Agony and ecsatsy of being a father..
Bit long , but worth reading..
Its about remembering your father and your own kids...
Wake up! It’s Father’s Day! Actually, what am I saying? I never need to tell you to wake up. Chances are, you’ll have been jumping about on your beds since 6am anyway, Father’s Day or not.
You are at those ages — five and three, respectively — when mornings begin at the crack of dawn, and days are not so much to be eased into as greeted at full-throttle and with accompanying maximum volume.
So, no lie-in then. And no breakfast in bed, either. There’ll be no leisurely reading of the papers over a pot of coffee, and a pub lunch is out. As for an afternoon catching up on the sport on TV? I can forget it. We’ll more than likely go to the park, fly a kite and practise riding our bikes.
Even my Father’s Day card from you two will have been made, and signed, with the help of your mum. But don’t worry; I don’t mind. You’re still too young to understand the significance of Father’s Day.
For me, it’s a day which conjures mixed feelings. On the one hand, joy, pride and unbelievable, unfettered love; on the other, an aching, unrelenting sadness.
Five years ago — when you were barely nine months old, Eithne, and before you were even thought of, Albert — my own dad died. I became a father, and lost my own father, Donald, in less than a year. Having to cope with both was almost too much for me to handle.
I hesitate to use the phrase ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ (avoid clichés, my children. In fact, to use a rather cunning expression of your grandad’s, avoid them like the plague), but for a little while I didn’t know whether I was happy or sad, on top of the world or totally devastated.
Which is why Father’s Day is still a tricky one for me. It’s as if that whole weird time is distilled into one day again: months of emotional turmoil squeezed into one 24-hour microcosm.
It makes me think not only of those awful last months — but the good times, too. The first football match Dad and I ever attended together: to see his beloved Arsenal play Spurs (the Gunners won, thanks to a wonder goal from Liam Brady).
The nights we spent together stargazing in the back garden, cradling a mug of hot chocolate as he pointed out constellations to me.
The almost unbelievable excitement of the time we bought our first family computer — the Atari 400. (It’s probably still in my mum’s attic somewhere. Maybe one day you kids will take it to the Antiques Roadshow and make a fortune.)
The worry I put him through as a teenager: the arguments, the opinions, the refusal to listen to him even when, deep down, I knew he was right.
Part of me shudders when I think of my teenage brush with the police (I was caught underage drinking), of the look on his face when I told my parents I’d been sent down from Oxford. But then part of me smiles, too. Because he always forgave me, whatever nonsense I put him through. He was my dad. That’s what dads do.
We first suspected that something was wrong with your grandad at your Christening, Eithne. He seemed vague, had a headache, left his credit card in the pub.
A week later, he fell over at home — and in hospital they diagnosed a major brain tumour. That was in August 2007, when you were six months old. By December, he was dead. He was only 69.
People always asked me, in careful, considered tones: ‘Are you OK?’
And the answer? At the time I didn’t know how I felt. When he was ill, I was on a train every weekend between Oxford, where we live, and Manchester, where he and my mum (your Grandma) were. I was too busy trying to cope with the horrific reality of watching my dad — the man who, for me, was always the strongest, cleverest, funniest father in the world — lying in a hospital bed, and every week getting steadily weaker, steadily worse.
He knew he was dying, of course. He knew he had no chance. But he still had moments of brilliance.
When the doctors presented his options — operate and buy a few more weeks of life, don’t operate and slip away quietly, he thought for a moment and then gave a perfect response: ‘I reject both options.’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
When he died, the shock quickly turned to anger — why him? What had he ever done wrong?
And after anger? A Dad-shaped void in the world. A big gap, that was punctuated only by memories.
Even now, nearly five years later, it only takes a certain song to come on the radio, or a glimpse of someone who looks like him, and the feelings come rushing in like a tide. Not always bad. Sometimes even good.
It’s good to remember, even when it hurts. And it does hurt on Father’s Day.
You never knew your granddad, Albert. And Eithne, you won’t remember him, but I am very grateful that you got to meet him. And, more importantly, that he met you. One of my favourite photos of my dad was taken when you were only two days old.
You hadn’t even come home from hospital: he’s cradling you in his arms, the way he must have cradled me 34 years earlier, and in his eyes is all the love, pride and almost unbearable tenderness that only a father, only a grandfather, can feel.
I remember: he couldn’t even speak. He just held you, with his eyes brimming, and every now and then he gave me a nod, as if to say: ‘Now you understand. Now you know what it’s all about.’
