My wife got me a book for Father’s Day called “Dear Dad”. It is a collection of letters to fathers, edited by Samuel Johnson OAM. The description on the back cover says, “A heartfelt, honest and very human book of letters that will make you smile and make you cry. It is the perfect gift for the Dad in your life. A reminder to say how you feel before it’s too late”.
As someone who has spent a good portion of his life encouraging and facilitating men to write letters to their own father and loved ones, it was surreal reading it, in a very good way. In many ways, it is my life’s work to help reconnect fathers to their children. This book does that in a very real, gritty and inspiring way.
Yes, at times it is gut-wrenching, and there are a few swear words thrown in, but life can be gut-wrenching. That’s why we need more strong, loving, involved Dads.
The great majority of the letter-writers are very successful people in their own chosen career. Interestingly, the great majority of these very successful people had very supportive and loving fathers. Do you think there could be a connection? Trust me, this book will inspire you to be the Dad your children deserve.
Glen Shorrock, well known Australian singer and member of the Little River Band, was to the point:
Sorry for the delay with this letter: I have been quite busy, and of course you have been… well, dead, for quite a while. I’ve always wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed being your son. …
… Thanks also for your sense of humour, which I cherished then and now. Thanks, Harry. Lots of love.
Amy Hetherington, a writer and comedian, told the truth in love with a humorous touch:
You’re a menace and I love you.
Thank you for not bubble-wrapping me and for filling my childhood with near-death experiences. Through your ‘she’ll be right’ attitude towards parenting, I think you inadvertently taught me resilience.
Thank you for that time you built a flying fox off the ten-metre-high cliffs into the ocean and got me to ‘try it out’ (resulting in a Wile E. Coyote-style boulder incident). Thank you for the water fights when you used to fill the fire extinguisher with water and pressurise it using the car engine and then use SWOT riot techniques on all the children. And thank you for that time you took me to feed rabbits on a farm (years later revealing that we actually fed the hundreds of rabbits 1080 poison).
All of these dangerous childhood moments taught me to roll with the punches. I always bounced back because, despite the fact that you were reckless, you were generous with love, laughter and support. I never once doubted myself because you always said, ‘Give it a go’. Even if that was jumping off a cliff or driving a car on the beach at ten years of age.
By not bubble-wrapping me, you taught me to believe in myself and not fear taking a gamble. You showed me that even though things go wrong, we can laugh at them, rebuild the flying fox and then try jumping again.
I adore you, buddy, always have, always will.
Kurt Fearnley, champion paralympian, born without legs, exceeded his word count:
It started with the great unknown. There was never any doubt, fear or questions from the moment I entered the world. How much would the inability to walk affect my ability to live? You only ever gave me hope and belief.
You taught me what it is to be a man. That the value of your word is the most valuable asset. That the loudest voice is often the weakest.
The lessons I learnt often came across without words. I learnt from your deeds and your actions. It’s like I was building a compass within, and you were supplying not only the materials but pointing the direction towards north.
Forever I will be confused between your voice and my own inner monologue, reminding me to do today’s job to the best of my ability and not to push today’s worries into tomorrow.
But above all you taught me that family is everything. It took hearing the cries of my own child to know the pain that my tears would have caused you. But you carried those tears and moments as you carried me through my childhood.
I know when you read this, you’ll note that I have exceeded the usual extent of my verbal expression. But I thought that writing “Dear Dad, you did alright, ol’ fella” wasn’t quite up to it.
Love ya Dad.
Kathy Lette, a best-selling author, shared from deep within her heart the need to appreciate what you have while you have it:
This is my seventh fatherless Father’s Day, but I’m still not over missing you. You died so unexpectedly, from blood clots. Despite the fact that I was a 53-year-old mother of two, I felt like a little orphan girl. Grief, of course, is the price we pay for love. But what niggles me is guilt. Did you ever know just how much I appreciated you?
When I tell people about you, I talk about your kindness, your cleverness, your twinkly-eyed wit and warmth. I also confess how my three sisters and I made fun of your name, ‘Mervyn’. As you laid most of Australia’s optic fibre, we nicknamed you ‘Optic Merv’…
You were always our hero – the head that was furthest out in the sea, bobbing through the breakers before surfing to shore like a human hydrofoil. The one we sent downstairs to hit the car burglar over the head with the breadboard. The one to go out to get my sister Liz’s asthma medicine from the all-night pharmacist twenty miles away, at three in the morning in the pouring rain.
The adventurer who whisked us off on trips to Coolangatta, Cobar, Cooma and even around the world in a campervan during your long service leave. The one who took all the film footage of the family – but was never in any of it; just your voice-over, telling us the exact exchange rate compared to yesterday or the gradient of the nearest railway line. You could even find the square root of the hypotenuse. (Hell, I hadn’t even realised it was lost!)
Even though you were our rock and our protector and knew we loved you dearly, we cheeky daughters were more focused on your quirks than your amazing qualities…
… You were immensely proud of all your eight grandchildren, all of whom excel at sport and also show a healthy interest in the toolbox…
… Darling Dad, you touched so many lives. Whenever I watch TV or surf the web, I think of you, Optic Merv, because you’re the man who helped it happen. And every Father’s Day, I remind my pals to hug their own darling dads. Because oh, how I wish I could.
You have two options:
- Write a letter to your own dad. Hard or easy, deceased or still alive, it is important. Show it to your children if you are able.
- Buy a copy of the book “Dear Dad” for yourself.
Yours for more letters to Dad,
PS: If you haven’t seen Overcomer, a must-see family movie, go and see it now before it’s too late. In so many ways, it is related to the above article. Watch the trailer here and find a cinema near you here.