I know you would probably have preferred someone better-looking, more intelligent and, yes, wealthier … but it is what it is. I am your father and I won’t apologise for that.
There are a number of things, though, which I will say sorry for.
I am sorry for the times I wore my Speedo to the beach or to the pool – in daylight! In my defence, I can only say I used to use a Speedo in anger, as a swimmer. I should also apologise for my tendency to wear short running shorts, but, then again, I used to be able to run …
I am sorry that I used to embarrass you by disco-dancing around the lounge. You wouldn’t have realised it at the time, but I was damned good. Even your mother admits that.
I am sorry, too, that I was often never there when you were growing up. If I could do it over, I would rather spend the time playing with you than watching someone bleed to death in a township gutter, with bullets flying around. I would rather draw with crayons with you than correct newspaper proofs late at night. I regret I did not do more and help your mother more.
I am sorry there wasn’t more space inside my head for you and your mother. What you see, what you hear and what you do, as a reporter, can make you nasty and angry when you get home. Sometimes that’s why you stay out late in a pub with other journos: they understand.
I am sorry also that I was so hard on you when it came to school work and discipline: no excuses, other than perhaps my own “spare the rod and spoil the child” upbringing lived itself out again with you. Because of that, I didn’t really listen to what you were saying and gave you, instead, the “toughen up” or “cowboys don’t cry” lectures.
I should have shared and celebrated your successes more – and there were many – rather than implying it was “not good enough”
Being a father is a full-time and lifetime commitment. It’s taken me more than 20 years to see that. And it’s not something which should be marked on an “artificial” day, as it was yesterday. It is also about sacrifice: we, as parents, brought you into the world and we are obliged to take care of you … in all ways.
So, I’m only half joking when I say that I used to have money and hair until I had kids. Without children, I might well drive a fancier car, live in a fancier house or go on overseas holidays regularly.
But I wouldn’t have seen my father’s eyes in your face moments after you were born, my son. Nor would I have seen the blonde curly girl standing on a bench by the kitchen sink, smiling as she helped wash up, my daughter (and remember how that word made you have a tantrum? “I am not a dotta!”). I wouldn’t have seen you both dance (one as a B-Boy, one as a ballerina).
I wouldn’t have seen your names in the newspaper matric results with the large number of distinctions next to them. I wouldn’t have seen you succeed at university.
Over our years together, there has been anger, there has been grief, there has been misunderstanding. Too late to change that now.
But there has also been a lot of joy and pride in seeing you both grow into sensible, caring adults. And that’s what Father’s Day should be about: when a father says, simply, thank you.