Great Fathers {Sunshine Sundays}

Good morning. It’s Father’s Day in Australia. If you need to whizz to the shops and buy roses for your special father, then do it NOW before they are up. You may even have time to make a coffee for him, before he’s out of bed…

I think I will do the coffee thing for my husband. He’ll like that.

I would like to say that as far as fathers go, my girls are pretty lucky. When I quizzed my daughter what she would like to write in her mini book about her dad, her poem went something like…

All The Ways I Love My Dad

I love my dad because he’s special.

I love my dad because he’s so kind.

I love my dad because he’s beautiful.

I love my dad because he sings lovely songs. 

I love my dad as big as a big watermelon. That’s how big I love my daddy.

As big as her four-year-old frustrations and her temper tantrums can be, they are no match for the biggness of her love for her dad. She tells me, when she is feeling particularly warm and generous towards me, that she loves me as much as she loves Dad, and that is an incredible lot. She reaches her hands as wide as they can possibly go to show how big the love is.

At night, my daughter has a game she invented before bed. It’s called the ‘clappy game’. Basically, the clappy hands have to decide who’s taking her to bed. She positions Gregor and me at either end of the living room, and proceeds to clap. The little clappers head towards the parent of choice, and the decision is made.

Mostly, the clappies head towards their dad. If they head my way, it’s usually because she feels bad the clappies usually choose Gregor. And often, once I am lying down with her, she’ll whisper, ‘Actually, I really feel like having Dad.’ She doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, but then I can’t deny they have a special connection.

‘It’s ok, sweetie,’ I whisper back.

The fact is, he loves his girls so purely and so simply. He oozes love for them from every pore of his body. She knows this.

Maybe it’s a learnt thing. Maybe it’s hereditary, his way of loving.

His grandfather, Opa, loved him like that. Pure. Simple.

Gregor talked about his early memories of feeling loved by his grandfather, and I am sure that affection is at the root of Gregor’s self-esteem and self-love.

When we visited Opa in Austria a couple of years ago, I watched Gregor sit with his grandfather. ‘Ja, Ochi,’ he would say softly, tenderly, as his grandfather recounted tales of his youth. He held his grandfather’s hand in his.

When we said goodbye, my husband’s eyes welled with tears. Opa sang – an Austrian mountain song. We all cried.

Opa passed away in July. The news wasn’t a shock – he’d been sick. But it never makes sense when someone leaves the world, no matter how old or sick they are.

How can he not be here anymore?

I only met him a couple of times. He didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak German. But his presence in our sunshine lives was so strongly felt. Most mornings, he came up in conversation during breakfast. ‘This is Opa cheese,’ my four-year-old would say, referring to the blue vein.

She frequently drew pictures for Opa.

I’d print off photos of the girls to send to him, or make him albums or videos of things we had been doing. He’d ask for one of me too, and tell Gregor how lucky he was to have found me.

Now he’s not there to send them to.

It’s not just talk of Opa that fills our house, though. It’s his love.

It seeped into Gregor, from when he was a little boy living in Austria, through to the last conversation he ever had with his grandfather a few days before he passed away.

Opa was generous in a way I’ve known few people to be. Maybe it was living through horrific times, war, famine etc.

Maybe he was just wired like that. But he kept giving.

Thankfully, generosity, like love, is hereditary.

The happiest people I know are the most generous

And through Gregor, Opa has taught me too to be generous. It’s not my default position, but surrounding myself with the likes of Gregor and the presence of his grandfather has made me not even question the biggest selfless act.

Maybe because there is a simple equation. Being generous makes you happy. Or maybe you need to be happy to be generous. Maybe both.

Opa’s physical presence has left the world. On the day he died, my daughter told me Opa’s very flat now, and living on a star. But his kindness and generosity are in Gregor, in me, in the girls.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get so sentimental. Father’s Day does funny things to the brain.

Please, link up your ‘father’ post, or share anything you would like to on the topic, either in the linky, in the comments or on social media at #sunshinesunday.

Happy Father’s Day. Love and be generous today. xx

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Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day here in Australia. The children and I made paintings together this morning, while we let Daddy sleep in. Cooked a special breakfast.

This is my Dad with me when I was two.

Father's Day

Dad and I are similar in many ways. We are both stubborn. Head strong. We are both optimistic. We are social. We are do-ers – never an idle moment spent.

My memories of Dad as a child usually involve a bush trek, or doing something practical like drying billtong. Dad was always making things – the cubby house, the sandpit, fences for the miniature cattle.

We had miniature cattle. That was Dad’s idea, among others. We had horses, chickens, ducks, turkeys, sheep and emus. We grew olive trees. And chestnuts. They were all Dad plans.

Dad throws himself passionately into project after project. It doesn’t matter what it is. As long as he is doing, and going forward, it’s fine.

He’s a general surgeon. Growing up in a small country town, he was the only surgeon for the district. This meant he was mostly on-call. In retrospect, I don’t know how my mum did it, raising three wild and woolly kids on a property out of town, while her husband worked up to 80 hours a week.

His temperament is perfect for surgery. He is focused. Single-minded. Don’t try talking to him while he is building a chicken coop. He won’t hear you.

