Father’s Day is a day for all of us to embrace our Dads, grandfathers, uncles and father-figures and tell them all what they mean to me. Admittedly, I have never really had a chance to be close to my grand-fathers, who are now both in heaven, due to them living in a different country, my uncles pre-dominantly the same, except for my mother’s brother who kept a distance from us for unknown reasons. My Dad and I have always had an unstable relationship, of which I have tried many a time to do things from my heart for him, only for it to not be appreciated in the way that I’d hoped. And my ex-husband is literally in the top 10% of the worst fathers ever created… so as you can see, it’s not exactly a day to celebrate for me… I have, in the past, given Fathers Day gifts to people who have been father-figures to my boys – people like my brother-in-law who was yet to be a father but a fantastic uncle to my boys, and my lover to show him that I appreciate the effort and love he showed all of us…
So for my own Dad, I will reflect on some of the memories I have had with him without it sounding like a eulogy… 🙂
As I grew up, my Dad was a builder, so each weekend was time for us kids to get our hands dirty. But I only really remember me helping, while the others were complaining about how hard the work was… I remember helping day get rid of a big pile of timber in the front yard with my gum boots on, and when we were almost finished, I could feel my feet aching and I didn’t know why. Dad told me to take my gumboots off, and somehow I had stepped on two rusty nails that had gone through my boots, socks and feet. Lo and behold, he told me to go inside and get Mum to look at them…
When I was about 11 or 12, I helped Dad clean up the building sites on the weekends. Sometimes, it might haven been chipping off old tiles off the kitchen floor ready for Monday so that they could sand it back and put a new flooring on, or painting the insides of the wardrobes (the places that no one could see) rather than paying a painter to do them, and sometimes it was generally a huge clean up of putting builder’s rubble into wheelbarrows or plasterer’s buckets and carting them off to the skip. I do remember plenty of trips to the tip with Dad.
Dad did take us all swimming each and every Thursday night and every second Sunday morning. By the time, I was about ten, it seemed like I was the only one going regularly out of my three sisters and I, especially Thursday nights. I remembered on the way home, Dad would talk to me about things like how a car worked or the names for the different sides of a boat, but most nights we drove in silence. One night we went swimming, and my Dad told me once we were there, that he had organised a surprise 40th birthday party for Mum when we got home. That all their friends were travelling from all over Melbourne to be there from about 9.15pm on a Thursday night. Dad had secretly put all the food, birthday cake and drinks in the cellar, and my other sisters didn’t know a thing… in fact, the little ones would have already been in bed by the time we got home. I remember how excited I was that I had a ‘secret’ and that Dad had trusted me with that secret. We got home, and Mum wasn’t feeling too well… she had a migraine and said once we walked in the door that she needed to go to bed. I could see the disappointment in Dad’s face. Within a minute of her saying that, the doorbell rang. Mum, quite annoyed, said “Who the hell could that be at this time of night?” She opened the door, and all her friends were there screaming out “Happy Birthday.” Mum took some painkillers, and kept a brave face for the rest of the night’s celebrations, as Dad had never gone to so much effort for her ever.
On rainy weekends, Dad did play Monopoly with my sisters and I, and he tried to teach us the rules, but none of us could understand because we didn’t know the reality of buying and selling real estate, what mortgages were, or even what interest was… so he always won, and took the fun out of it. He did, teach us plenty of card games, and that is where we found our equilibrium. We would play card games before or after dinner, like cribbage, gin rummy and hearts, depending on how long and how many people wanted to play. We had a table tennis table, and at the start, he again took the fun out of it as we didn’t have the skill, but we soon learnt the tricks of the trade and were able to fend off Dad’s tactical plays.
After I finished Year 8 (I was 14) and had a report card that had straight As, Dad gave my older sister and I our very first presents from him… yes, he’d given us presents before jointly with Mum, but never something that he took any time and effort to go out and buy himself and make us feel special to him… he bought both of us a Tandy Electronics Scientific Calculator to say that he was proud of us. I cherished that calculator for over 20 years… and it’s only very recently that I’ve replaced it because a particular person I was married to treated it like it was ‘just a calculator.’
Mum and Dad did take us on road trips along the East Coast of Australia. We drove to Port Macquarie, Tasmania (via the ferry), Dalmeny on the South Coast of NSW and the Barossa Valley in South Australia, as well as many trips around Victoria. We all had our designated seats in our 8-seater mini van, mine behind Dad driving reading the road map explaining how many kilometres it was to our next destination, or where the next best stop was for lunch.
They were my bonding times with my Dad… that I am thankful that there are a handful of those… I have tried many times to do things that I thought he would be proud of with me, giving him gifts that come from the heart, opening my house to him and his friends for my parent’s surprise 40th wedding anniversary party and even giving him grandsons to at last have some ‘boys’ in his life. But whatever I do, I just feel unappreciated.
I know my Dad only has a few years left in his life and I really don’t know how it’s possible to create happier memories with him as his health deteriorates. But I do love my Dad and I wish him all the best this Fathers Day. We are celebrating with him next week, as my sisters with their husbands choose to enjoy the day spending time with their children.
Happy Fathers Day to all the wonderful, caring fathers out there who cherish their children, are proud of their children and are always there for their children no matter what.