When I was very small, my dad’s side of the bed was furthest from the door, but if I had a nightmare, I would creep around to his side to climb in. I don’t know if it was because he was so tired from a physical job, or a softer touch than mum, or what, but he always let me in. He was my safe space.
When I was a bit bigger, (and health and safety wasn’t an issue like it is now) he would sometimes take us in turns to work with him. He’s a carpenter, so we’d be on building sites and in houses making things. One stretch, probably a summer holidays, I went with him a few days in a row. There was a kind site manager who would bring around jam doughnuts at lunchtime, and we’d eat them and get sugary faces. We’d sit together where we (he) had been working, with packed lunches and the very special treat that was the doughnuts. I don’t know who that kind manager was – we just called him the Jammy Dodger man.
When I was 8, he baptised me at the church I attended until I left home, and where they still attend now. The water wasn’t particularly warm and my dress was damp from a friend’s baptism the day before, but he held me tightly and I was safe.
Around the same age, my mum liked to have figurines on the mantelpiece. One day, I knocked one down and the head cracked off. I told Dad, and he found glue and we fixed it together. She noticed immediately of course, and I still got into trouble, but I clearly remember him not being angry and calmly helping me.
When I was 11 I was due to take entrance exams for secondary schools. Dad was the one to take me, and I had two in one day. He dropped me into the first one, and waited. I came out afterwards stressed and incredibly worried about the next one. We got in the car and he gently asked me if I was ready for the next one. I wasn’t, and so he let me skip it. We went to the shop instead and he bought me treats for doing the first one, and the other one was never mentioned again.
When I was a teenager, things were classically more tense, but Dad (and Mum) were always happy to join in the fun. He taught me basic car maintenance, very basic carpentry, and when he was building the extension to our house, he taught me how to lay bricks. There’s a good-sized section of wall that I built, and somewhere behind the stuff in the garage there are bricks with our names on, though they might have faded by now.
During that same building project, I tripped and fell, gashing a leg. I was 14 or 15, and Dad scooped me up and carried me inside, like I was 3 and had fallen off my bike. I remember crying with my head against his shoulder, Mum had a quick look and we went off to hospital. Nothing was broken but I have a sizeable scar. I don’t really remember the fall or the pain specifically, I just remember Dad gently carrying me in.
When I was 16 and started dating boys, he did not seem to be a fan. He took time not to come across too much of an I-Will-Kill-You dad, but I knew he could (and would) bring it out if I needed him to!
When I was almost 20, he took me to that same church, and walked me down the aisle. I remember sitting in the car on the way there and talking, he had packed chocolate and bottles of water, and gave me last-minute tips and so much love I’m surprised it didn’t leak out of the windows. He also organised my own personal Secret Service for when I arrived – some of my friends in dark suits and glasses with earpieces – who opened the car for me and gave me a good laugh in a nervous moment. We didn’t link arms (my dress was too big and poofy!), we held hands instead as he gave me away.
Since then he has never been more than a phone call away and is my go to when I need to fix something, or jump-start the car and can’t remember how to attach the cables, and he calls me at least every Sunday night to catch up. He is the most wonderful Grampa to my boys and their cousins, He helped teach me to drive twice, once at 17 and once again at 27. He gives me directions for driving even if I say the Sat Nav will get me there. He will tell me jokes he’s been sent or about funny videos he sees on Facebook. He still tells me about his work, and I still find it interesting. He tells me the goings on at their church and will make people say hello to me if they’re at his house when I call.
He is still me hero, my rescuer, my safe space.
Dad, I love you forever. Happy Father’s Day!