Every Fathers Day I smile at the countless posts I see across social media, the tributes to all of the Dads and husbands, the Dads who are loved and missed on this day, and every day. And I always consider myself lucky to not only have my Dad here with us today, but to have the best Dad that I could possibly hope for.
Because my Dad is lovely, he really is. He is kind, funny, loving, generous and a whole host of other adjectives, none of which come close to describing how wonderful he is. And for the 35 years that I have known and loved him, I have never loved him just as much as I do right here and now. Not only is he an amazing Dad, but he is the best Grandad that my children could ever have hoped for.
My Dad has been to Hell and back with me over the years. Not just through my teenage rebellion or the battle with my mental health, but through the pain of losing Joseph, the never ending worry and upset of our quest to get pregnant, the breakdown of my marriage and the constant fear that his daughter would never be truly happy.
During the depths of my depression, rather than sit at home all day alone and crying, my Dad would drag me out to work with him. Working as a lorry driver, we would drive across the country with our sandwiches wrapped in tin foil, sharing a bag of Murray mints and the radio on full blast. We rarely spoke, we didn’t need to, we were both just glad of the company. And I loved those days, cruising along on the open road, stopping off at various scenic points where my Dad would share random nuggets of information, eating our packed lunches with the sun on our faces. And on our drop-offs along the way his customers would compliment him on producing such a beautiful daughter and my dad would wink and joke, “She takes after me!” and I would roll my eyes and blush while he literally burst with pride.
When I found out that I was pregnant for the first time, my Dad was the first person I told, before I had even told my husband. And I had sat on his knee, aged twenty three, and told him that he was going to be a Grandad and he had cried with happiness. Three months later when we lost that baby I could see that it absolutely destroyed him to see me going through such heartache, and so a few months later when we were able to share the news that I was pregnant again, I shall never forget the look of joy on his face.
When Lewis was born my Dad had dropped everything at work, sped over to the hospital and was there before Lewis was even thirty minutes old. And he loved him, more than I could ever have imagined that he would, and right there and then I realised that this was the best gift that I would ever give to him.
And two years later, when we had lost Joseph and I returned home with empty arms, my Dad hadn’t needed to say a word. He had just hugged me, held me as I cried and stifled his own sadness as he told me that it would all be okay. We named him Joseph Allan, after my Dad, and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect name for our special little boy.
During my divorce he never once passed judgement, never told me what to do or pointed out the mistakes that we had made. He had just been there, as he had always been. And he hadn’t been full of words of wisdom, that’s not like my dad at all, but he had never questioned my reasons, never pried or got involved, and I loved him for that. And at the end of it when the divorce was final he had hugged me and once again, he had told me that it would all be okay.
When Gaz came along my Dad was over the moon, “Finally someone stupid enough to take you off our hands!” he had joked. And yet when Gaz had asked him for my hand in marriage, my Dad had choked back his tears and told him that he had his blessing a thousand times over. When we announced that I was pregnant with Eva I had seen the look of fear behind his smile, for as hard as it had been for me to go through another pregnancy after losing Joseph, it had been equally hard for my parents. And so when she arrived, safe and well, and I had rang to share our news, I thought that he might actually explode with happiness. And fifteen minutes later when he was at the hospital holding her for the very first time, it had been one of my proudest moments of all time.
Twelve weeks later, on my wedding day he had come to my room as I was finishing getting ready and he told me that I looked so beautiful, that there had never been a bride quite as lovely as I. And as he walked me down the aisle, again, I wanted to freeze that moment in time and treasure it forever. My lovely, lovely Dad, the proudest man on earth.
When we discovered that I was pregnant with Megan and had such mixed reactions from others, my Dad was jumping for joy. He told us that it was the best news he had ever heard, that he thought it would be wonderful for us all and that he was certain that we would have another little girl. And when she was born and I saw him with Lewis, Eva and Megan, I felt as though I had finally paid him back for every last moment of worry I had ever caused him.
And when we had finally plucked up the nerve to tell my parents that I was pregnant, AGAIN, just a few months later, he had told us that it was wonderful news. Not for one minute did he question our choices, tell us that we were foolish or ask us what on earth we had been thinking. His only concern had ever been, “How on earth will I fit them all on my knee?”.
