It was Fathers Day yesterday – a lovely day for families to celebrate the contribution a parent can make to a family. My children made a card for their Daddy, with lots of nice drawings (artists in the making, obviously!).
This made me think a lot about my own father who died nearly three years ago. Invariably I remember the kindness he showed me, but also the advice he was always offering. That is what a parent usually does, isn’t it? Offer advice – their best efforts at reassuring you, based on their own perspective and world view.
Much of what he told me was grounded in a belief about not taking life to heart, to living it with a carefree feeling. I wish I had listened more to him when I was younger.
He was very intelligent and had this amazing understanding of how things worked – how mechanisms fitted together, how one element could interact with another. Physics was definitely a strong point for him.
Growing up in North London in the 40’s and 50’s, he was used to hard graft. He left school when he was 14 and worked many, many labouring jobs that made my mind buzz as a little girl – visions of him stuck underneath cars, fixing things I couldn’t see or possibly know about, or hanging off roofs sorting out bits of guttering. He would appear in the house at tea-time, covered in black oil and usually nursing some type of manual injury – I was used to seeing him in slings and with blood blisters on his fingernails. This demonstrated that it’s ok to learn on the job and make mistakes (although this perhaps shouldn’t be with a hammer!)
I always asked him for his advice on various things. Of course, many of these problems (I can’ t even remember what they were now), felt like end of the world stuff when I was a teenager. School issues came up a lot. In particular, I remember three main things he told me, time and time again when I was growing up and more recently, before he died:
1. “If in doubt, ask” – it’s ok to not know the answer to everything, that is what learning is all about
2. “All you can do is give it 100%” – your best effort is enough, because you know you’ve done all you can
3. “Don’t worry love – it’s worry that kills people” – a bit serious this one, but high levels of worry = ill health
He always knew how to make me feel better, like I was sitting on top of the world (or on top of a Banger Racing car!!). You can see below that spelling wasn’t his strong point…
He also said that if you cry too much then you won’t be able to see properly, which was the most ridiculously silly advice ever. But it never failed at making me laugh and helped me to feel reassured and generally alright with the world again.
When we were older, he completed an Open University degree in Engineering, probably having been encouraged by my Mum. This enabled him to get better paid work and a promotion (I imagine) and involved a lot more driving inside a comfortable car rather than sliding around underneath one. However, I always thought he was much happier in the ditch at the side of a racing track, knee-deep in mud and laughing to himself.
Dad, this is for you. Happy Fathers Day x