Three years ago today my father passed away. At the time it wasn’t a great shock; he had been suffering from a degenerative heart condition and spent his last few months in a care home. I visited him every weekend when he was in the home, though as often happens at these times sadly the only weekend that I was unable to make proved to be his last.
I often wanted to ask him what he thought of me, of how I had turned out, what had been his hopes or expectations and whether I had met them or had disappointed. I had never really known what he had wanted for me, but I suppose those kinds of conversations rarely happen…parental responsibilities don’t come with a performance review plan.
I’m not sure if any of us ever have that kind of conversation with our parents, or how honest the answers would be.
I was talking to a friend recently about things that we learn from our fathers. Certainly I’m sure my love of football (well Arsenal!) music and politics come from him as these were passions of his. He took me to my first live football match when I was four, and we still went to some games together until the start of his illness.
It goes without saying that our parent’s hobbies and obsessions are often picked up by us, but what about personality traits and attitudes?
What things did I learn from my dad?
Firstly, hard work. I remember him telling me many times that there was no substitute for hard work if you wanted to be successful. Whenever he thought that I was easing off on school work, or when I was a little older and he was listening to some hair brained scheme to make money, he always reminded me of the value of hard work. My childhood memories of him were certainly of someone who was always working. He was an accountant with his own practice, and would spend most evenings and weekends working on clients’ accounts and tax returns. When I stumbled out of bed as a teen on the weekends I knew that the first thing I would see would be my dad with files and papers spread over the dining room table. He was dedicated, always going the extra mile to exceed his clients’ – and families – expectations.
He would always see the bigger picture in any debate, and usually offer an unusual angle. Sometimes he struggled to get others to see beyond the majority view, but he was usually unshakeable in his beliefs. There are a few people no doubt reading this who have listened to me stick to my guns on something, even if I can’t find anyone to quite see it my way! Now they know where I get it from! As well as this, he showed me that you didn’t necessarily need to like something, or agree with it, to realise its significance.
He was also non-judgemental. A parent’s love is unconditional and my dad’s relationship with me was, I’m sure, no exception. But I made two big decisions when I was younger – one personal, one professional – that impacted on him. At the time I was headstrong and self-assured; I never approached him for advice, or to talk through my thoughts and feelings, but went ahead and made my decisions, each time telling him after they had been acted on. He never judged me, nor did he show disappointment. He told me that he had trusted me to do what I felt was right and necessary for me, though I’m sure he never understood why.
I guess that there are other things that I got from him too, but when I set out to write this blog those were the first three that came to mind – and I suspect that they are fairly good ones. I know I was lucky…I’ve met many people who either didn’t get to spend as long as they’d have liked with their fathers, or haven’t been able to look back on their childhood/adolescence with the same fondness.
I realise that this isn’t my normal blogging territory but it was something that I wanted to write about; hopefully you nice readers will indulge me 🙂 – maybe even share some of the things that you’ve learned from your fathers…