My favourite day.
I pull my bed spread up over my shoulders and stare at my doll lamp.
Impossibly huge blue eyes stare back at me, dewy cheeks, white skin, perfectly pinched bustier. Layers and layers of purple tulle, pink lips, perfection.
I switch on the lamp, showering my doll with light from her perfectly poised parasol.
Time to get ready.
I love Sundays.
I slip on my highly flammable dressing gown and stripey toe socks to enable stealth mode. Time for covert operation spy on Dad. I creep slowly out of my room, willing the creaky floorboards to keep my secret. Then, sliding effortlessly on the lino floor in our paisley kitchen, I find my position behind the cover of our macrame door hanging. Perfect spot. There he is, lounging on the white plastic pivot chair, his lanky legs crossed, his shoes pushing against the shag pile rug.
He sits in silence, with the big heavy bible on his lap. His hands perched together like a steeple, he adjusts his cuff link, deep in thought.
Every morning you could find my Dad up early with his bible, reading, thinking, praying. Spending time with God.
I watch as he turns the frail, well-worn pages.
I love the smell of that bible. One of the best smells on earth, it smells like My Dad. That, and his cream polo neck cable knit jumper. Dad smells.
I venture onto the shag pile and I’m spotted.
Dad always calls me Muff.
I run into his open arms and climb onto his lap. Dad, my safe place.
Do people in America have black moustaches like my Dad? I wonder. Dad is going to America. I can’t believe it. He is going to Disneyland, and to do some other boring work stuff at churches, but DISNEYLAND!! He is leaving today. Dad will be away for six weeks! Mum is weird, like she wants to cry and she is holding it in so she looks like her forehead might pop. Mum is wearing a brown skivvy and her hair is permed into a brown ball. Mum twists her chain necklace with an orange swirl disk that smells like metal around her finger. Mum will miss Dad. Dad gives Mum a present. It’s a record. Some smooch lovey dovey thing. It’s nearly time to go, and Dad is on the front porch cutting his toenails. Mum gets annoyed because why would you cut their toenails on the front porch? Dad likes to pick his nose in the car right when we drive into our street too. Poor Mum. Dad rushes off to get his bag.
I trudge out to the porch. I’m going to miss Dad. I start to cry. I see a little pile of Dad’s toenail clippings. I scoop them up. They smell like Dad’s feet. I quickly rush into my room with my treasured stash. I make a little pile. Dad’s toenail clippings are strong and sharp!
I know exactly what to do with them. I put them under my pillow.
I’m going to miss Dad.
We take Dad to the airport and everyone cries. Ian and Alison are there too, they are our best friends. Mum’s forehead finally bursts and Alison gives Mum a purple polyester hug. Mum buys me a harmonica to cheer me up.
I don’t like having Dad away. My tummy starts to hurt.
Mum seems worried. Poor Mum. Mum decides to take me to the doctors. She sits me on my bed and pulls my cream stockings on and buckles my patent leather shoes. Mum likes to get dressed up to go to the doctors.
The doctor tells Mum I have a condition called “Daddyitis” or “missing Daddy syndrome”. Whatever, he thinks it will go away when Dad gets home.
Dad sends us an aerogramme. A letter on super thin paper. I read it a hundred times.
I miss Dad. My tummy still hurts.
FINALLY Dad comes home! Dad gives me a present all the way from America! A wooden letter B for Becky, on wheels! I love it!
Dad seems happy to see us. I take Dad into my room and lift my pillow. He looks down and sees a pile of his toenails. He smiles, with a twinkle in his eye.
My tummy stops hurting. Dad’s home. Dad, my foundation. Dad, my rock
I’m so excited. We are going on a family trip to Melbourne. Mum has knitted me a new beanie. It’s a bit tight and it gives me a headache, but I love it.
On the way, we are going to Monash Playground. My brother Martin says they have the biggest slippery dip ever!
