Theo knew that his Dad loved him, but he almost never said the words. Dad didn’t say much at the best of times, but talking about feelings wasn’t something that would have occurred to him. Growing up, this was something that Theo accepted as normal, and it was only when he started spending time with friends and their families that he realised that some people talked about love. A lot. It made him wonder what he was missing out on.
Mum was different. She was the one that they all turned to when they needed comfort. Dad was good for practical advice, but Theo had only tried a few times to talk to him about his feelings. He could sense his father withdraw a bit, and even as a kid he could pick the physical signs of discomfort from his Dad’s facial expressions, and his tendency to simply leave the room if he wasn’t comfortable with where the conversation was heading.
When he was older, he’d asked his Mum about it. Mum’s family was a big part of their lives, with aunts and uncles and cousins and all of the associated noise and drama and affection. But Dad’s family was missing in action – no visits to grandparents, or even discussion around his relatives. He got along with his in-laws and the extended clan, but Theo realised over time that his Dad seemed bemused by it all, and appeared to be on the outside looking in. All Mum would say was that Dad’s family and early years had been very different to her experience. They didn’t keep in touch, but it was Dad’s story and he would tell them when he was ready.
Theo and his siblings came up with theories around what might have happened. Was Dad adopted? Maybe he just couldn’t stand his family – Theo could relate sometimes when his brother and sisters drove him up the wall. Dad wasn’t someone who ranted or argued with people, which only made it harder to understand why he was so solitary. One day, Theo asked him outright about his family. Dad replied that his family was Mum, Theo and his siblings, and that was enough for him.
It was only after his Dad had passed away that Theo realised that his Dad had loved them the only way he knew. He rarely said that he loved them, but he would do things big and small to make them feel cherished. He’d spend weekends taking them to sports or to catch up with friends. He would always pick them up at the agreed time – you could set your watch by him. He listened more than he spoke at mealtimes, and would amaze them by making toys for them all to play with, or surprise them with an outing. This would usually involve an early start to a mystery location, and Dad would have the car packed ready to go and Mum would sometimes come, or wave them off as Dad drove them into the dawn light. The three kids would be in the back seat, still sluggish with sleep, as Dad drove the car through the suburbs and off towards the mountains or the beaches, whistling to the music on the radio.
Holidays were usually spent at home, and Dad would get them involved in a project like building a tree house. It must have been like wrangling cats to get them all to join in, but he was patient and showed them how to help and handle tools. He’d tell them stories about places he’d been and people he’d met, and these moments were more precious than Theo realised at the time.
When his own children were born, Theo felt overwhelmed with love and vowed they would know every day that they were adored. He would tell them, but also show them in countless ways, just like his Dad had done.
I’m participating in this blogging challenge for the month of January, which supports starting the year on the “write” track. You can find other posts with #bloganuary and join in the challenge.