It’s Fathers Day here in Melbourne and now more than 10 years since Dad died, but not one goes past without me thinking of him. In fact not a single day goes past. I think as a kid that Fathers Day was always something we held as more important than what Dad did. For him a Fathers Day present was almost always something practical like black socks, white singlets or Y front underwear which he sometimes wore around the house on hot days. The Y fronts I mean and the singlets, not so much the black socks.
Unlike Mothers Day which always had a present that Dad bought for Mum but which we her kids gave her, and which always also had gifts we had bought in the Mothers Day stall at school, Fathers Day was less about the presents. I do remember one year when we gave him a small and in hindsight rather kitsch statue of a cartoony sort of bloke with blonde hair holding a sign that said “World’s Best Dad”. That took pride of place on his bedside table for many years and when Mum passed away in 2010 we found it lovingly packed away and kept.
Like all occasions at our house we spent Fathers Day on the road for my entire childhood, No year went by without us visiting Nana and Pa Joyce in Merlynston and Nana and Grandad Smith in Brunswick. And no visit to either of those places was complete without the visit of all of our many Aunties, Uncles and cousins.
Dad was a bugger at times, drank too much, gambled too much, but there was never any doubt that he loved us all. He would have given his last dollar to any of us if he thought we needed it.
It’s often said that we don’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone and I have a lot of regrets with Dad. I regret not spending a lot of time with him in the last few years of his life. I regret not learning to play golf well enough to play with him. But then I remember the piggy backs he gave me to bed, the runs along the shops at Box Hill after a Saturday morning haircut when we’d race to the milk bar for a chocolate malted milk. I remember the hours we spent setting up farm yards in the lounge room and playing cowboys and Indians, building cubby houses in the yard out of sheets of masonite. The days when he cooked the best sausages and chips in the barbecue in the back yard, and the long drives to Corowa every Christmas listening to him sing Happy Holidays.
I tend to play over in my mind the lyrics to Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle, Cat Steven’s Father and Son, Mike and the Mechanics’ The Living Years, and Sawyer Brown’s The Road. If you haven’t heard any of them, have a listen, they have all said things so much more eloquently than I ever have or ever will be able to. I tend to get a bit maudlin and I wonder whether I was often the best son I could have been and indeed whether I am actually at times the best father I could be.
For all of that Dad, I still miss you greatly. I wish I’d been a better son and I want you to know that for an old man you were a pretty good Dad. And at the end that is all that really matters.
Happy Fathers Day Dad.