My dad was a dad, his dad’s dad was a dad and his dad’s dad’s dad was also a dad.
I come from a long line of dad’s, however, with my looks, awkward personality and complete lack of any understanding of women, it wasn’t even certain the opportunity to be a dad would eventuate. Then, finally, at the age of 49 I followed the family tradition and became a dad myself, then a solo dad at the age of 51, just me and my daughter, Charlie.
I don’t think any of the dad’s in this long and unbroken family lineage of dads actually went about any formal preparation, study, apprenticeship or, thankfully, read an article such as this, written by a know nothing, late starter who somehow stumbled into the role of dad such as myself.
I don’t think any of the dad’s in this long line of dads consciously thought that they were preparing themselves or any of their offspring to become a dad, it seems, that we just collected our dad skills (or lack off) through observation. Dad jokes, pull my finger, shoulder rides, all sorts of gravity and death-defying throwing of our kids worthy of a seasoned circus act just magically appeared.
Parenting tasks such as learning to swim and more importantly how to do an impressive cannonball entry into the pool, learning to ride a bike, climb a tree, kick a footy, hell, even how to stand up to the local bully seemed to be handed down from father to child in our family.
Despite this lack of training my dad was my hero when I was a kid, he was everything I wanted to be, strong enough to open whatever jar my mum passed to him, so smart he could always tell when I wasn’t quite telling the exact factual description of what happened to the last biscuit, his mind reading ability was worthy of a magician.
He possessed superpowers worthy of any comic book hero, simply raising one eyebrow and saying “really?”, was a truth serum more potent than anything James Bond had ever dreamed of. His X-ray vision was uncanny in its ability to not only see into the any room in the house, but to combine it with his usual cry of “I know EXACTLY what you’re doing in there!”, could stop my best wrestling leap from the tallest available piece of furniture onto my siblings.
He did have one temporary lapse in his superpowers though that allowed my sister to sport what was probably the first ever punk rock hairstyle, years ahead of its time courtesy of myself with my brother, Tony assisting.
As I grew older my relationship with my dad changed, somehow my dad knew I was ready for this change in the dynamic of our relationship. I still remember at sixteen years old, my dad sneaking me into the pub to watch a Muhammed Ali fight under the strict instructions of “don’t tell your mother”. My dad in the blink of an eye had become my peer and along with that came the realisation and appreciation that my dad was an actual person, somehow less super and more human. He was an embodiment of respect and affection to me.
When I was a child, I thought my dad was brilliant, he could do anything with ease, my dad never even made it to high school, yet he built our house, he built successful businesses, he could fix or build anything with his hands.
Now I’m a dad, I understand, while he could do anything, he took the time to teach me how to do it for myself, while he didn’t make it past grade 6, he encouraged me and insisted I persevere at school, my dad didn’t just build a house, he built a home for his family, he didn’t just build successful businesses, he provided for his family and it wasn’t my father’s hands that did this it was his heart and soul.
When I was a child, I thought my dad was stronger than I could ever be, he could start the mower with one rip of his muscular arm, carry any amount of shopping for mum and hit my fastest cricket bowling over the fence for 6 and out with ease.
Now I’m a dad, I understand my dad’s physical strength was nothing. It was useless and inconsequential compared to the strength he needed to shepherd and support his family through the loss of my older brother Tony after a car accident. I look back at how he managed, at how he made sure everyone else was coping as best we could, a strength, now that I’m a father I’ll always doubt I could ever muster.
Now that I’m a dad my dad is even more of a hero, his stature in my eyes, in my heart, has grown exponentially, he became my hero without meaning to, he became my hero without realising it, he became my hero because I watched everything he did, he set such an heroic example.
Dad taught me discipline, he always led by example, taught me that failure is not the end of life. He shared the lessons he learnt from failure so that I hopefully would avoid making the same mistakes.
Dad always made time for us, he was reliable and always had our trust. My dad was the best cheerleader for us. Sometimes it felt like he was tough on us, but he had our best interest at heart. He always cheered us on and encouraged us to be the best we could.
My dad never got to meet Charlie, she is named in his honour and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish Charlie had memories of her granddad to carry with her through life. Charlie loves to hear stories of my childhood, or the “olden days” as she calls them. Growing up in the country and recounting my adventures with my dad, catching snakes, riding horses, billy cart races and the usual mishaps, broken bones and a pet menagerie that Steve Irwin and Moses combined would struggle to wrangle.
More nights than not, at Charlie’s insistence these stories are the last thing Charlie hears after our reading of some Dr. Seuss book on repeat for the 27th time, so in a way she does know him and I know how much mischief they would get up to together, like he did with us and his other grandkids, I still smile remembering my dad chasing us and our cousins around with his false teeth in his hand trying to bite us as we all screamed with a combination of terror and delight.
My dad may not be here for Father’s Day, yet every time I look into my daughter’s eyes I see my dad, I see the total of his life experiences and how they shaped him, because he shaped me, I see all the work he did, I see all the sacrifices he made for his family, I see the examples he set and the values he displayed reflected back at me through a set of sparkling blue eyes that convince me of the existence of pure love, of limitless joy, convince me of the vital importance of time and not wasting it on the negative.
I look at the way my daughter looks at me, I see how she’s always watching for how I respond to life and its challenges, I see how she laughs at my lame dad jokes, I see how she loves me unconditionally and how, frighteningly, she wants to be exactly like me, in short I’m HER hero, as my dad was mine, I’m HER example, I’m HER example for right and wrong, for strength and compassion, for safety and affection, just as my dad was, and still is to me.
That’s just how it is in the world of dad’s we’re larger-than-life, we’re heroic in nature and funny as all get out. So on this Father’s Day I will find a quiet moment as I try and digest a breakfast of pancakes and ice cream, sit back in my new pyjamas and raise the MY DAD ROCKS coffee cup and most likely shed a tear thinking about how lucky I was to have a hero for a dad and little legend for a kid.
Michael Ray is a dad, single parent, a friend and an inspiration to his daughter Charlie. He writes to inspire all with his experiences, struggles and his unconditional love. He kindly shared this article with us and we hope his Father's Day went exactly as he planned. Happy Father's Day to all Dadas.