His sociability serves him well working at the hospital. He gets on with most people – doctors, nurses, radiographers, theatre staff, patients…I sometimes spent afternoons after school at the surgery or at the hospital. People were always warm and friendly towards Dad. Patients especially. I still run into people, who, on seeing my last name, ask if I am a relative of Dr Arnot. ‘The Doc saved my life twenty years ago,’ they tell me. ‘I will never forget him.’

When I was young, the local club was still Men’s Only. We were relegated to the backroom to watch Neighbours and sip lemonade, while Dad talked with other men of the town – the electrician, the plumber, the dentist, the lawyer. He’s seems to get on with everyone.

In his older age – 72 now – Dad is still a surgeon. He works as a locum though, so has weeks off in between every stint. He and Mum travel a lot, or work on projects together, like building chicken coops. I secretly think he is terrified of retiring. He needs people around. He needs responsibility. And something to focus on. Hence the gyrocopter he spontaneously purchased a few years ago. He needs a passion.

I’m not even going to go into all the things Dad is famous for. This is just the Dad I know. We don’t spend a lot of time together. And when we do, he is busy doing stuff – like sanding my table.

I remember a couple of times I spent intense time with Dad.

One was spending a weekend with him in Bendigo the week of Black Saturday. I remember us driving around in the ridiculously intense heat, visiting wineries and seeing the local sights. I asked him about his mother and his father. He had so much to say. It was like no one had ever asked him before.

The other time was a week spent together with him in Morocco, just the two of us. It’s a pity I was heartbroken – pining over a man – I spent most of the week crying. Apart from the tears, it was pretty magical. We camped under the stars in the Sahara Desert. He told me more about his past, and about his inner workings. As a super busy Dad, I don’t think he stopped to share himself much during his youth. I’m glad we had that week.

morocco1

morocco2

 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. And to everyone else’s Dad. Take this day to reconnect with each other.

On Father’s Day

When I opened my inbox this morning, there was a flood of posts about Father’s Day. Some people enjoyed it, some people didn’t. These sub-celebrations (sub to birthdays, Christmas and New Year’s Eve) haven’t ever had much of a look in in my family. I have never gone out for a Valentine’s Day date. And I think my mum and dad were lucky if they received a scrappy handmade card on their respective days. There are just too many days that need to be celebrated. I guess our family just chose to focus on a few.

Now that I have a child, though, the days take on a new significance. I am jaded if I don’t get a Valentine or a Mother’s Day present. I feel it is my obligation to give my husband a present on behalf of our two-year-old to thank him for being a spectacular dad. With child comes need to celebrate, repeatedly.

Typical for my husband, the father in question, he spent Father’s Day working. And so our celebratory efforts were minimised. But I did spend the day thinking about what an amazing father he is, in honour of his day. 

This is what I thought.

He is kind to our daughter. I thought long and hard, and I couldn’t think of a single instance when he has been unkind to her. It is a remarkable quality in a person. Try as hard as we might to be kind to our children, occasionally we slip up and get crabby. But not my husband.

He is patient. He works with people with disabilities and manages very challenging behaviours on a regular basis. He also spent eight years as a practicing Buddhist. His capacity to tolerate and to accept anything is enviable. A toddler-quake stirs not a ripple in his calm exterior. He merely sits and waits for it to pass. Kindness in his eyes.

He is funny. Even after the worst day at work, he manages to come home singing silly little songs about whatnot. As I cook, I listen to the stream of giggles coming from my daughter who is in the bath, being entertained by nonsense.

He is wise. So many times, my daughter has rejected his kind, gentle affection and has demanded Mummy! and every time, he smiles fondly at her, with love in his heart and his eyes, and does not take it personally. 

He is the perfect father, who teaches me how to be a better mum. All good parenting suggestions came from him, initially. It was he who thought being separated from a baby who sleeps in a cot in another room was unbearable. It was he who told me not to worry about the two-hour-at-a-time sleep routine I felt I had failed to achieve. Let’s carry her in the sling, he’d said, we know that works. Between us, we carried our little baby all day every day until at last she was happy to nestle into a cot or a pram to sleep. It was he that brought up the issue of smacking children one evening, and said that never ever in ten thousand and one years would anyone ever smack our children. It was he who never wanted our little girl to have to fall asleep crying on her own. It was he who encouraged me to sit with patience and compassion as our tiny little soul lost her structure and melted into a wet teary puddle on the floor.

Because of he, my daughter is sunshine and happiness.

We always joke about how he is number three.

1. Toddler, 2. Mum. 3. as an after thought, Dad.

But, really 3. Dad is the structure that supports us. The glue that binds us. The joke that keeps us happy on the crappiest of days.

So Greg, although we didn’t formally celebrate Father’s Day and I never got around to making pancakes, I want you to know how much we appreciate you and your amazing fathering abilities. You have given Father’s Day meaning and purpose, and have made our lives better, all at the same time.

{He got teary reading this draft}

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{Linking with Jess at Diary of a SAHM for I Blog on Tuesday. Thanks Jess!}

How did you celebrate Father’s Day? A biggie? Or just another day?

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