He’s my dad but I like to call him Bob. When I was a little he used to say “When people say ‘Bob’s your uncle’, you can say ‘actually, Bob’s my father.’”
In the photos I have of him when he was young, I can see a spark of mischief in his brown eyes. It seemed to me growing up that he always wanted to be a rebel, but he never quite escaped from the tyranny of keeping up appearances my mother imposed on him. He would sigh when she asked him to change his tie for church on Sunday morning, but he never made a fuss.
Bob learnt early on that not making a fuss was the best way to get ahead in life. Like many men of his generation he left school at thirteen to learn a trade. An education was a luxury his family couldn’t afford. He was beaten by his drunken father and ignored by his mentally ill mother but somehow he grew into a fine young man.
He became a carpenter, building and renovating houses for a living. Even now when his hands are crippled with arthritis and his knee joints stripped of cartilage from years of manual labour, he still loves to work in the shed. He still has the tool box with the precisely mitred corners he custom-made when he was an apprentice. It is the ideal showcase for his perfected weighted hammers, an array of various sized nails, his most accurate spirit level, an old-fashioned wooden foldable ruler and thick stubby pencils. His greatest disappointment must be there are no grandchildren he can craft small wooden toys for.
As well as renovating other people’s houses he loved to renovate the houses we lived in. He would buy an old run down dump, usually with an outside toilet that was unwelcoming in the middle of a New Zealand winter, and totally rebuild the house around us. I can remember mum cooking steak in an electric frypan on the floor in the dining room because we didn’t have a kitchen at the time, and having to bunk in with my brother while my bedroom was being redecorated.
The houses all ended up looking beautiful, but we never got to enjoy them because someone would offer him an irresistible amount to buy it and we would be packing again, heading for the next run down house that needed his love and attention.
Although building was his life’s work, his life’s ambition was to be the best father possible. The scars inflicted from his own childhood made him determined to not repeat the mistakes of his past. Mum and my brother and I would have everything he missed out on.
The only way Bob knew how to make a better life for his family was to work hard, and work hard he did. He was gone early in the mornings on his milk run (yes, my dad was the milkman), worked at his day job and often drove taxis late at night. The black bags under his eyes might have been a result of being constantly tired, but he still has them today, long after his working life has ended. He wasn’t home much when we were kids. Sometimes it felt as though we didn’t see him for weeks on end.
Strangely though, my most vivid memories of growing up feature him in the starring role. He was the one who picked me up out of the gutter when I fell off my bike, he was always present at my ballet concerts (trying valiantly not to fall asleep), and he was the one that taught me to drive. He let me borrow his old work ute after I got my licence – it had a bench seat where I had my first sexual experience and a stick shift I could never get into reverse.
Of course, Bob isn’t actually my biological father. Mum and Dad adopted me from a place called Opunake, a tiny village under the shadow of Mt Egmont, just thirteen days after I was born. Even though I am more different than similar to my family, they love me fiercely and thoroughly. There are many dads I could have ended up with who would have done things differently, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I am pleased and proud to say “Bob’s my father.”
I wrote this essay a few years ago as a writing assignment for my Masters degree. Sadly, just before Christmas, Bob went into full-time care suffering from dementia. He is no longer the man I describe in this piece.
But he’s still my dad, and in my memory, I see him with his sparkling brown eyes and wearing his leather tool belt. He may have gone to visit a strange world I hope I never see, but that doesn’t change how much I love him.
This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge.
29 thoughts on “D is for Dad • #atozchallenge”
Beautiful. My father’s name is Bob as well and we used to tell that same “Bob’s your uncle/dad” joke a lot.
Thank you for sharing this for the challenge. Dad is the best D there is.
Cheers to your Bob as well. Dad is definitely the best D there is ♥
A beautiful tribute to your father. Sadly, when we as parents are working so hard to give our children everything they might need or want we are not giving them ourselves which is what they want more than anything.
Yes, you are so right. I wish he’d hung around more, but he did what he thought was best.
That’s a lovely, heart-touching post.
My link: http://www.devikafernando.com/blog/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-letter-d-desire
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.
A wonderful tribute to your father. I was very close to mine and miss him heaps. Sad to hear about your dad’s dementia. My aunt suffered from Alzheimers for many years and died a few weeks ago. Nice to meet another Kiwi blogger.
Dropping by from the AtoZ
I’m sorry for your loss. It’s a horrible disease. Thank you for sharing your story lovely Kiwi lady x
Beautifully poignant essay! He sounds like he was a wonderful father. I too come from a hard-working family and my dad was a skilled tradesman who was always “tinkering” around the house (tinkering meaning knocking down walls and building on, etc). I’m so sorry to hear about his dementia. Life deals some horrible blows sometimes. You have wonderful memories of him to share with the world so the man he was is still very much alive, vibrant and well. You write so beautifully. I’ve subscribed to your blog and am looking forward to reading more from you. Happy A-Zing…
Michele at Angels Bark
Lovely to meet you Michele. Fix-it dad’s are pretty cool, aren’t they?
A beautiful tribute, Katie. I am married to a hard-working man who neglects himself and does everything to provide for our family. My prayer for him is to have balance in his life. And new knees.
Knees, they always seem the first to go. Here’s to hubby’s new ones.
Beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I didn’t have a dad growing up, so I feel a little pang of jealousy. Best wishes as you navigate your latest journeys together.
Good luck with the rest of the challenge!
Thank you Nagzilla x
Your description of your fathers upbringing and education could be my fathers. Only he was a mechanic but had the same love for working on cars. He died when he was 43. My daughter never got to know him but I swear sometimes his words come out of her mouth. A beautiful post.
You’re right, our dads do sound similar. I’m sorry you lost yours so young. I’m not looking forward to that inevitable day here …
I have tear in my eye reading about Bob. No matter where he is in his mind now, somewhere in the corner of his heart you are still his little angel. I wish all of you the very best in life! And i agree Dad is the perfect D.
Now we’re even because your comment made me tear up. I know I’m still in his heart, somewhere.
This post speaks about your love for your father. Touched!
I too wrote a D post. Do have a look if you wish to!
Thank you for taking the time to read my post and comment.
What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.
Mee (The Chinese Quest)
Thank you, Mee ♥
What a wonderful tribute to your father. I had tears in my eyes all the way through.
Thank you. He’s pretty special, my Dad x
This was just lovely. Thank you for writing such a stunning tribute.
Thank you, Renae x
I”ve read a lot of blogs today and this is the most beautiful, poignant piece I’ve read today. I love Bob and I love you for writing this. You shared a piece of yourself with us and for that I am grateful. You are a jewel, Katie. Bless you and your father.
Now you’re making me teary. Thank you ????
Lovely tribute. Savor those sweet memories.
Visiting from the A-Z Challenge. I’m doing it with seven of my blogs this year.
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