This is a departure from my usual topic, but I wanted to take a break from marketing for a moment to talk about my Father. Tomorrow will mark my 25th Father’s day, and 25+ incredible years with my dad. I remember in Ireland we had a magnet on the microwave that read:
Anyone can be a Father, but it takes someone truly special to be a Daddy.
What I have is a Daddy, and I want to share some truly special memories of my childhood with him.
Some of my earliest memories of Dad are of Sunday mornings with me and my sister, Aisling. My parents ran a gas heating repair company together. Dad spent 6 days a week in the van, and my mom worked from home doing all the admin and looking after us. On Sundays, Dad would get up early with me and my sister, and we’d go downstairs to make boiled eggs with toast soldiers, and listen to old British comedy tapes like Tony Hancock and The Navy Lark. I loved those mornings, it was our special time with our Daddy. We’d bring Mom her breakfast in bed, and then sometimes we’d all go out together for a walk, or to the beach, or the local swimming pool. Sometimes though, it would just be me, Aisling, and Dad and we’d go on adventures, just the three of us.
I remember one time driving out to the beach and going right up onto the sand. We sat for a minute and looked at the waves, and then to our delight my dad pulled us one-by-one onto his lap, put our hands on the steering wheel and let us ‘Drive’ the car. We were probably rolling at about a mile an hour but it felt like a rocket ship. Other times Dad would let us take turns ‘Directing’ him and we’d just drive around and see where we ended up. It was such a thrill getting lost together, although look back, I’m fairly certain Dad always knew exactly where we were.
On very special days, we’d go out to Bray or Howth. We’d get to take the bus and the train, walk up and down the strands, go to the fair if it was summertime, get chips (Fries to all the Americans out there) with lots of salt and vinegar and eat them out in the cold wind. At Bray we’d go to the arcade and each get a paper cup full of 5p coins to play push-penny with, and spend our winnings on ice-cream and sweets.
Dad’s very good with his hands and can make anything he sets his mind to. Over the years he’s singlehandedly converted the attic, built a deck, put in an en-suite toilet, built a variety of wardrobes, desks, and bookcases and restored a Ford X 1.9. His skills have always been appreciated, but never more so than when we were little and he turned our back garden into a playground. Our house was on a corner lot, had lots of attractions, plenty of space to run around and was the place to be. Aisling and I and our friends had the choice of playing in a beautiful wooden play house with shuttered windows, a big sand pit (ingeniously made from an old truck tire), and a sturdy swing set that often doubled as an impromptu climbing frame. When it snowed in winter and everyone went sledding on the hill, Aisling and I were the flashest sledders out there in our handmade wooden sleds with a smooth perspex base.
When we were still very young, Dad decided to go back to school to learn computer science at Trinity College Dublin. Rather than quit the business and take out a loan, he chose to study via a night course. I didn’t appreciate it then, but I now understand the extraordinary effort that went into that. He would go to work every day, come home and play with us, and then go to class or study late at night. He did this for five years, and during those five years never once failed to play or spend time with us. He never sacrificed his Sunday mornings with us, or put our all-day adventures on hold. He juggled everything, and did it all so perfectly that he graduated at the top of his class. I didn’t think about what he had achieved until I was at Trinity, studying an arts degree and working part-time. I remember feeling like I was so busy, and then realizing I was only half as busy as he’d ever been.
As Aisling and I developed into teenagers we naturally grew apart from our parents. We were becoming ourselves and not Daddy’s Little Girl. We didn’t want to go on Sunday adventures anymore and instead spent the day doing homework and hanging out with friends and boyfriends. We were naturally more comfortable coming to our mom with body and boy issues and so talked to her more often. When I was maybe 12 or 13, Dad got a job that involved a daily commute, and a motorbike to help him cut through the traffic. That motorbike became a big bonding force between us. I loved to ride on the back of it. I tried to work it so Dad was the one to pick me up from school, or drop me off places. Sometimes on weekends, the two of us would just take off together and have a mini-adventure. It would be something mundane, like taking it to a car wash, or picking up some bread and milk, but it was always special because we were doing it together. One day in particular stands out in my mind:
We were on the bike, heading over to see my grandparents who had been at my uncle’s for dinner. When we arrived, we realized we had just missed everyone. Not wanting to have ridden out there for nothing, Dad suggested we go get a pizza together. I’ll have to pause here to explain something about eating-out in my family. My parents are both excellent cooks, so eating out was always a rare occasion, saved for celebrations and special treats. Going to a restaurant, any kind of restaurant, was always special and different and tended to involve the whole family. When Dad suggested we get a pizza, I was so overjoyed that I would get to go and eat with just him. I was about 14 at the time, so it never occurred to me to actually tell him how special it was, but it really was special. I soaked in everything about that afternoon. I still remember what the menu looked like, what we ordered and how it tasted. I remember bringing left-overs home for my sister and feeling a little bad that she hadn’t gotten to experience it, but also very special because I had.
When I was 21 I had my heart broken. I stayed in bed and cried for three days straight and was convinced the world would never right itself. On the very first morning Dad came into my room and sat on the bed beside me. I could see tears in his eyes. He held my hand and told me he knew exactly what I was going through, and how he’d wished I would never feel like that. Then he said the most comforting thing I could have heard right then. He told me this was the absolute worst I was going to feel, and here I still was. If I was strong enough to get through that day, and the next few, then it could only get better. I did feel better, and I went on to meet a fantastic person that I absolutely adore. And the funny thing is, he shares a lot of qualities with my dad. He’s strong, smart, computer-oriented, good with his hands, quiet, kind, goofy and insanely fun.
Now that I’m 25 and living almost 5,000 miles away, I’m missing Father’s Day for the 3rd year in a row. But Dad, just because I’m not there in person doesn’t mean I’m not celebrating you today. I’ve been celebrating you my whole life. Thank you for all the memories, the fun and the games. Thank you for mending my scraped elbows, cut knees and broken hearts. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a good person, and leading me to be one & find another. Thank you for being there all the times I’ve needed you, and even the times I haven’t. I’m sure I’ll be needing you for many more years to come, and I can’t wait to see you and give you a big hug in October.
Happy Daddy’s Day. I love you.