Mon Pere, Ma Hero

I don’t think my Dad really cares about Father’s Day. There’s no doubt that these celebratory days are nothing more than a commercial exercise. But I have been meaning to write this for some time and as it happens I finished it just before Father’s Day, so it seemed appropriate to reference it. 

Father’s Day is a nice opportunity to celebrate our Fathers and I genuinely feel for anyone who is without theirs. I know I am very lucky. This is my own little celebration and tribute to my Dad. Writing about him, a man who isn’t famous or who will mean anything to most people is quite self indulgent. But I’m not writing this for people to read it, I’m writing it for me and for my Dad.

I am a firm believer that the most extraordinary men are always likely to seem the most ordinary. I’m not someone who is easily impressed by people. I’m not often in awe. There are people in the public eye that I like and admire, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet most of them. If I am pushed I would name Robbie Fowler as my hero every time. But it’s tongue in cheek. He isn’t really.

My Dad is my hero.

He is my hero in the traditional sense because he put me on his shoulders when I was a little boy. Played football and cricket with me. And was a brilliant sportsman himself. Not just a hero to me, but a hero to his little Bath based cricket club. To his friends, to his mum, to his community. But he is also my hero because he everything I aspire to be. Intelligent. Quietly stoic. Caring. Funny. Creative. And most of all unselfish.

I will never forget my Mum telling me how he had given up a potentially very promising cricket career to stay close to my Grandma, after his Dad was tragically killed in a car crash when my Dad was just 21. Family was everything to him. We have always been everything to him. He’s quietly worked hard all his life to provide for us. Giving me a comfortable and loving background.

My greatest fear is that I have ever let him down. Which I know I have numerous times, but he would never say it. What I love about my Dad is that he has always been there for me. Quietly guiding me, inspiring me, but always letting me be who I wanted to be, never a pushy parent. Never an embarrassing competitive Dad.

Whether it was the time he just casually told me to support whichever football team I wanted to when I was convinced he wanted me to support his beloved Bristol Rovers, despite the six year old me having a completely irrational and already deep seeded love of Liverpool.

Or his lazzez fair attitude to me getting dropped from the Wiltshire county hockey team at school. He quickly made me understand that these things don’t really matter. Although Man Utd also happened to beat Liverpool with a last minute winner in the FA Cup that day so it was a bad day all round!

He always encouraged me at sport but never made it feel like the be all and end all. I always remember feeling like I’d let him down by not following in his footsteps and becoming a good cricketer, even playing at his club. But I was pretty lacking in confidence and easily disheartened as a kid. When I did play a game for his club, I was bowled first ball by the overseas player and completely gutted. It made me not want to bother, but I remember my Dad being annoyed about how the player had gone about it. He was a talented, fast bowler and he had been bowling at a kid. To my Dad it was a pointless exercise in bowling to me like I was an adult and getting me out, that wasn’t going to help me develop. It was a wonderful attitude.

Unfortunately my Dad’s quiet encouragement wasn’t enough and I was pretty discouraged to play much cricket again.

But forget sporting disappointment as a kid. As an adult I’ve had moments of severe anxiety, shame and even periods of depression and he has always just been there, quietly, calmly, but open and loving.

I remember him struggling to know quite what to say to me in the aftermath of a traumatic and messy break up but he simply did what he always did and cleaned my shoes for me. Giving me some order and normality and something for him to do. And in those darker times all it has taken is a big hug from him to make me feel better.

He has always been everything I’ve ever needed and more.

Cheers Dad. Happy Father’s Day – luckily for me, every day of my life has been father’s day.

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