You mean the world to me.
I don’t often say this. I do tell you I love you every time we speak, but there’s a big difference (and we don’t speak all that often). Today, and in the lead-up to Father’s Day, I want you to know that you do, in fact, mean the world to me.
My relationship with you has changed a great deal over the years. When I was young, the simple fact that you were my Dad was enough for me to worship the ground you walked on. I wanted to be a surfer, just like you. I even (briefly) wanted to be a builder, just like you.
I remember going to building sites with you, carrying around a hammer, and banging nails into a scrap piece of timber like it was serious work. I still love the warm, crisp smell of freshly cut timber, and the sharp metallic tang of welded pipes. These smells take me straight back to when I was 5 years old, living with you and Mum, and helping you unpack your lunchbox from your work truck.
Things changed a bit when you and Mum divorced, but I still thought the world of you, and I understood that you still loved me – even though things didn’t work out with Mum. I missed you terribly during that time. There were times I’d break down in tears in class, knowing that you were hours away in your bus with my Step-Mum, and that I’d have to wait for the school holidays until I saw you again.
School holidays were the best. I got to see you for big blocks of time, and we’d do all sorts of cool stuff. My favourites were the Gold Coast holidays – theme parks! – but I also remember the holiday we spent together at Port Macquarie, and the one we spent in Moruya while you built a house for your eldest brother. I still remember getting bitten on the chest by a gigantic horse searching for sugar lumps.
As I grew older, I made the difficult decision to move in and live with you and your new family. It was a tough time, as I had uprooted myself from one family, one routine, one set of friends and habits, and transplanted into another. I will never forget the car ride we took from Mum’s place that Sunday morning, nor will I forget the phone call I made for you to come and get me. I’m so grateful that you stuck by your word, and picked me up just like you said you would.
I’m so grateful that I made that difficult decision, and had the opportunity to live with you and get to know you better as a Dad, as a man, and as a business-owner. It gave me a different set of values to live and work by – different to those of my Mum and Step-Dad – and a new perspective on people and the world as I was growing up. I’m really grateful for those things.
(I should point out, here, that I’m also extremely grateful for the upbringing, values, and perspectives I learned from my Mum, my Step-Dad, and my Step-Mum. I love them all equally too – but this letter is to you, Dad.)
When I started Uni, and started to take an interest in politics and the economy, we used to argue – a lot. I thought I knew everything, as most young, cocky males do when they’re in their early twenties. I remember my brothers and sister asking us to please not talk about politics over dinner, because our opinions were (and are) so different that we always ended up fighting.
But I tell you, I’m so grateful for those conversations too. I love having had the opportunity to learn from you about your viewpoints. I understand them, now, too. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but I understand them. The tolerance and appreciation for other viewpoints I now have is an absolute gift – developed in those “robust discussions” we had.
We used to surf lots together, and we used to play golf a lot together, too. Time has passed, and the years of hard work have damaged your body so you can’t surf like you used to. I used to really resent the fact that we can’t surf together any more. It’s only with the perspective of being a Dad myself that I can truly understand and accept things as they are.
I have thought about the difficult choices I have had to make as a father, and the personal sacrifices I’ve made in order to be a great Dad for my kids. It’s in those moments that I truly love you and understand the sacrifices you have made for us. Despite what it cost you, I’m really thankful for the upbringing I’ve had.
Now we can still play golf together, but my life has gotten so busy with my own business and kids, that we haven’t had the chance in a long time. I realise now, as I write this, that in many ways our life has mirrored that old song by Cat Stevens – “Father and Son”. I promise that I’ll make more time to spend with you. I want to learn how to fish, and I want you to teach me. I want to learn more about golf, and walk the fairways (and rough, and sand traps, and parallel fairways…) with you, just like we used to when I was 16.
I am very fortunate that I write this while you’re still alive and in good health, and I have the opportunity to soak up more of your insight, experience and friendship. I want to take the time NOW to treasure you for the amazing man that you are. I don’t want to be writing a letter like this after you’ve passed away – and I hope and pray that isn’t for a LONG time to come.
I’m writing this because you matter to me, Dad, and I do think the world of you. That’s why I took that photo of you a month or so back when I last saw you. To me, that portrait is who you are at this stage in your life. Mostly bald, a little weary, and sporting a few more wrinkles than you used to have. But strong, passionate, intelligent, and full of love. That’s who you are to me, and I love you dearly for it.
Thanks for everything you’ve done for me, and all the tough choices you’ve made in order to raise me as I am. Happy Father’s Day.
I love you, Dad.
This post was written in the lead-up to Father’s Day, as a gift to my Dad. The portrait of my father shown above was taken a month or so ago, as a personal project to document and lovingly capture the important people in my life. I also take professional family portraits for this exact reason – to help people celebrate their loved ones NOW, exactly as they are today. If you want to have your family lovingly captured by me, please call me on 02 9665 0800, or book online.