“Role modelling is the way the human brain learns almost all complex behaviours, attitudes and skills, and so boys need to know good men close up. All of us are a bundle of the good people, male and female, we have known. But we have let that enrichment disappear on the male side, and many boys today have never seen what a good man looks like close up.” ~ Steve Biddulph | author of the seminal 1997 book Raising Boys
A Tribute for My Father
As I think on what it means to be a good man, husband and father, I can’t help but to think about the major role my father had in my life. Sunday marked the first Father’s Day that I have been without my father.
I don’t know if I told him everything I ever wanted to say when he was alive. But while he laid in the emergency ward on his final day, no longer conscious, I wrote down much of these words so he could hear them now.
For all my father’s tenderness, I still remember his often long, impenetrable silences, particularly as his chronic lung disease began to consume and overwhelm him. Not sure where his silences were born. My dad was a man of deep contemplation and a man of few words but much action.
When I reflect on the stock definitions of masculinity I believe they can prevent boys from dealing with the restlessness and subtleties inside their hearts. Often the models we’ve been given for manhood fail to recognise a fundamental truth, which is that nothing meaningful in life ever happens without the ability to be vulnerable. So now that I reflect on my father, Tony, I believe this was the greatest gift he gave me.
My father sacrificed much so he could be with my mother and raise our family. His vulnerability in going it alone and ignoring the decries of family was his greatest strength, the courage to follow his convictions and his heart.
When I was growing up I was not able to spend a lot time with my dad. He often worked shift work each week for the majority of my childhood. He took responsibility for financially supporting our family and for supporting my mothers dream of a small health food business.
But when we did spend time together he was fully present. He taught me that to be a father it is all about teaching and learning and laughing and loving. We would play whenever we could, and it was our special bonding time. I cherished spending every moment with my dad when I was a kid. I have fond memories of when he taught me to ride a bike. Every time I fell, he was there encouraging me to get back up and have a go. Never giving up. He taught me how to fish, with me catching my first ever fish, a flathead on a trip to Mallacoota. I watched him so attentively as he cleaned that fish so he could make my dinner. He taught me how to kick my first soccer ball and I loved playing kick to kick in our court with an AFL footy. When I stood in the line to tackle the high jump at little Athletics, crippled by the fear of not being able to make the jump, he stood on the sidelines, providing gentle encouragement. I made an attempt and failed. But he embraced me and affirmed me for trying.
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 1:5
This is a fragment of the legacy of vulnerability imparted to me by my father. The word imparted was no mere transmission of information. It involved a whole life of proclamation and demonstration. He was a model of hard work and simply having a go.
What I also love about my father, and have only come to appreciate in recent weeks, is how he simply accepted ‘what is’ in life. Pragmatic and real. And then got on with living.
I miss our chats about Carlton, Chelsea and Melbourne Victory. I miss our robust debates about the “red necks” on Sky News. I miss having to explain how to use his iPhone. I simply miss him, every day.
Thank you Dad for being an example of vulnerability and strength, all at the same time.
I love you. In my heart forever xx