And being a Grandad came so naturally to my Dad. As a child growing up my Dad had worked Monday to Friday and, like most working parents, he had missed out on that time with my brother and I. With the Grandchildren my Dad has been there every step of the way. He has witnessed their first steps, first words and major milestones. He has been there every Christmas morning, every birthday as they blew out their candles and seen the look on their faces as they opened their presents. He taught Lewis to ride a bike, Eva to count to ten, Megan to learn her colours and Harry to clap his hands.
And the patience that he has displayed as a Grandparent puts me to shame. He used to sit with Lewis for hours drawing and colouring and inventing games for them to play. He humours Eva’s incessant need to ask the same questions on repeat, Megan’s demands to play the same games back to back and Harry’s persistent mission to throw himself off the couch. He cycles for miles with Lewis, even when his legs are aching and he’s ready for a sit down, chases the girls around the garden despite being full of a cold or gasping for a brew. He sacrifices his favourite TV shows so that the children can watch yet another episode of Peppa Pig, shares his food, his drink, his liquorice allsorts, sits on the floor when the girls have claimed his chair, crawls up and down the living room when they insist that he is a donkey, a lion, a dinosaur. He’s been scratched, squashed, trampled and jumped on and yet he loves it. He absolutely loves it.
And there is nothing that my Dad can’t do. DIY? He’s your man! Car trouble? He’ll know what to do. Gardening, painting, roofing, building? Hell give it his best shot. And we don’t talk about the time that he hit a nail right through the mains water pipe on the landing, or the time that he dropped a tin of red paint down the stairs. We don’t mention how he cut through our telephone line whilst digging in our garden or the time he chopped down our beautiful blossom tree just because he fancied making a bird table out of the trunk. It’s best to simply gloss over those small lapses of judgement and focus on his successes!!
My Dad has simple tastes and needs. This is a man, aged sixty six, who has never eaten pasta. Or rice. Or even a burger. He hasn’t tried Indian, Chinese, Mexican. He hasn’t tasted a pizza, sea food….a potato waffle. And why? Because, and I quote, he doesn’t like the look of it! If he could eat a Sunday roast every day of the week he would be happy. Despite the many weeks that my parents spend abroad, my Dad will always manage to hunt down the nearest English cafe, order a full English and that’s him sorted for the rest of the holiday. And while my Mum despairs of him as he gags at the sight of melted cheese, I find it hilarious. He likes what he likes, it’s as simple as that.
My Dad isn’t a big talker, not when it comes to the important stuff. He can talk for hours about football, about cars and Formula One, but when it comes to the serious stuff, his silence speaks volumes. His wedding speech was completely adlibbed, just a couple of minutes long (including the most inappropriate joke about having given the same speech once before) and yet he doesn’t need to make public declarations for me to know that we are his entire world. Every single day he tells me that he loves me, always says goodbye with a kiss and a, “Love you babe” and I have felt so loved and so protected by him my whole life.
In 2012 whilst pregnant with Eva, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. And where as most peoples concerns would be for themselves, their health and their own worries, my Dads biggest concern was for me, how I would cope with the news and the effect that it would have on an already high-risk pregnancy. So concerned was he that despite having to undergo major surgery, he asked my Mum whether they could just “not tell me” and hatched a plan that whenever I saw him in the weeks following his surgery that he would “just wear a scarf”. And thank God he was very lucky, he was given the all clear and we were spared the unthinkable. But I think that it shook us all, it changed the way that we look at life, at how much we take forgranted and what is really important.
And its a sad fact of life that we are all getting older and time is passing us by. And one day, hopefully a long time from now, I will have to face the reality that nothing lasts forever. But for now, I cherish every single moment. I watch with pride at the amazing Grandad that my Dad has become, respect and admire the husband who for forty one years has committed to my Mum through thick and thin, and enjoy every single minute with my funny, clumsy, lovely, crazy Dad.
Because there is no love quite like that between a Father and Daughter, the very first man I ever loved.