Lessons from my father
I wanted to create a a collection of stories about Fathers that demonstrate the myriad of ways they impact our lives, and how they are viewed by their children. Whether you have, or had, one of those superhero dads, someone who is simply trying his best, or a man who does not deserve the title, they shape us in ways beyond measure.
These stories from around the world are responses to a request I put out on writing and blogging sites. It was a privilege to receive them and I was touched by their poignant words.
So here are their stories, told in their own words.
Happy Father's Day.
Kate, 35, UK
As I glance at my two week old son sleeping soundly, I mentally skip forward to his future birthday parties and I make a vow that he will have LOADS of balloons. A staple of any child’s birthday party, right? Nope – not me. My dad was nervous about balloons, apparently something about their unpredictability set his nerves on edge, so the easy thing to do was to avoid them completely, or risk him effing and blinding at whichever of my ten year old classmates had got too giddy and caused one to pop! A far cry from the birthday parties that took place on the nineties American TV shows I watched, where teenagers wearing cool dungarees and scrunchies drank orange soda and threw around balloons like there was no tomorrow. I don’t recall Blossom’s dad ever calling anyone a f*****g prick when a balloon popped during a party game!
Halloween was another sober affair, with masked “jumping out” games another colossal no-no in our house. After a few glasses of wine at Christmas, my sisters and I inevitably get onto the Dad Chronicles – and someone will say “Kate, tell us again about that time he took you to Camelot and he punched that bloke dressed as the Grim Reaper who jumped out on you during the Ghost Train ride!”
Perhaps rather naively I never asked him why he was like he was, but during a chat on one of my many hospital visits, just out of the blue one day, he told me that his dad had once chased him down the road with an axe for telling lies. And then matter of factly, he moved back onto slandering the hospital mashed potato, as if he’d never gone off topic. I never explored it further as I could tell he instantly regretted sharing it. Maybe the aghast look on my face told him he’d said too much. But assuming it’s true then I’m not surprised that he grew up to be a jumpy adult.
Hiba, 15, Pakistan
I can say that word a million times. Baba. Not everyone has a superhero dad. But I do.
There is a pair of shoes that he keeps in the wardrobe sometimes....And sometimes by our sofa in the lounge. It's a simple traditional pair, dusty and brown, but to my heart it's more valuable than gold.
To think of it...maybe it isn't all dusty, but there's a specific memory it leads me to.
Dust on shoes. Dust on Baba's shoes. He's a beautiful soul.
And, what should I tell you? You, reader, following black alphabets on a white screen! My love for him is greater than my little fingers can comprehend! And such intense emotion is linked to his dusty shoes, that even I cannot seem to understand it. Perhaps, to me, the dust is a symbol of his hard work. Maybe it's a memory from the many times I have seen his shoes collecting dust in the hallway. The dust, my friend, seems important to me. Maybe it's a symbol of him.
A symbol of the purity he is made of. Because dust is raw and pure.
My thoughts sway. And I think from one subject to another. Let me sum this up for you.
I believe the dust is connected to his shoes. For many times I have seen it on them as they lie in the hallway, illustrating his labour for love and livelihood. At the same time representing his sincerity, and his beautiful heart, his person.
While you read what I say maybe it is strange to you. But all these words drip out of my finger tips as expressions of the unexpressed love.
I love my father.
And maybe that's why all I can say is: He taught me how.
Kathy, 56, USA
Busier than a one-armed paper hanger...it's a term used to let someone know you can't possibly get it all done, you're that busy! Well, my Dad actually was a one-armed paper hanger. Losing his arm in a motorcycle accident in his early twenties, he healed and went on to own his own painting and wall papering business.
I can remember watching him pull a forty foot wooden extension ladder off his truck and carry it across a client’s yard. Then setting it up against the house and climbing to the second floor to paint the trim. It never seemed amazing, just normal to watch him. When I got older I realized he did struggle at times and it was his actions, not words that taught me the most important lesson of my life. He made things seem effortless, even when they were hard with perseverance.
A pretty important lesson to learn.
Fabio, 39, Italy
From my father I learnt a lot. A Whole lot.
I learnt it's not good to whip your son until he bleeds, because it will burn for a week while sitting in the classroom and he'll not be able to concentrate much. He'll then bring home bad marks again, and like a vicious circle the whip will be there, waiting for him.
I learnt it's not good to throw stuff at your son. I mean, a fork can easily pierce a hole in the chest of a ten-years-old; a set square can hurt your son's forehead more than you think.
I learnt that all the beatings in this world have no meaning if a father doesn't take the time to explain to his son what he did wrong, and why. Otherwise what a child sees, it's just a father venting his frustration on the weaker.
I learnt that all the time spent with your son has no meaning for him, unless it grows emotions in him. You should make him laugh, you should be silly with him.
I learnt words of love and appreciation should be given to children. When you are an adult, you don't notice these things anymore. But when you are young, that's what forms your character, your self-esteem. It's a long journey to get it back, once it's lost.
From my father I learnt a lot. I learnt what I don't want to be.
Amelia, 22, USA
I sat in the back of my dad's Toyota, silent. The year had been awful for me; lost friends, lost love, lost religion. Being 15 had been hard. The car stopped in the drive way.
"Amelia," said my dad, concerned, "What's wrong?"
"She stopped being my friend!" I blubbered.
I can't remember what happened next, but my father had me cracking up in ten minutes.
As I walked into the house, I remember taking comfort in the one person who would always love me: my father.
John, 73, USA
One bright August day before my third grade year, my dad announced that he’d purchased Ohio State football season tickets for the two of us. The announcement marked a change in our relationship. Dad had been a distant presence, working hard to complete his education while supporting our family, but now he’d finished his Master’s Degree. Meanwhile, I’d grown to where time together meant more than babysitting. Even at a young age, I understood the sacrifice. As an alum, former player, and high school football coach, Dad got his tickets for the price of the tax. Mine cost full fare.
The day of the first game, I hugged close to Dad’s hip as we filtered through jostling crowds. Outside the stadium, vendors hawked their wares like side-show barkers. We passed a spot where a harried merchant sold programs—two-fifty each, as I recall. I asked Dad if he’d buy one. It took awhile to get the guy’s attention, but Dad finally handed him a five. The guy handed back a program and change for a twenty.
Twenty dollars was a lot for a man raising a family on a teacher’s salary in those days, a full days wage. Dad easily could have pocketed the money. Instead, he practically had to tackle the harassed salesperson to return the windfall. Meanwhile, a young boy watched intently. I’ve had a chance to reprise that simple gesture a few times over the years. The response is always the same, a look of puzzled gratitude.
I related that long-ago happening and life lesson in a visit a few years back. Typical of the man of deep-seated integrity that he is, Dad had just been being Dad. He doesn’t remember the incident.
The adult that watching young boy became will never forget it.