What’s in a Father’s Day card, apart from the only message which counts: 'I love you'
It showed some conceit but I bought myself a Father’s Day card this year to give to my teenage son. He’s now living far away and might not get around to recognising this quaint custom.
It reads: "Thanks DAD for everything you taught me and every adventure we shared… it’s all here with me, wherever I go.” The card was adorned with maps, compasses and globes.
My wife, as ever wise to such matters, suggested not donating it to him, during a recent visit delivering his first car, because any card only really counts if he had found the stamp, signed and posted it himself.
I resigned myself to a first Father’s Day with no kids left living in the house and stared longingly at the tempting travel and expeditions promised by the artwork on the cheap blue card.
Then it struck me. Perhaps deep in my feelings, I hadn’t bought the card for myself so much as to send to my own dear dead father (that's him in the pic - but there’s no postal service where he now resides).
It seemed ridiculous given he was never the adventurous or risk-taking kind, quite the oppositive in fact. And it still slightly smarts that he never took me camping, exploring or hiking (despite this I’m keen on them all, as is my teenager).
The truth of the matter was that straight out of school and after service in Burma in WW2 he promised, if he survived, he’d never walk if he could drive and would never ever sleep under canvas or in the open air again.
As ever he was true to his word and never did. Sadly the ciggies the army handed out so generously and rashly to soldiers cemented into a dreary habit that reduced his energy and life.
Yet despite his understandable distaste for getting dirty in the great outdoors, it didn’t stop me getting a small tent as soon as I was able and striking out into the relative wilds.
Over the years, he held himself closer and more tightly to our home and neighbourhood whereas I took off further and faster and sometimes quite furiously to discover the world for myself.
When he died suddenly and without warning, his heart clogged by too many tens of thousands of smokes, in the UK on 16 September 1993 I - by chance - happened to be there.
I had already said goodbye at the airport as if I’d never see him again as us families who live on opposite side of the world soon learn to do.
All I said that counted was “I love you” and held him tight which embarrassed him a little. I can still see him lingering at the departure gate in that blue V-neck sweater and waving to the last. Soon afterwards and thankfully not whilst driving he literally dropped dead at a neighbour’s front door while doing them a good turn.
Looking at this card now it seems a perfect message for him from me beneath the corny-looking greeting. He taught me so much, hopefully as your fathers also did, and not always in obvious ways. Being a canny shopper was one of them!
We did share adventures, again not in a conventional sense, and I now appreciate by the time us twins were born, he had had enough adventures for a lifetime.
So Dearest Dad, and this is also to Dads everywhere, I’m still learning from everything you showed me and every experience we shared. Most importantly it’s about the key experience of fatherhood for better or worse:
“ …. it’s all here with me, wherever I go.”
I really don’t need a card from my teenager this Father’s Day. He’s sent a simple but heartfelt text thanking me for delivering the car. Should he feel even a fraction of the gratitude I have towards all my Dad did for me that would be ample reward in itself.
So this Father’s Day you may care to read between the lines of the card’s greetings and find what it is you’d really like to say to your Dad, wherever he is, and then make sure you let him know.
Any information general advice, it does not take into account your individual circumstances, objectives, financial situation or needs.