I have been watching my children unleash their creativity on their Father’s Day cards, brows furrowed in concentration, requesting felt-tip pens and glue with surgeon-like authority. Yes, Father’s Day is loved by makers of greetings cards and socks, novelty bottle openers and mugs emblazoned with ‘World’s Best Dad’, but it also encourages appreciation of fathers from an early age. I wish now that it had been celebrated when I was younger.
Despite working six and a half days a week Papa seemed always to be present in our lives. He often helped my mother get us ready for school, and squeezed multiple drop-offs and pick-ups into his already packed work day. He was my homework buddy every evening after dinner, coaxing me to complete the last two or three sums while I protested in exhaustion. He was my personal champion, cheering on my small triumphs. He was my school project hero, collecting pictures from magazines and travel brochures. I remember him late one evening, bent over my model ship, cardboard box and glue in hand. I was so proud of that ship. Papa was a softie, especially when we were unwell- he took his turn applying cold compresses during fever, and when worried, scooped us up and drove us over to consult a paediatrician friend- in contrast to my own ‘have some Calpol and you’ll be fine’ approach. He loved mischief and chocolate in equal measure. Oh, and Knight Rider and the A-Team. Every Saturday morning he would take us to the video store to pick out one VHS tape, to be watched and returned by the next day, and although the adults would have their own video to watch later that evening he would still join us after work for a few minutes of Mr Knight or Mr T.
Another TV cult classic, Quantum Leap, taught us that changing the past would result in irrevocable changes to the present, and although I don’t wish to risk any change to my wonderful life I would do anything to have Papa back. Failing that, I would settle for spending a short amount of time with him- just long enough to say thank you for all of the things that he did without recognition. Those things that meant that we were safe, loved and given the opportunities that we needed, both while he was here and when he was gone. Speaking to my mother about him, I would have loved to have known Papa in my adult life. He sounds like the type of man that I would call a friend as well as my father.