Inevitably as Father’s Day approaches my thoughts have turned to my Dad who is no longer with us. A very likeable man who adored children and had very few flaws. In comparison to much more volatile, but equally as caring, Mum he was a saint. It was a great shame that one by one we let him down. Let me explain.
Very much the family man he imagined a thriving family business, the farm, with all of working together with him permanently at the helm. I think it would be unfair to imagine that he purely thought of his five children as a cheap workforce although we certainly were. He actually enjoyed working with us.
His big mistake was educating us well and raising us all to be strong minded and independent. If he really wanted to keep us on the farm he shouldn’t have married Mum who passed on her dogged determination to us as well.
I have really happy memories of my pre school years with Dad. I was often sent out with him in what would now be a Health & Safety nightmare land of a working farm. It was good fun with the horses and cows and Dad singing lots of old ballads as we clip clopped along. “A Farmer’s Boy” and “If I were a Blackbird” being but two of my favourites. The latter regularly belted out by Grandpa as well.
My school years broke the bond a bit as we mostly saw each other in passing and when we were together he was usually having a nap in his chair.
I got to know him best and admire him most when we worked together. He was old, slow and in ill health but he knew more about farming than I ever would. I may have been young and fit but I didn’t have the endurance he had to see manual jobs through from start to finish.
He also had lived through such changing times and had a wealth of stories to tell. He could describe the reality of an age that no longer existed and with such enthusiasm that no matter how bad things sounded he described them in a glass half full way. Extolling the joys of digging out the privy or describing the exhilaration of washing under an outside tap in the middle of winter just endorsed the message of the good old days.
He did expect a lot from us. For instance when I contracted adult mumps, it wasn’t my cheeks that were swollen, I’d never felt worse in my life. I was in pain and running a very high temperature. I soldiered on and milked the cows but by the end I could hardly walk. I almost crawled back to the house where I did collapse on the kitchen floor.
Dad comes in looking for me and sees me in distress. He suggests that if I just wash the milking parlour down and clean the milking machines I can have the rest of the morning off. It seemed uncaring at the time but to be honest he was in worse health than I was.
Then one day, like my four siblings before me, I broke his heart by heading out into the world on my own. I dealt the hardest blow because I was the last one. Hard for me to realise the impact at the time but now I’m a similar age to him I appreciate how comforting it is to have family close.
I do miss him but I’m comforted by the memories and particularly his one line life lessons which have and still serve me well.
“You’re as good as anyone, probably better” and “No one’s going to get off a galloping horse to look at you” have served me well over the years.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You were a good ‘un, I’ve tried to be like you but found it was impossible. Thanks for making me what I am today (with a lot of help from Mum).