He never gave me any specific fatherly advice, but I knew then that my whole life had been a lesson in fatherly advice. That’s what dads do: they teach you by example.
He was a physicist and met my mother when he was a student in Durham in the Fifties, and she was a teacher in Jarrow. As well as me, they had four other children. And if my dad was always proud of all of us (and he was — no matter what), I can’t even begin to imagine how proud he would be of you two.
Now I look at you, I think of all the hearts you’re going to break, Eithne. I know all Dads say this, but, Eithne, I can’t imagine anyone ever looking at you and not falling in love.
And Albert, you’ve inherited your Mum’s twinkly eyes and sudden smile. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but you can get away with almost anything with that combination.
Right now, I’m the centre of your world — the strongest, cleverest, funniest dad alive. But one day — too soon for my liking — you’ll reach adolescence and then I won’t be funny; I’ll be embarrassing. I won’t be clever, I’ll be wrong. About everything.
If you’re anything like I was, Albert, you’ll dedicate most of your teenage years to trying to beat me at anything physical.
Some time in your mid-20s, however, you’ll realise that I’m not so bad after all. And one day you’ll find the worst fears of your teenage self coming true when you realise that you’re turning into me.Extraordinarily, you will realise that’s not such a disaster after all.
One day, Eithne, you’re going to meet a boy whose company you’ll prefer to mine. Yes! Seriously! You’ll bring him home, and I’ll pretend to like him.
Then one day that boy, or another boy, will break your heart, and your mother will have to physically restrain me from killing him.
But, again, that’s fine. I know the drill. I put my own father through enough nonsense to appreciate what growing up does to both sides of the father-child relationship.
I don’t mind admitting that I did my fair share of stupid things when I was young. There were bad school reports, of course, and tantrums, and fights, and I talked lots of nonsense. I didn’t mean any of it — part of what made it so frustrating at the time was that I knew Dad knew that I didn’t mean any of it.
There was the incident with the police and the bottle of cider and the kiss with a girl behind WH Smith in Altrincham when I was 14. We’d been spotted by a patrol car, picked up and escorted home. I got off with a slap on the wrist, but it scared the life out of me at the time.
There was the time I nearly bunked off school in Manchester when I was 16 to go to a New Order concert in London, but got caught by my friend’s parents on the way to the coach station. That was a close shave (there’d been no money for getting back from London afterwards.)
That bit of stupidity got me grounded for months and invited lots of lectures about what happens to idiot boys who find themselves in London with no means of getting home again.
Then, of course, there was the whole getting-kicked-out-of Oxford University thing, which was awkward.
Basically, I’d spent my first year-and-a-half there having fun and not doing nearly enough work. To be fair, I had the time of my life. Unfortunately, a side-effect was failing all my exams.
I remember when my dad came to pick me up, in 1992, he took a long, close look at me, asked if I was OK, then didn’t say another word the whole journey home to Manchester.
I couldn’t tell if he was too angry or too upset to speak.
Either way, I felt far worse than if he’d have ranted and raved like I’m sure he wanted to. But you know what, Eithne and Albert? There was never any question of his love for me. And he always forgave me in that quiet, calm, gentlemanly way he had.
Don’t get any funny ideas, of course. I urge you not to go drinking cider with underage girls, nor to flee to a distant city with no money. And don’t even think about getting kicked out of university — it was free in those days, for a start.
But I want you to know that whatever stupid scrapes you get into, I’ll be here, ready to pick you up and bring you home, just as my dad was. Through all the years to come, all the mistakes you’ll make, all the triumphs you’ll have; through all the heartbreaks and happiness that lie ahead of you, I will always feel exactly the same way about you as I feel about you now.
My father wasn’t around for long after I became a dad, but he was around long enough to teach me one thing, at least, and that is that being a dad, watching your children grow, learn, develop and blossom, is the only thing that matters.
Have I turned into my father? I hope so. And I hope that one day you’ll be proud enough of me to say the same.
Questions and Answers
- Sample Budget and Cost of Living
- Qatar Schools Database
- Residents Guide to Qatar
- Siteseeing in Qatar
- Traffic Rules
- Attending a Qatari Wedding
- Gift ideas from Qatar
- Buying a used car in Qatar
- Renting in Qatar
- What to consider when renting in Qatar
- Preparing for Winter in Qatar
- Registering a birth in Qatar
- Blackberry phones in Qatar
- Old Qatar
- What's Happening in Qatar
- Online Shopping in Qatar
- What does Doha look like?