Today was fathers' day here in Australia. It's not fathers' day in England, that happens in June I think, so I have to remember two fathers' days, the one for my dad in the UK and the one for the father of my little boys. I suppose I should write about Will today, after all we celebrated fathers' day with him, but I think instead I'll write about my dad.
Born in 1953 in Sohal Khurd, India. Moved to England with his parents and four younger brothers in 1963, at the height of those times in the UK when people were starting to learn about other cultures, and those times when racism and ignorance over how an immigrant population could enrich a country was rife. But my dad and his brothers and their dad and their mum started a new life in England, making sacrifices and leaving their immediate families behind in India in order to provide their children and grandchildren with a better life - although that better life would be a long time coming.
He learned English, wore a turban, learned how to play the guitar, but not without being challenged by his strict but loving father who couldn't accept that his son might want to listen to western music, let alone pick up a guitar and worship his hero, Jimi Hendrix. I expect this challenge was the start of my dad's open mindedness to let his own daughters discover their way in life, albeit with his guidance.
He finished his education and became a draftsman, putting to good use his eye for detail and accuracy. I will always remember the tour we took of his office when I can only have been about 4 years old, shortly before he was made redundant and started his own business, a humble hardware store, that grew into a wood workshop, where he worked with his father in the family trade of carpentry. As long as I have known him, he has worked hard, be it for our education, or to pay the mortgage, or because that's all he knows.
He married my mum in 1974 having only seen a photograph of her because that was the will of his parents. He set the example he thought it ought to for his four younger brothers, and I'm not sure he ever did it because he wanted to. 37 years later they are still married and not always the picture of happiness you would want to see in your parents, but they look outwards together and regardless of their differences, they are unified in their love for each other, their children and their grandchildren and set an example for us all.
He renovated the house I grew up in, taking it from a ramshackle terraced house to the best house on our street, even better perhaps because it was next door to my granny and grandad. He built his own workshop from the dirt in the ground. He smells like sawdust and sometimes like oil and always like hard work.
He has worked hard all his life and sometimes in the face of real adversity and always because he wanted to provide the very best for his family. He can do a million things. I knows what every tool in the toolbox is for and he can fix almost anything. I wish he would slow down and think about retiring soon.
He is a dad that expects you to work hard and do your best. He expected nothing less than straight As from us at school which I would worry and worry about when my school report showed anything but (which was often). But that he instilled a sense of commitment and hard work in all his daughters can only be a good thing. Without his unfailing push to make us realise how lucky we are to have had an education, I can't imagine how my life would be now.
He used to take me to the library every Thursday and would read Dickens to me. I used to think it was boring but loved it anyway, my dad reading to me. He taught me to respect books, learning, reading. It's probably why I love reading to my own children and definitely why I want my children to work hard and be interested in their education.
He worries. I am sure he worries about more than I know, but in writing this I realise there is so much I don't know about my own dad.
He doesn't always believe he has been successful, but I suppose that depends on what your measure of success is. Because it's not money, it's not the car you drive or the shoes you wear although he has always taken pride in wearing smart shoes. Surely it is the love you give and receive. And if that is the case, he is the most successful man I know. My dad.