They say Fathers Day is the invention of the people at Hallmark Cards. That doesn’t make it a bad idea. If someone told me Hallmark had just invented the wheel or the toilet brush or brotherly love, I hope I’d give those ideas worthy consideration.
No it’s not Hallmark that’s my problem. (And I do have more than one problemwith Fathers Day, none more pressing than where to place the apostrophe. I have every confidence I’d dispute whatever verdict were chosen. You only have to look at this paragraph to see I like the apostrophe, I cherish it and I bewail its* public fate.)
When the first Sunday in September dawns no-one feeds me breakfast in bed, no-one buys me neckties or self-help books or DIY apparati. And I never did any of these for my own father. (Well, almost never: when I was five my elder brother spent five shillings on a large tea cup for Dad, which we presented as a joint Fathers Day gift. The cup showed a man seated on an easy chair and smoking his pipe. Dad didn’t smoke and never drank tea. He held tea to be addictive,correctly so. That, after all, is its beauty and its purpose.)
Breakfast in bed could not have enhanced the love that existed between my father and me**, nor would it have reduced the pain my brother and my father experienced in their own shared loving.
My own children accept my distance from Fathers Day (as from Mothers Day). They see it as just another eccentricity of their wilful father. Seven hundred telephone calls per annum from my children to that difficult father say all that needs to be said.
Numerous earnest homilies (‘Slow down, Dad’; ‘Don’t you think it’s time you workeda bit less?’ ‘Have a good run, Dad, and don’t come back dead’; ‘I don’t want you riding your bike at peak hour, Dad. If anything ever happened to you…’)
Well of course one day the anything will happen to me. And as far as fathers go, I’ll go happy, well fathered and well loved by those I’ve fathered.
Nowadays my children have their father on Brain Watch. About time. And one single day a year would not suffice for the purpose.
Note*: no apostrophe.
Note:** It took me 220 pages to sketch the love between my father and me, in ‘My Father’ Compass’ (Hybrid, 2007). A young man approached me after reading the book. He said, ‘I always wanted to be a loving father and no-one ever showed me how. But when I read your book I knew.’