It’s my Dad’s birthday on Thursday. He’ll be 60. Bloody hell. (I imagine he said something similar when I, and then my sister, turned 30)
I’ve never thought of my old man as actually being ‘old’. Over the past month or so me, my sister and my mum have been trying to organise a surprise party for him and I’m still struggling to get my head round the fact it’s going to be a big piss-up for a 60-year-old. Mum’s whisking him away to London for a few days, then we’ve organised a barbecue, the garden will be covered by a huge marquee with a dance floor and digital jukebox, there should be close to 100 people turning up and by all accounts there is a mountain of booze piling up in my sister’s garage so it should be a great afternoon and when I think back, it’s just not how I’ve ever imagined a 60th birthday party would be. Say 60th birthday party to me and it still conjures up images of an awkward family meal in a Beefeater somewhere. The last big party we had for Dad was his 40th. I was 13 at the time and don’t really remember a lot about it apart from there being a lot of people I didn’t know in the house and late in the evening I got woken up by a commotion which turned out to be a stripper. All I remember about her is seeing that she was dressed in stockings and a basque which is all I saw from the top of the stairs before she disappeared into the living room. I’m not expecting there to be a stripper at this party but I am expecting it to involve a similar amount of revelry and, in my head anyway, it’s just not something that connects with someone about to receive a bus pass.
Maybe that’s a reflection on me more than him though, he has a habit of making me feel old. Like when I was just about to turn 25, he phoned me early one morning to tell me that he and Mum had made me and my sister executors to their will. Thanks for the reminder of my own mortality Dad, right when I’m trying to deal with the fact I’ve been around for a quarter of a century. This was closely followed by the realisation that by the time my Dad turned 25 he was 8 years into his career and had a wife, a mortgage and me, whereas I was in a job solely for the meagre beer money it provided, had no girlfriend and was sharing a rented flat. I felt a little inadequate in comparison. Then he retired. How did that happen? My Dad! Retired!! How could my Dad be retiring when I was only 32!? Sure I knew other people whose parents were retired but they seemed… old. Or at least older. My Dad couldn’t possibly be old enough to retire, could he? But he did. Which meant I was old enough to have a Dad who was retired. Bloody hell.
Luckily I can forgive him these few incidents as we’ve always been mates. I’m still one of the few people I know who regularly has a drink with his Dad (or even with his parents, Mum is usually there too) and it’s always like going out with one of my mates rather than my Dad, we have a laugh and make fun of each other, we get into competitions over who can come up with the most puns and we have fun. Because of this I think most of my close friends and my sister’s friends consider my Dad one of their mates as well, certainly most of them will be at the party (by the way, if any of you are reading this and think he should know about what I’ve written, keep it quiet until after the weekend, eh? ;op) and no-one’s ever had any problems coming to meet me if I’m with him or joining us for a round of golf or something. He’s always welcomed friends in and so has become one of the gang.
If it hasn’t become clear by now, my Dad is my hero. In terms of someone I look up to, aspire to be like and fear disappointing, my Dad is that person. He taught me to be honest and polite, to respect others but to speak up when I thought something was wrong, to be strong and independent but not too proud to ask for help. He showed me how to tell jokes and stories so people would laugh and how farting could be funny. He’s where I get my love for dingy pubs and Chas ‘n’ Dave from. He’s still given me the best business advice I’ve heard, “If you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit” and I use it on a regular basis. Whenever I don’t stick to one his lessons or advice I always feel vaguely guilty, like I’ve let him down. Needless to say, I don’t like doing that.
He is everything I have to come to regard as what a good man should be, able to walk into a room full of people and be greeted with a genuine smile by almost everybody and genuinely missed when he is not around but always modest. I’m very lucky that I’ve always had him supporting me, even with some of the more dubious decisions I’ve made. “We just want you to be happy” he’d say, and he’d still be there when those decisions came back to bite me on the arse, as I’m sure he knew they would. He’s the one I still want to be proud of me and the one I go to if I don’t know what to do about something. If as many people come to my retirement party as showed up at his, and show the kind of love, respect and affection as they did to him then I ‘ll be amazed. Something else he always used to tell me was “By the time you’re big enough you’ll be too old” and I suspect he’s right, I’ll never see myself as big a man as him.
Happy birthday Dad. I love you.