Mum and Dad are dressed in their double blue matching Puma tracksuits. Mum and Dad often buy matching tracksuits, I might think this is weird when I get older, but for now it seems normal.
We are nearly ready, I am waiting outside on the front door step. Dad rushes past, but then he stops, turns around, and comes back to me. Dad puts his big cold hands on the sides of my head, they smell like toothpaste. “You are beautiful” he says. I feel goofy. He doesn’t let go of my head. He seems to be thinking something, a bit like he might be crying a little bit behind his eyeballs… “you are beautiful”. He says again. How embarrassing. Dad, my admirer.
Here’s the thing… I haven’t practised.
So, on the way to my flute lesson, I feel sick.
Dad leaves work early every Thursday and picks me up in his mustard yellow Renault. Spluttering noises escape that pipe at the back of the car as it comes up the hill. I hop in.
I hate the Renault. It’s embarrassing.
I look at the long skinny gear stick and wonder how Dad knows how to work it. He’s clever I guess. I look at his hand on the gear stick, his wedding ring. Dad has hair on the back of his hand. Big man hair.
I look over at Dad in his suit, he smells a bit like a Gestetner machine.
I love Dad.
Dad has big hair, and a square man face. It’s the Smith good looks according to my Uncle Robert.
On our way to my flute lesson/torture session Dad always asks me the same question… “have you got any important questions for me today?”.
It all started one day when I said, on the way to my lesson, “Dad, I have a very important question to ask you.” I remember when I asked that question he had the biggest smile. He liked it. So, from then on, each lesson he asks me if I have any important question for him. I don’t have one today. I can’t even remember what my first important question was. But I like it when he asks me.
We arrive at my flute lesson/appointment of doom and I drag myself out of the car. Dad waits in the car reading a book while I face the music.
Dad is patient like that. He doesn’t mind.
It’s the best feeling when I finish my flute lesson/scolding session. I leap into the car and look at Dad. We both know without saying anything what happens next.
Time to spend my pocket money. I buy a fizzy drink, one for me and one for Dad. Dad likes ginger beer I think, so I get that for him. Sometimes I also get a packet of chips to share. Smiths chips, the original and the best.
It starts to get dark as we drive home. Dad turns the headlights on with the skinny stick poking out of the steering column. My special time with Dad is nearly over. Until next time. I better think of an important question for next week. Dad, my friend.
Dad sits me down on my bed. He seems serious… and sad. “Muff… Poppa died today”.
Dad holds his super sad feelings deep deep down inside. He is like a tree. When something bad happens, like really bad, like his Dad dying of bowel cancer, or my uncle dying of a heart attack, or his sister dying of cancer, or his brother dying of heart failure, or that lady from church taking her own life, or that baby dying when it was born, or that teenager dying in a horrible accident… he is a tree.
A life giving strong tree that everyone leans on. Sturdy. Wise. Protective. Dad makes me feel safe. Dad is the person people turn to when they are sad. My Dad is a Dad to many. I like sharing my Dad with others. Dad always lets me be sad too, when I need to. I think Dad is such a strong tree because God made him that way.
Sometimes I think the storms are too hard on my Dad, burdening him, sometimes a branch brakes and I get mad at God.
I like to climb up and find safety with Dad.
Dad didn’t grow up with a safe tree. Dad grew up with a scary tree like in my bad dreams at night.
I love that Dad made the choice to be a safe tree.
Dad plants new seed. New life. My Dad has planted new seed in lots of people’s lives. Dad doesn’t seem to know how many people have found shelter under his tree, but I know. I’ve seen it.
Sometimes I dream that in heaven there will be a beautiful garden of flowers that sing praises to God because Dad planted seed and offered shelter.
Dad, my tree.
Today my Dad turns 70. I’m so grateful to have shared 45 years with him so far.
Dad, thank you for being my safe place, my rock, my friend, my admirer, my tree. I love you. Luvooo - Bec