say my work was


I was a disgrace to my country

Most times, I don’t respond

I used to turn anger inwards

The classical definition of depression

Lately, the number of ………….am………shall we say………….remarks………..had

me thinking…………..fook this…………sorry, fuck this and I replied

Dick answered, telling me he was a very sensitive person and a gentle spirit


I’m the aggressive one

My daughter, entered a tennis tournament last week and it was pissing down here, rain

like you wouldn’t believe

Because of her Down Syndrome, the organizers looked at me, asked

“You sure you want to do this?”

No, I’m not

But she does……………alright

First 2 days, she is so bad, I want to weep, she can’t get the co-ordination and they’re

laughing at her.

Through the rain, I see her crying but she’s still on the court

I used to play………….to semi level so I know some moves

I ask her

“Hon, you want to quit?”

Gives me the look, she is so hurt, humiliated, and crestfallen and now…….. her Dad

doesn’t believe

in her?

She gears herself up, wipes her eyes, asks

“Would you quit dad?

I want to say that there are lots of things I can’t do, like spell


That evening, we go out the yard and I show her some sneaky moves I learned and

Next day…………..she gets past the knock out stage, not easily but barely

And we do the same gig next evening and she asks me after as I’m handing her a Diet


“Dad, am I a retard like they say?”

I say

“Watch this.”

Pick up the fooking racket and show her all the bad moves I learned and she’s kinda

stunned, goes

“Dad, did you lose your temper?”

And she’s laughing then…………says

“You look so different when you get angry.”

The blogger recently who said I need Anger Management classes………..I’ve got them,

thank you…………one is writing and the other is a hurly

The day of the Final, Grace is so nervous, she gets sick after her breakfast

Her mother is in hospital and she asks

“Can I call Mum?’

Like I’m going to say no?

I dunno what they talked about but she is better

In the car, she is so quiet and I want to tell her

“Alanna, quiet is my gig, you have a mouth like your Mum, like a fishwife.”

The rain hasn’t abated and I’m not trying to write some mini-Rocky style tale here so cut

to the chase, in the torrents of rain,

She won

This tiny wee thing, with what they tell me is mental handicap and other stuff, she turns


find me on the stand, can hardly see me through the rain and gives me the thumbs up,

then does as she’s reared, shakes her opponent’s hand

She asks me later

Will this make Mum better?

I lie


“You betcha.”

I never wanted to be a father for the simple reason I thought………….Jaysus wept, I

can’t mind me own self………..How would I mind a child and god forbid……..a


When I was told I had a daughter with Down Syndrome, I thought

“I’m fooked.”

I write about her because she is the one pure joy of me life

I remember a time ago, I was stressed out, lots of bad shite no matter where I turned and

I was thinking

“Bollocks to all this strength stuff, I’m gonna get fookin medieval on all this crap.”

Looking at the Louisville Slugger given to me by my great friend and mystery writer and

if I mention his name, they’ll say

“Promo yer friends as usual.”

And Grace was standing behind me, I asked her

“Were you and……………Aine…………you know ever ………..afraid of me?’

I lived in terror of me own Dad

She was still laughing as she went to watch The Simpsons, shouted

“Of you Dad?”

Tough guys don’t dance



18 thoughts on “TOUGH GUYS DON’T DO …

  1. Evil Kev

    I think the strongest men are not those who hide behind alcohol, knives and guns but those who have the courage to live everyday with honesty, kindness and to love their daughter without regard to how a small and cowardly world chooses to label her.

  2. Jody

    Ah Ken, I’m a wimp and sometimes a bit of a prude, but your poetry of writing is wonderful – and to the heart! I can’t say I always “enjoy” your blog; but I do love reading it. And you have a wonderful daughter.

  3. Maryann

    Ken, let no one(not even yourself) tell you you’re not a good father…your joy in your daughter makes me weep. And by the way, fook is just fine with me. Your words? Lyrical. Hope your months are better now :o)

  4. John

    Wow, Ken, every post of yours here is a heartstring-tugger. Tough exterior, maybe, but a heart of gold. Thanks for sharing Grace with us (in more ways than one). She sounds like a treasure.

  5. JT Ellison

    You make me smile, you know that? You and Grace and the world you live in, the unflinching honesty, it just makes me smile. So thanks for that.

    And I echo Evil Kev’s statement. The strongest men I know have never laid a finger on a soul.

  6. Jacky B.


    Your posts: Always a joy, a sorrow, and a learning experience.

    Tough? They don’t come any tougher than Grace on that tennis court. She’s hard as a diamond, and shines just as brightly. You are blessed.

    So is Grace.

    Your “short version of the Serenity Prayer ….. fook it.” It’s been working for me for decades.

    Best to you and yours,

    Jacky B

  7. Louise Ure

    I’m with Jacky B. Don’t tell Grace that we’re all saying “Good on you.” She’d be mortified that you’re writing about her.

    And “Fookit: the short version of the Serenity Prayer” says it all for me.

    Thanks for the blog, my friend.

  8. pari

    Ken,This came at a good time for me. Thank you. Been worrying about my own older daughter because of her vision problems and her unwillingness to make things easier on herself.

    We have to believe in our girls, Ken; they look to us for that. They believe in us.

    Being a parent?

    It’s the best test of strength I know.

  9. Sandra Ruttan

    True strength is not shutting your eyes to the world around you, or going along with the crowd and the expectations just to get ahead, but seeing the way things are and refusing to let that change who you are.

    Something I learned from you, Ken.

    (And I still shake my head over the email from Mr. Sensitive. Mr. Hypersensitive is more like it. That guy, all he wanted was to hear you say how right he was. Some people just get off on pulling others down.)

  10. toni mcgee causey

    You taught your daughter you’d stand by her, no matter which decision she made, to quit or go forward. That’s a gift, really. And you taught her to go for her dream. I would have loved to have seen that win and that thumb’s up. Beautifully told, Ken.

    I really liked that short version of the serenity prayer.

  11. Christa Miller

    Don’t apologize for writing about your daughter, Ken. My boys are young but these are things I will face with them… my older one, in fact, is deeply self-conscious even at 4. (A trait he gets from me, I’m afraid.) Knowing how I was and still am can paralyze me… at which point all I have are others’ experiences. You write memorable lessons. Thanks for that.

    As for the short version of the Serenity Prayer, I’ll drink to that. Wait. Was I supposed to say that? 😉

  12. d.a.davenport

    The nuns never taught me that version of the Serenity Prayer. Fook it is better by far.

    Grace is a joy. Her victories and wisdom make my heart skip a beat. They make me feel as if this world isn’t quite so bad after all.

    You needn’t preface any story you share about her. Those who find a problem with that, need to look to themselves.

  13. Tom

    Glad you wrote what you wrote, Ken.

    In my family of mick-thistlehead-kraut-polock drunks and depressives, it’s my brother’s the Downs person. It took gettin’ around the tables for the old man to find joy in his son.

    We’re all missing parts, and we’re all different in what parts we’re missing. Fookit, and we’ll just do with what we have.

    THE GUARDS is on my TBR pile, and I’m looking forward to it.


  14. Lisa


    I’ve only corresponded with you once or twice, maybe on Crimespace, or on DL, but I am honored to know you, and would be proud to say you were a friend. While your writing is not always easy, neither is life. Sometime our lives and our loves are so real it’s just painful, and yet we find a way to laugh, cry, and laugh again. Your love for your daughter is a blessed thing.

    You do tend to go right for the gut don’t you, lol? As I’m smiling through tears….thanks much for sharing – Lisa R


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