My father tells everyone his age, a habit that mortified my mother as she liked to pretend she was much younger than she was. I was raised in the days when dads were largely on the 9-5 treadmill and their wives were part time workers greeting their husbands with a welcome home drink while promising homely meals wafted their scents from beyond the kitchen door. Remote dads asking how the day at school went while decompressing the tension of their day to put on that calm face for family that was expected.
That may have been the dads most people had – remote, monosyllabic and disengaged – waiting for the day when the children would grow up and they would get their wives back but that was not the way my family worked.
My mother worked the 9-5 and my father worked shifts. An odd 10 day fortnight routine where no two days were the same and a “sleep day” was considered essential. What that meant for us in practical terms was that often it was my dad greeting me as I came home from school and often the banana and cheese omelette (don’t ask) would be cooked by him, or later on I carried out my mother’s instructions and we greeted my mother at the end of her working day with something that could be passed off as edible. We often masked it with the smell of perked coffee on the stove.
So it was my dad who took the dog for a walk or grew herbs in the plot outside the kitchen door to put into the dinner that night. He decorated the house on his days off and pretended to like the chocolate rice pudding or mince and potatoes I would bring home from cookery class in first year.
Then they both seemed to wake up to the 60s. Sometimes when I walked between the old school and the annex over the moor I would see my purple flowered shirt/purple cord jeans wearing father walking towards me with the dog at his heels. I tried to hide behind friends but he would always spot me and wave and I would cringe in embarrassment in the way that only a teenager can.
It was Dad who taught me to ride my bike and, much later on, taught my own daughter to ride hers. He had the patience to see a job through without getting into a flap. When I gave up on teaching her to drive and left it to the professionals as my screaming in terror wasn’t helpful, he took her out between lessons and told her what a good little driver she was and how safe she was – even when that was not entirely true.
And now he’s, as he puts it, in God’s Waiting R
oom, he’s still my daddy. He still wants to know I’ve got in to work safely and phones my office to see if I arrived if I forget to text. When you consider that many of my contemporaries are taking early retirement there is something quite sweet about that.
He potters about the house and despite walking with at least one stick on a good day, he will stand on a ladder to change a bulb or paint a wall. He works in his garden and house slowly but with pride.
He was ahead of his time, a modern man whose wife, child and grandchild were his world and there should be more daddies like him.