June is a happy month, don’t you think? Winter is long and truly gone (well, it should be, but it seems to be dragging its heels around here this year). The days are long and warm and holidays are beckoning. Kids are getting ancy at school, but not as much as their teachers. Flowers are showing off their beauty while the vegetables are getting bigger and greener. Strawberries are plumping up and Wimbledon is just a tennis balls throw away.
So, why does June always make me a little sad?
Well, I miss my Dad. He was a great Dad, the best a child could ask for. OK, so he wasn’t the greatest gardener or the greatest DIYer. His main handy man tools were Blu Tack, six inch nails and a hammer. He couldn’t hang wallpaper to save his life and for years I thought hanging wallpaper was a very difficult thing to do. It turns out that it is pretty easy; it’s just that my Dad made it look hard. He had absolutely no sense of direction and would lead us on many a hike going in the wrong direction. How many times did I hear him say “It’s just round the next bend” or “over the next hill.” How many “well worn paths” did we traipse down in the pouring rain – what, well worn by one deer and two rabbits? But he would always be there for us. Whenever we went on a bike ride, we always managed to get a “puncture” on the way home and he would always come and retrieve us from wherever we were. He even came when we called him right in the middle of the men’s final at Wimbledon. Now there’s a dedicated father, especially since he must have known we didn’t actually have punctures and that we had let the air out of our tyres because we were too lazy to cycle home.
We didn’t go on exotic holidays to warm and sunny beaches. We went to rainy places and stayed in caravans or tents. We spent inordinate amounts of time in cagoules and wellies, braving the elements on hikes or on windswept beaches. But did we have fun? You bet we did. We spent holidays in horse drawn caravans in Ireland. Every day, the fun would start when we went to try and catch the horse. One time I nearly got mowed down by the wrong horse. There I was, 10 years old, holding a bucket of oats and trying to tell a 16 hander that no, these weren’t for him. Luckily, Dad was there to pull me out from under his hooves. Then there was the time that we had the local farmer chasing our horse with a tractor. He was doing a good job too, the horse was heading straight for elder brother T, but T jumped off to the side at the last minute as the horse galloped by. All the farmer could do was slowly shake his head and say “This won’t do at all at all at all”. Through it all, Dad kept us going and Dad kept us smiling. It was Dad that braved the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel or the Irish Sea with us; he was the one that hauled me out just as I was being sucked under by a huge wave as it was retreating back down the beach. I don’t know how much fun he had on our mad, chaotic, often wet and often cold holidays, but I know we had a blast and I treasure everyone of my holiday memories. No, we didn’t fly off to exotic places, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that every summer, no matter what, we went somewhere, as a family.
My Dad wasn’t a flashy Dad and he didn’t have much dress sense. You could count on him to turn up in socks and sandals – never just sandals, after the sunburnt feet fiasco - with his trousers pulled up way above the waistline. I do wonder how high his trousers would be today – I am guessing that they would be up under his armpits by now. He had his barbeque apron and his straw boater from Henley and, most importantly, he nearly always wore a smile.
Memories fade and I wish I had more photos to remind me of my Dad. He was always the one behind the camera, so I have very few photos of him. I do remember he was always there for me. He helped me through University. When I was travelling, he helped me pay for the odd airline ticket and when I wanted to learn how to dive, he sent me the money for the course. My love for travelling came from my father. I remember as a little girl, watching slides of the trip he took to Africa just after he had finished at University. I finally managed to fulfill one of my life long dreams last year when I finally made it to Africa to see some of the things that my Dad had shown me as a child.
I still miss my Dad. I missed him at my wedding and I miss him every Christmas and every birthday and every Father’s Day. I missed him when I received my PhD – I know how very proud he would have been. I know he wasn’t perfect. Yes, he shouted at us, yes he lost his temper with us, but who could blame him, the four of us were no angels (well, I was, but not the other three). But, no matter what, he was there for all of us and I am grateful that he was around as long as he was. Having the best Dad in the world for twenty years is far better than having a crap Dad for sixty and I can honestly say that I did have the best Dad in the world.
Sunday, 15 June 2008