As a woman with feminist tendencies I’m minded to remark wryly that every day is Father’s Day. Although I was a little stunned when I made the observation in a high street card shop recently and was greeted with (utter) bemusement by the recipients of my remark. Teach me to listen to the conversations of random strangers! But I confess I am a Daddy’s girl; always have been and probably always will be! I make no apology for it; I lurves my daddy because he’s just fab! OK I am biased and yes he is the only one I’ve ever had (thankfully). He is delightfully eccentric with an acquired sense of humour that isn’t universally understood by lesser mortals. When he went into hospital after falling and breaking his hip my brother and I were distressed and angered at the treatment he received. Our middle class educated upbringing informed by my experience of the NHS led us to pragmatically write a letter outlining (in 4 pages of detail) our concerns whilst emphasising that we were not making a complaint.
My particular cage had been rattled; no one deserved to be treated with the absence of respect for his dignity that my father was. Men of my father’s generation do not respond positively to being called by a shortened form of their Christian name. Nor do they find communication easy when deprived of their glasses and their hearing aid. Those were two of the smaller misdeamours metered on my darling daddy; I will never forgive the hospital staff responsible for what they did to him.
When we were growing up dad told us funny stories which we lapped up as children. The most amusing was telling us one weekend that the reason he was bald was that the monkeys of Gibraltar pulled his hair out; he showed us a photograph of him and his friend with monkeys on their shoulders to prove it! Of course if we had been older we would have noticed he was already bald in the photograph! Dad lost his hair when he was in his twenties and my brother worried the same fate awaited him but he’s reached 40 with a full head of hair thankfully.
Growing up in Malawi Dad took us to the airport at weekends to watch the cargo planes being unloaded, we sat on tall stools drinking Fanta out of small glass bottles. I remember seeing the redacted copies of Cosmopolitan with naked flesh blacked out as it offended President Banda. I guess dad must have given us an explanation for this as I don’t remember thinking it was odd at the time at least. In the context of a society where women couldn’t wear trousers or halter-necked dresses and men were forbidden to wear long hair or bell-bottoms (in the 1970s) it was ‘normal’.
Dad and I agree on most things although he does seem to think my new stealth toilet seat (that has a lid that automatically closes) is a feminist step too far! This weekend I made my mother whoop with glee when I commented that the downstairs toilet seat was also capable going down as well as up! At this point he switched to ‘selective’ hearing mode busying himself with eating his lunch!
Overall he’s been a pretty tolerant father who seldom chastised us (leaving any punishment considered necessary to my mother (thankfully infrequent as I was a pretty compliant child)). I remember the time I’d taken the car keys to get something out of the family VW Variant (?) that had been shipped to Malawi, aged 6 I somehow managed to break the key in the lock! He stood in the uniform colonial style knee length shorts (with knee length socks) and just looked at me shaking his head as if to say ‘how the hell did you do that’!
Then there was the day I went home after taking my maths ‘O’ level and he was in the kitchen when I walked through the door. He asked how it had gone and I think I burst into tears just knowing I’d failed (I had). He just put his arm round me reassuringly saying it wasn’t the end of the world as I could take it again (I did and passed (just)). Bearing in mind he was a maths teacher at the same school I went to that was a big deal!
Years later much amusement was had at my expense when I was worked at the Welsh Office in the Local Government Finance team responsible for several billion pounds of local and police authority funding. The problem was, I noted, I simply couldn’t relate to small numbers! The same applied to my inability to advise on the fertiliser needs of a domestic lawn having spent 3 years doing an Agricultural Economics degree – multiple hectares no problem, teeny lawn dimensions needed some algorithm I hadn’t studied!
No matter how old I get I’ll always need the love and approval of my parents especially my dad. When growing up you don’t appreciate what your parents sacrifice to support you – when I won a scholarship to study at Washington State University I never thought about how the flights were paid for or the other costs the scholarship didn’t cover. Years later I found out Dad had sold shares and cashed investments when I complained about how difficult it was being in the States without a car. He sent money to buy a second hand car (not such a wise decision as it turned out – car died before I could pass my test)and more memorable was him sending me his old mac that I loved so I could wear it in Spokane! And no the student grunge look did not translate into State side cool!
And how could you not love a Dad who opened and ate the chocolate you’d bought him whilst still in bed on Christmas morning!