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Father’s Day

June 20, 2010

I’ve never really been very good with scheduling. Which is one of the reasons I’ve failed to do the simplest of tasks: getting a card and writing a suitably grateful and loving wish inside it before posting it to my Dad. Shame.

My internal critic conflicts with a predictable concoction of responsibility and guilt. I object to the commercialisation – the flags and banners trumpeting the next occasion I *should* be shelling out for. At the same time I wonder why I can’t just submit to the process, manage to organise my affairs and get the card in the post in time.

My cynicism may possibly have its roots in my Mum’s history in business. Twenty seven years selling newspapers and magazines (along with greetings cards, gifts, stationery and books) twisted my view on the world. Dad ran a retail business too (and still does). Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Valentines Day and Christmas Day. These were retail opportunities. That was how we all saw them first and foremost. Retail was vital. It’s what drove us.

This wasn’t a conscious thing on my parents part. And whilst I know only too well – just like anyone else – the perils of forgetting or the challenges faced when trying to reschedule Mothers Day, I feel infinitely more comfortable taking the low-key approach to marking these parents’ days. Submitting to all the usual cliches just isn’t me.

Dad still works. It’s what he keeps him going. He gets a kick from it. It keeps his grey cells going. He and I are alike. So getting him to relax for a while is a challenge all in itself.

So instead, the Jacob way is – even though it might cause some to gasp – is to remember and to thank. To remember the way that despite a garden accident which nearly left him paralysed my Dad and the destructive business aims of his then business partner (his brother – my Uncle) who wanted to wind-down the business they’d both spent 20 years building up, both my parents managed to protect their futures (and their childrens) by setting up another business. Others (me) probably would have focussed on the pain or the uphill struggle of recovering from a shattered hip and spending three months unable to move in hospital.

It was that second business which motivated my father during his darkest hour in 1983. It kept him alive. It kept us all focussed. It funded me through school and University and – inevitably – is something he’s still keen to hang on to now.

Both my parents turned that particular nightmare scenario around. It was as though they were writing their own film script for their own nest egg.

And yet the reality is that all of us have in our family history an equally dark, equally powerful defining moment. The kind of moment which hangs over us for years. The kind of moment for which cards and presents are nothing but superficial trinkets. There’s a limit to how much aftershave the old chap will want on Fathers Day.

  1. I hope your lovely Dad will have the opportunity of reading this, Jon. My own Pa – now 89 – isn’t AT ALL fussed about Father’s Day & actually loses his temper with me if I buy him a card – or worse still (in fact, bordering on the heinous) is to receive a card from his grandson on Father’s Day. He knows we care.
    My husband, however, NEEDS his cards … he has 4 children (including our son) and has made careful note that he’s only received 2 cards this year.
    I know the attitude towards over commercialised “opportunities” that I prefer!

  2. It’s interesting how the same experience can affect people in different ways: my parents owned a shop that sold greeting cards for 26 years (which we had to sell in forced circumstances), but the result is that I send quite a lot of cards – including on Father’s Day. And my Dad – now 86 – likes to receive them.

    I think that’s partly because there are lots of opportunities for sons (and daughters) to do things for their Mum – arriving with a bunch of flowers in hand on visits, for example – and children are often encouraged to make a big thing of Mothering Sunday / Mother’s Day in school. But there’s a lot less for Dads of that sort of ‘marking’ event.

    The bottom line, I suppose, is that it’s the thought that counts. If it’s sincere, regardless of the cause, then it can’t be faulted – can it?

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