This Sunday is Father’s Day. A day to celebrate the men in our lives who nurture our creativity and strengths, love us unconditionally, protect us from the monsters under our beds and help us navigate the bad choices they know we are sure to make. Men who are connected to us by blood or by love who we never want to imagine having to live without. Men who we truly believe to be indestructible, babies first super hero, if you will.
Fast forward through all the nappy changes, piggy back rides, dummy spits and those awful teenage years, and you’ve gone and collected bits and pieces of yourself from the love and life you’ve seen. It’s so easy to take it for granted, to think of your existence and the connection with your parents as a safe haven that can never be broken.
If you’re lucky and have managed to get through your childhood and teenage years without loss, it is safe to say that you will have no idea how to deal with the grief you will inevitably endure when your heroes no longer walk beside you. You will find yourself fumbling through the motions and waiting for the day that you start to feel normal again; whatever that means.
The only way for me to start to feel ‘normal’ is to talk about loss. Suffering in silence has never and will never be something I feel comfortable doing. I can talk for hours about how rough it is, how lost you feel and how much it makes you question your own mortality. I could go on and on about all the things we’re going to miss out on and how badly I wish that my children would know the real life love of their Poppy and be held in his big bear-like hands but I thought it might be nice to focus on the positives instead. Today we’re going to talk about the greatest lessons my Old Man taught me and why I am so proud to be his kid.
Be resilient, just keep trying, you can do anything you put your mind to . I’m pretty sure I learned the ancient art of getting shit done from my Dad, Gerry. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t build, fix or improve. He bottled his own infamous (exploding) home-brew, renovated our family home and always had something in his shed that could fix any problem. We may not all have backyard sheds at our disposal but all of his children have inherited an uncanny ability to find a solution to just about any problem, because of him.
Always be true to yourself. I’ve never had any trouble pushing boundaries. My Dad once outlined his fears surrounding how people judged me and my sexuality. He felt as though people thought he had done something wrong while raising me and that’s why I had ‘turned out this way’. After a very intense and necessary conversation, my Dad told me that he thought I was brave for being so fearless and for the very first time, I heard him say he was proud of me, just for being me. My Dad always said it how it was and never held back when it came to telling people where to shove it. He was so strong but never tried to hide his vulnerable side either, always choosing what was right over what was easy.
How to drink responsibly. Anzac Day, Australia Day, fuck it; Any Damn Day will do. Our Dad really attempted to teach us how to hold our booze. I’m not ashamed to admit that we often failed him by being unable to keep ourselves upright. Maybe we ended up naked on our front lawn or rolling around in our own vomit under a set of sprinklers while refusing to go home after a big night at Mad Cow, either way, he was always right there to recall the story the following day and at every family function to come.
Drive safe. Look, it took me 3 attempts to pass my written road rules exam but only 1 attempt behind the wheel to get my licence. Granted I had been ‘borrowing’ Dad’s car and driving around the neighborhood long before I even had my Learner’s Permit. It’s really no surprise that I was so comfortable showing off my skills when I finally got behind the wheel with him. He taught me the importance of taking corners slowly, having the music at a reasonable level and not running over pedestrians – regardless of how badly you may want to – while never letting you forget that he knew a faster and far superior way to get wherever you were heading.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Always the first to make light of any situation and never one to take life too seriously, our Dad was the life of the party. Popping out his false teeth at the dinner table or constantly laughing off being told his giant ears were large enough to pick up TV frequencies, it didn’t matter to him. He’d make jokes at your expense but only ever after making fun of himself. He loved to laugh and I’m so glad because he had the best laugh.
Love. If there is one thing my Papa Bear has taught all of his children, it is that unconditional love is an actual real thing. It’s not just something you see in movies or read about it fairy-tales. The love of his life Maria softened him, they both became better humans because of the love they shared. We were bless to gain another Mother figure in our lives, two extra siblings and a beautiful Italian extended family because of their love. Now, we may not always agree and certainly aren’t always the nicest to each other but family is family and knowing we have each other is the greatest blessing he could have ever left for us. So, every year as our family grows, we will continue to tell stories about Poppy and all the wonderful memories he packed into his life.
Wherever you are in the world on Sunday, call your Dad. Tell him you love him, how proud you are of him and how lucky you are to be his kid. Thank him for every sacrifice, late night and tantrum he ever had to endure. Listen to his stories and be present in whatever moments he wants to share with you. Make the effort to truly know him and remember that you wouldn’t be where you are today without his love and guidance.
We miss you Old Boy and will love you, always. Happy Father’s Day.