The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.
This story was conceived during a content brainstorming session at the office. The head of editorial asked if anyone could write something about their dad- a feel good story that would represent Fathers’ Day, a day that celebrates fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. There were six of us in the room. Not a single hand went up. Dads, as it turns out, don’t evoke sentimental emotions. After what seemed like two and a half lifetimes of silence, my hand slowly rose. Why not, I thought. I have a dad. He’s decent enough. I’m sure I can come up with something sweet to say about him. Piece o’ cake.
Except it wasn’t.
I took a number of trips down memory lane and each time, dad came up short in the sentimental memories department. I remembered how my older sister always shared her Enid Blyton’s with me, I remembered how my older brother sometimes let me play on his Atari, I remembered how my younger sister worshiped the ground I walked on, I remembered how my younger brother covered up for me whenever I goofed up. And I remembered my mum. Oh how I remembered mum. I remembered her cooking oily mandazis for us every Sunday, how she helped us with homework every evening, how she made these cute little matching outfits for us girls and platted our hair without pulling and tugging at our scalps like that awful salon woman…Mum and sentimental memories went together like sweet potato in pie.
Of course I remembered dad too- his loud voice that left no room for further discussions, his mysterious presence that put the fear of God in us.
For the longest time I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for mum- raising five kids with little to no support from her husband.
But then I met my partner and became a parent and realized that for the longest time, I had been wrong. Dad was in fact, not just a loud voice and mystery. He had always been a very important force in our lives.
I now know for sure that when he left the house early every morning and came back late in the evenings it was because he was going to work. And he was working so that we could get those cute little matching outfits and eat those oily mandazis that mum made.
I now know that while the title of disciplinarian is not glamourous, it is a necessary one. Straightening kids out is one of the hardest things about parenting. It gets tiring; it shortens your temper and makes you look like the bad guy. Dad was usually the bad guy.
But he was also a good guy.
I remembered him getting mum all dressed up and excited to go to parties, I remembered him sitting with her on the couch and having long conversations, I remembered him making her laugh, I remembered him taking her side in arguments. I mean if you upset mum, you had dad to deal with and that was not a situation anyone would willingly put themselves in.
These days, dad and I have some kind of relationship. I call him. He calls me. We make each other laugh. We have long-ish conversations. Sometimes we talk as if we’ve know each other all our lives- except we haven’t. And we both know that. Sometimes this makes us both a little sad. But I know and I hope to God he knows that he did the best that he could with the knowledge, resources and information that he had.
A few days ago, he called me and asked that I help him book a trip for him and his wife to the coast. Dad wants to take mum to the beach. Imagine that! After 45+ years of marriage, this 68 year old man is pulling such stunts for his 64 year old wife. Who does that?!
I may not have any sentimental memories of dad as I was growing up but I couldn’t have asked for more from a dad.
I couldn’t have asked for more because the way dad has treated mum has set the tone for the way I have allowed myself to be treated by the men in my life. And if my brothers ever treat the women in their lives like crap, it won’t be because they picked it up from dad.
Dad’s been good to mum and that’s good enough for me.