A large percentage of people out there, young and old, will argue that their father is/was the best dad in the whole world, and I am no different. Yip, it is completely subjective and lacks formal measurement by which to judge it, yet we are often quick to jump to the defence of our parents and label them as "the greatest"...and why not? With Father's Day only two sleeps away, I thought that it would be fitting to reflect on my own father and his impact on my life. To understand how wonderful my father was, you may need a slight insight into my upbringing. I was a white kid growing up in Apartheid South Africa during the 1980's/1990's. Those of you that are familiar with the changes that occurred in my country over that time period will know that it was a turbulent and uncertain time for all South Africans. The reason for filling you in on this is to highlight what a brilliant role model my father was to me and my two brothers. Growing up in a country where race and inequality was such a prominent feature, as a family, we were not subjected to the many things which others were; in fact, it was quite the opposite. Like most white families at the time, we had a full-time, sleep in, nanny (yes she was Black) who looked after us when my parents were at work and was also our cleaner. What was so remarkable about this relationship, is that at no time, did we ever view Laticia as different, and rightly so. My parents invited her grandson into our home who lived with us for a number of years, and supported her children by putting them through school...I am sure that this too was not out of the ordinary, and please don't misunderstand what I am trying to say here. I am not saying that my folks were wonderful because they treated another human being as their equal, what was amazing about this, is that as children, we never got a hint at the fact that the world we lived in divided race; under our roof, we all lived peacefully together. Like any family, we had our differences from time to time, but we were taught the value of respect and equality despite what was being dictated to us by the ruling party and government at the time. In their own small way, my parents defied the norm and I am eternally grateful for that.
My father died almost four years ago. He was 62. Yes, it was completely unexpected, and yes, it was pretty quick - one year from diagnosis to death. One of the hardest things I will ever have to live with is the memory of shaving my own fathers head when the chemotherapy kicked in. It is difficult seeing your hero, the strongest, bravest, most awesome man in the world according to his little boy, become so dependent on his dependants. Speaking at his funeral was one of the toughest things I have ever done, but one thing struck me that day; my father was always present. He would call, religiously, each and every day when we got home from school. We never had anything to say to him when he asked how our day was, but like a complete sucker, he came back for more, day in and day out because he loved us. He was on the sidelines every Saturday. I would never hear him shout my name or curse the umpire, he would just sit and watch quietly, enjoying the fact that he was in his child's presence. I once threw my baseball helmet in frustration for being struck out...he told me later on the way home that my actions had disappointed him and how one should never conduct oneself in that manner; no shouting, no telling off, simply knowing that I had let him down was enough. I never heard him swear, I never saw him drunk...values I admired and appreciated whilst growing up.
He worked hard, never complained and never failed to provide for us. He drove a VW Caravel when I bet he would have preferred a sporty Audi. He sacrificed lavish holidays so that we could live comfortably in a beautiful home. His sacrifices are my successes. He laid the foundations and watched me grow. My dad was never affectionate or demonstrative, but boy he loved us in his own quiet way.
Happy Father's Day dear dad!