Before we had children, I had this idyllic picture of the father I wanted to be. Obviously, it was totally unrealistic. But I figured that if I was half as good a dad as my father was to me, I’d be doing okay. This Father’s Day, I had cause to reflect on how I’m doing.
I’m not going to lie, I had a maudlin sort of Father’s Day. If the pandemic has done one thing, it’s to make me more reflective. And, let’s face it, even pre-Covid I was already as reflective as a circus Hall of Mirrors. Add to that a four-hour round trip just to visit my parents for a couple of hours and, well, let’s just say I had a lot of time to think.
My dad’s in good shape for a man in his 80s but even so I know I only have a finite number of Father’s Days left to spend with him. In a similar vein, I only have so many Father’s Days left with Isaac (who’s 13) before he moves on to the next chapter in his life, whether that’s university, a job or whatever. There are few enough moments to waste. So while I spent more time in the car than I did with dad on Sunday, it was worth it just to make the connection.
Similarly, it was one of those weekends where all five of us were together in the same place for only a few hours. It’s increasingly that way these days. Things are returning to normal as lockdown eases. Kara is constantly all over the place doing four different sports. The boys are often out with their local friends. Isaac spends most of his weekend in his room revising for exams or playing games with his mates. So just spending 90 minutes sat round our dining table on Sunday evening enjoying a ‘steamboat’ hotpot dinner together as a family without someone being desperate to get away was a big deal for me.
The older I get, the more I realise that Father’s Day – much like birthdays or Christmas – isn’t about what we do or what presents we receive. Instead, it’s all about the simple act of spending time together and being present for each other.
I’m very lucky to still be able to celebrate days like this with three generations of family. It won’t last forever. So I’m going to savour every moment now.
I’ve inherited facets of my personality and interests from both my parents, but I definitely take more after my dad. A love of music, puzzles and gadgets. An interest in the law – he qualified and practised briefly as a criminal barrister. (One of my first heroes was Horace Rumpole from the Rumpole of the Bailey books and TV series.) Even my involvement in podcast presenting and production can be traced back to rainy Sunday afternoons spent splicing and editing actual reels of audio tape with dad.
At some point in the (hopefully not-too-near) future, there will be no more Father’s Days to spend with my dad. All that will remain are my memories of him, from early childhood to my own years as a father. And they will be good memories. Even heroic on occasion. My childhood memories are inextricably linked to both my parents, but dad in particular.
When I die, I wonder what my children will have inherited from me?
I’ll pass on the same passion for music I inherited from my father, for sure. But also a love of cooking, all things Marvel, games, word-play and technology. In many ways, I will live on in the interests I have passed on to them.
But how will they remember me?
I worry about this a lot, probably too much. I fret about the mistakes I’ve made (and continue to make). The times I’ve shouted at them unnecessarily. The opportunities I’ve missed. Every error; every time I’ve prioritised work or myself over them.
I’m not certain I live up to the role model I wish I could be for them. In fact, I’m sure I don’t.
But then Kara presented me with something she’d made especially for Father’s Day, on which she’d listed ten words or phrases to describe what I am to her.
In amongst ‘sleepy’ (guilty as charged, as I’m forever falling asleep on the sofa) and ‘dad joker’ (sorry-not-sorry about that), she’d also included ‘kind’, ‘snuggly’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘my hero’. So I must be doing something right, even though I suspect she had written some of it at gun-point.
I’m no hero. But my father, in his own quiet way, will always be a hero to me. When you strip back all the hopelessly lofty aspirations of old, that’s all I want to be for my kids: to be there for them whenever they need me (and even when they don’t). If I can do that, I’ll have been all the hero they’ll ever need.