An ode to dads, everywhere

Publish Date
Monday, 14 September 2015, 9:42AM

Tell your dad you love him. You never know when he’ll be gone.

This time last week was Father's Day. It's the day mothers prepare for by steering the kids to the "tacky present aisle" at the shops for cheap gift-set aftershave, "World's Greatest Dad" mugs, and if they're feeling particularly vindictive, perhaps say, if daddy recently forgot mummy's birthday, to the "Best Dad Ever" T-shirts, knowing full well that hubby will have to wear it in public at least once, to show the kids he cares.

The kids will notice if their present doesn't get the appreciation it deserves. They'll know if it goes straight into the T-shirt drawer and then eventually ends up as a rag. Just like I noticed when my mum relegated my "I love you Mum" decorative blue and gold plate to the back shelves. Jeez. It had its own stand and everything. Mum obviously didn't appreciate quality.

If you're a dad yourself, last Sunday about this time you would have been sitting patiently, waiting for ages for your breakfast-of-something-burnt in bed. "Mmmm, delicious!" you cry, while accidently dropping some tomato sauce from your pikelets (!) down your "Best Dad Ever" T-shirt. Oh, shame, it's dirty.

Can't wear it to lunch now.

When you're a grown up, you make the traditional phone call to your dad, or you take them to brunch if you're in the same city. Brunch on the first Sunday of September is the domain of dads. Brunch is bedlam for everyone else. If you accidently went to brunch last Sunday and it wasn't with your dad, if you even tried to have a romantic brunch, ha! Whoops. Rookie mistake. You won't try that again.

Sometimes calling your dad can seem like a bit of a chore. But some people would give anything to be able to make that call, to have a five-minute, slightly distracted chat about not much at all, while the kids are pulling at your leg and making fart sounds with their armpits.

For people who have lost their dad, Father's Day can be tough. The first few years you find yourself reaching for the phone to make that call, and then remembering that you can't have a conversation with them ever again. Later, it seems normal not to think of calling, which somehow feels worse, because when did it become your normal, you ask yourself, to not have a dad?

My dad died suddenly on Takapuna beach eight years ago. He was competing in an ocean swim and when he stood up to get out of the water and run up the beach, he fell down. He never got up again. The whole family was there, we were going to have a picnic with him after the race. I knew it was my dad being carried up the beach as soon as I saw his feet. As well as inheriting his height, I also inherited his giant feet. Seeing those feet, lying on the beach moving ever so slightly in time with the CPR that was being performed on him is an image that I'll never forget.

My dad, this amazing man who taught me to sail, who loved his family immensely, who used to buy my sons family-sized packets of M&Ms each, was gone.

Years pass and time does change the ache of missing someone from a sharp, pointy almost continuous physical pain to something slightly duller. But it is always there and there are days, when I just want to pick up the phone and have a yarn to my dad. I want to tell him about my middle son's prowess on the rugby field, about the eldest being taller than me, about the smallest one's general bolshiness. I want to share the mundane details of my life, that only family can truly appreciate.

Nothing prepares you for losing your dad, at any age, but one thing I am thankful for is that the last words I said to him were "I love you". I called it out to him as he walked out the front door to head to the race. So no regrets there.

I know that not everyone has the luxury of having great dads in their life. I had an amazing one and I am thankful for every minute I had with him, and my three boys are lucky to have a wonderful dad in their lives too. (He'll be the one in the "Best Dad Ever" singlet, in a public place near your soon).

So go call your dad. Even if you called him last Sunday. Call him again. Tell him you love him.

No regrets.

Herald on Sunday