Fatherhood; arguably the most important job in the world
Saturday, 18 June 2016
A Note To My Late Father
My father chose to raise us in defiance of the ugliness of the apartheid system, and for that I am eternally grateful.
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 any formal measurement by which to judge it, yet we happily stamp our own parents with a seal of approval, calling them ”the greatest”…and why not!
My Father in Cape Town - mid 1960's
With Father’s Day only a few 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 some insight into my upbringing. I was a white kid growing up in Apartheid South Africa during the 1980’s/1990’s. Almost all of you will be familiar with the changes that occurred in our beautiful land over that time period; you might recall that it was a turbulent and uncertain time for all South Africans.
I cannot highlight what a brilliant role model my father was to me and my two brothers. Growing up in a country where racial division and inequality was such a prominent feature of day-to-day life, we as a family were not subjected to the many harsh realities which others were; in fact, it was quite the opposite.
In His Early 20's
Like most white families at the time, we had a full-time, sleep in, nanny who looked after us when my parents were at work. Laticia was one of us and rightly so. My parents welcomed her grandson into our home and Themi ended up living with us for a number of years, they supported her children by putting them through school, ignored government demands for curfews and did not bother with the legislative paperwork which black South Africans had to carry on their persons.
I am sure that this was not out of the ordinary as far as looking after one’s employees goes, 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 was divided by race; under our roof, we all lived peacefully together.
Touring the UK Early 70's
Some might call this growing up in a bubble, and on reflection, we were. Like any other 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 seven years ago. He was 62.
His death was completely unexpected, premature and rather sudden – one year from diagnosis to death. One of the most burdensome experiences I carry with me is the memory of shaving my own fathers head when the chemotherapy had 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 as I spoke – my father was always present. He would call, religiously, each and every day on the landline when we got home from school. We never had anything to say to him when he asked how our day was except the usual “it was fine thanks”, yet like a complete sucker, he came back for more, day in and day out asking the same question and getting the same monotonous response. He did this 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 acted in an unsporting manner out of frustration on the sports field. Having witnessed my outburst, I distinctly remember my father telling me on the way home that my actions had disappointed him and how one should never conduct oneself in such a manner; the lack of shouting and the absence of a telling off spoke far louder than any rant could have. 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.
My father 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 the affectionate type and was seldom demonstrative, but boy he loved us in his own quiet way.