Today marks another Father’s Day in the UK, a day where children of all ages will remember their fathers in some way. Some dads will receive gifts, others will be proudly presented by toddlers with a home-made crayoned card depicting a round, colourful dad with cotton wool hair and twig-like limbs unattached to his body, playing on ten foot tall lurid green grass with their smiling, egg-shaped children.
Some, like me, will miss their dads today from afar, wishing they could be there in person to hand over the gifts that they have instead entrusted Mr Amazon to deliver. And the children of all ages whose fathers have passed away will sit in quiet contemplation of the enormous gap their father has left, whilst appreciating (with the experience that only an adult child can appreciate) the everyday lessons and wise advice he has intrinsically shaped their lives with.
My dad has been a consistent voice of reason throughout my life, a source of reliability and calm influence whose values have become my inner voice and eventually, the template I used (however unconsciously) to parent my own children.
He taught me that hard work will bring rewards, but you must love what you do for it ever to be worthwhile. He taught me that you should always do the right thing, even when it is not the easy thing to do. That to love your family and appreciate what you already have is the only way to be truly content, and that life owes you nothing.
With the arrogance of youth, I admit that some of these lessons were not ones that I necessarily listened to at the time they were dispensed, but they stuck in my memory like little pods of knowledge to be popped open at the appropriate times when life has laid its challenges in my path. Some of them I am only just learning to appreciate now.
Over the course of my life, my dad has good-humouredly allowed my sister and I to perm his hair (he cut it all off soon after without fanfare). He has tolerated the times I conducted childhood experiments to see if a Smartie would fit up his nose and rather more randomly, what would happen if I poured both sherbet and lemonade into his belly button while he enjoyed a Sunday afternoon nap on the sofa. He awoke in a sudden, blind panic thinking he was about to spontaneously combust, if you want to know the outcome. And no, I still don’t know why I did it, either. Science was never my strong suit.
He helped my sister and I with our homework, teaching us long division and multiplication. He endured with good humour our joint obsession with Duran Duran, the teenage angst and the repeated playing of our favourite music at top volume. He has sighed inwardly at my 14-year old self colouring my fringe purple with a felt-tip pen and waited patiently for my brief flirtation with New Romanticism to pass.
Later on, he stayed by my bedside throughout the night equipped with a bucket and a glass of water when I was delivered home rather worse for wear and unable to speak coherently, and has imparted stern lectures on the compromise of my safety in drink the day after the night before. He gave me away on my wedding day to a man who has subsequently proved to be as good a father as he himself has always been. As different as they may be in personality, they share the same commitment to work, family, honesty and integrity which is so important to me.
My dad has protectively cradled my newborn babies with undisguised, raw pride. He taught them to swim, has taken them on holidays and repeatedly risen in the early hours of Christmas Day to answer the breathless and excited call “Grandad! Santa’s been, hurry up and come round and see!”
Regular readers know that my dad suffered a devastating stroke before he even retired. The very thought that my strong, hardworking, eternally busy father might not make it during the seemingly interminable months of his recovery in hospital was the most terrifying and unsettling feeling that I have ever experienced. He may not be in very good health any more, but everything that he stands for and his philosophy on life continue to be a guiding light for me.
My dad encouraged our eventual plans to move to the other side of the world, unselfishly hiding his tears at his profound personal sense of loss until the very last minute. He is indeed a very long way away, in a physical sense. 12,000 miles separate us and although I feel that distance every day, I also feel very close to him because of those little beads of wisdom that he implanted in my head long ago that keep popping open whenever they’re called upon. His inner voice has indeed become mine, and I am forever grateful.
If you have a good father, my advice to you is to love him unconditionally for he will not always be here. He may not be perfect, but in all honesty, neither are you. If he lives close enough that you can pop by and say hello, please realise how very fortunate you are and go there often to hug him for no other reason than it just matters.
As those who can’t be with their fathers on Father’s Day will no doubt agree, life is very fragile and we often don’t realise the importance of the things we take for granted until time turns them into precious and indelible memories.
Happy Father’s Day readers, wherever you are and whoever you may choose to spend it with.