‘The pleasure of your company’ has always been my father’s response to questions about what he would like for father’s day. To him it is just another day to enjoy our company.
I grew up with the understanding that a person’s intellect was far more interesting and of value than what that person owned. Dad has never placed great value on possessions although he is certainly observant and notices any new jewelry my mother’s friends are wearing but he would be far more inclined to give Mum an interesting book that he would then read. Occasionally and probably to keep the peace and because he adores my mother, he succumbs to gentle persuasion and goes with her to the current favourite jeweler.
I didn’t get my sense of fashion from my father. It isn’t that he is disinterested in clothes but they are there for a purpose and there are more interesting things in life to consider. His desk is cluttered with books, journals, and articles that intrigue him with little room for irrelevant toys and his tools have to be functional. Even his choice of cars were chosen for a purpose: the enormous Studebaker that fitted his four girls across the bench seat, the Range Rover that carried us all onto the beach at Stradbroke Island to go fishing, and the Audi that fits his golf clubs.
Despite being a slightly built man, Dad has always kept himself fit. This is possibly one of his few vanities. He has always run and swum, and passed on his love of exercise to his daughters. In fact I start feeling guilty if I slack off and don’t workout each day. Now that he is older, he still insists on walking the dogs around the block and if it is raining I hear him on the exercise bike. I think his next challenge is to set up a running track beside the bike for the dogs to use in rainy weather. Dad has always played sport, whether it was rugby whilst at university, squash with his mates, tennis with his girls, sailing around Moreton Bay and of course his golf game. Sport is where he has allowed his highly competitive nature its release. There are still 89-year old men who talk about his prowess on the rugby field. Forget about letting his girls beat him at tennis, and if you surfed he would be delighted to take you out the back and wait for the longest largest wave back to shore. It was not that he expected you to follow his example, it just never occured to him that you wouldn’t. Now his grandsons play golf with him and boast of his ‘Hole in one’ effort. He laughs about this last achievement as he says he is so blind that he hadn’t realized the ball had gone in and he was wandering around on the green looking for it.
Dad is incredibly clever with a very retentive memory and loves nothing better than sitting having a discussion about current affairs through which he sprinkles remembered facts from past read information. You can try to contest his knowledge but rarely do we get the better of him. I love listening to my nephews challenge him on something they have studied and watch his eyes light up at new knowledge.
He has been a moderating influence in my life, gentle and wise. He is a man of few words so when he speaks we listen. When he says, ‘Susan, have you considered….’ I know I had better pause and have a second think. I still treasure the moment when he dropped by one day during a challenging period of my life and said ‘What ever you decide, I will back you.’ He has probably forgotten that moment from 20 years ago, but it has given me enormous strength throughout my life.
So at 89 years of age, the star of my life is still my father and on father’s day we will gather as many of the family around as possible, have a barbecue and toast our good fortune in having each other.