Yesterday was Father’s Day. I don’t think I miss my dad more on Father’s Day, (he never knew when it was anyway, and he would always be surprised when he opened his card), but I’d say it is a reminder I don’t have a father to send a card to, like so many people of course.
Of course I miss him every day, but honestly, I don’t know how I got so lucky. So lucky to have a dad like mine for 39 years. I consider myself hugely privileged to have had a father with such strength of character that he his somehow able to live on without actually being here.
As a young man he wasn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd. He was the first one in his peer group to wear jeans when jeans were the ‘new thing’ – a trendsetter. He was always eager to learn new things – new skills and education were fiercely important to him, and he was the first in his family to get a degree. That’s how he was.
He made the most of opportunities that came his way, and those that didn’t, well, he created new ones! That’s how he was.
He was a thrill-seeker, spending many years racing motor cross to a high level. He had many victories and a few crashes – one saw him in hospital one hot summer with both arms in plaster and his neck in a brace! His biggest concern – that the nurse didn’t try to give him a shave! You see this tall, thrill-seeker was afraid of a few things: the dentist and injections, so the thought of someone else coming at him with a razor was too much to cope with! That’s how he was.
He spent many years as a teacher, some good, some bad, but I know that he made a significant impact on the lives of children who sometimes had no one else looking out for them. He was, for many years on a mission to make a difference and offer children a new direction. He did that multiple times over. He was proud of his students and their parents were grateful for the difference he made. So much so, for years we used to get invited to family dinners, weddings and so on, and most weeks he would come home with a meal that had been sent from the mother of one of these children. That’s how he was!
Minus a few bad days he was an optimistic man. The glass was always half full. In fact, whatever the situation, however bad, he would say “thinking optimistically….”. I loved that about him. He always saw the good in people until they gave him a reason to see otherwise, but he wasn’t afraid to confront people who behaved badly either. That’s how he was.
He had a great sense of humour and he loved a good story. Most conversations with him were like stories, he could make a conversation about concrete interesting because it always involved interactions with others. He loved to hear stories as well about other people’s experiences and he would listen like it was the most interesting thing he’d ever heard. That’s how he was.
He was a man of gestures, both big and small. When I ran a marathon in Switzerland, he told my mum and younger brother to get in the car and drove to Switzerland to be at the race. When my daughter qualified for a national schools swimming competition, he flew over from France to watch her swim 50m, because why wouldn’t you do that? When we were caught in a forest fire when I was three years old and a Dutch family lost their passports and money, he gave them money to get new passports and travel home – that’s how he was.
He was a man with big plans and ideas. “Let’s learn to ski as a family”, “Let’s drive around Europe in a camperbus”, “Let’s buy a field in France and build a house in our spare time”. You get the picture. That’s how he was.
He was a man who loved French wine and French life. He loved pork pies and fish and chips. He loved chocolate orange and a “good bit of meat”. He loved oysters and lot’s of other ugly looking things. That’s how he was.
He was a man who never did things by halves. If you are going to do something, well you have to do it properly. Moving to France was not enough, he wanted to immerse himself in French life, culture and the people. I believe he did that, and what’s more he made it look easy. That’s how he was.
He was someone who believed that with hard work, anything was possible. He was someone who believed in pushing limits and boundaries but not letting others push you around. He was someone who believed in just having a go. I mean, what’s the worse that can happen?
I have wondered many times what he would have made of COVID-19. Whilst I think he would have been frustrated by the politics surrounding the pandemic, I think he would have considered it a reminder of how lucky we are. When I was a child, the famine in Ethiopia was at its peak. He would come home from a bad day at work, tired and a bit grumpy and he’d switch on the news. He’d look at the tiny little bodies of the children on the TV, and he’d say “look at them, they have nothing, and I think I’ve had a bad day”.
He taught me that however bad things seem, that we always have something to be grateful for.
Forever grateful he was mine.
My dad. My superhero.