So recently, I submitted the following article/letter to a newspaper.
Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case in a writer’s life, they didn’t want it.
S’alright. I’ve the skin of a fucking rhino. But since the article/letter is about my Dad and because today is Father’s Day and I’ve got this blog I’ve decided to self publish. Ha Ha!!
So if you want to know what being on the slush pile looks like and how much I love my Dad, read on.
Do you remember how your letter writing all began?
It was 1992. I was leaving home, London, to move 200 miles northwest, to Liverpool: birthplace of the Beatles, funny accents and curly perms.
Like most teenagers about to embark on a solo venture, I flip-flopped between a thrill of the unknown and sheer terror at leaving my life, my family behind.
Back in 1992, we didn’t have the assortment of communication tools we have today. No Internet, cell phones, video chat or social media. Back then, the cost of a long distance telephone call was astronomical. So if you really wanted to stay in touch, you had to write.
I’ll never forget the day I left for University. It’s seared in my brain. As you drove me to the train station, you had to pull your black taxi over to the side of the road, because you were crying so much. It was the second time in my life that I’d seen you cry and to see you shuddering with grief was unbearable.
As I boarded my train, I waved you and Mum an emotional farewell. The bucket of frogs that had been bouncing around in my stomach for weeks lurched into overdrive.
By the time that I arrived at my new halls of residence, those frogs felt like a herd of thundering buffalo.
As I sat in a strange, communal kitchen, surrounded by strangers, trying to smile through my nerves, I racked my brain for small talk. Then one of my new roommates casually remarked, “Oh, there’s a letter here for you.”
Indeed there was.
It was from you, Dad.
Even though you had just waved me goodbye, a few hours earlier, you already felt light years away. But opening your letter, seeing your familiar, elegant penmanship on the page, brought you closer.
The letter overflowed with support. It wished me luck and to have the time of my life.
Suddenly, the miles between us vanished and the stampede in my stomach settled.
Over the next few years at university, you made sure that you wrote to me at least twice a week.
Correspondence penned from the front seat of your black cab, often sullied by a splodge of jam.
With or without the jam, those letters were my lifeline to home. They were filled with humourous anecdotes about life, your escapades as a cabbie and of course, precious snippets of information about our family. Your ordinary tales of the everyday ensured that I didn’t get home sick, for your letters brought home to me.
And they were always such fun to read.
Quite often, once the mail had been delivered, my housemates and I would gather around the kitchen table. Tea and biscuits would be dispensed and I would read your latest letter aloud.
Each letter was like an installment of a soap opera: “The life of a London cabbie.”
You wooed us with fanciful tales of the celebrities you chauffeured around London.
You charmed us with your people-watching stories.
You regaled us with the dramas of your day.
Like the time you had to deliver a gourmet lunch made by a top London chef, to a swanky party.
You described how en route to the delivery, you’d sampled several of the delectable canapés (the prawn ones were especially good).
Cheekily you remarked that the expression, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” was quite wrong.
No matter what you wrote about, your stories were riveting and often left me howling with laughter.
I didn’t return to London after university.
Instead, I choose to go backpacking around Australia.
It was the late ‘90s. A world still untainted by the wonders of modern technology.
You would have though that sending letters to an itinerant daughter would have been impossible.
Not for you. Not for my Dad.
You kept the letters coming, sending missives to post offices all over Australia. Every time I arrived in a new town, I would immediately dash to the post office, to collect my bundle of precious letters. I still remember, with startling clarity, how I sat on the steps of the impressive Brisbane Post Office, crying with laughter.
In your letter you described how my Mum had hoisted up a pair of union jack knickers (panties) and had waved them like a flag when you wouldn’t buy her a flag to wave at a pomp and pagentry concert you’d both attended.
It was those little snippets, slices of life that bridged the miles. We were miles apart, but every letter you wrote made the miles evaporate.
It was during my Australian escapades that I met a charming Canadian, who I followed to Canada.
It was another new country. My umpteenth address. Yet still your letters arrived with comforting regularity.
But the years have slipped by quickly. Technology has evolved. Now we chat frequently on the telephone. We email and video chat.
These days, your letters aren’t a staple of my every day life. Occasionally, one arrives and I rip it open with the voracity of a child at Christmas.
I still check for letters, every day, even though I know there probably won’t be one. Because on the odd occasion that there is one, it makes the whole world shine a little brighter.
I have every letter that you’ve written and I treasure them all.
Hundreds of mini memoirs, spanning more than two decades.
Each letter that you took the time to write was worth it, because no matter how far away you were, your words always brought you closer.
Sometimes, when a child leave home, it can herald the demise of the parent/child bond. A once symbiotic relationship slowly wears away.
But I can say, in all honesty, that because you faithfully wrote all those letters, our relationship has never wavered.
Even though I’m now 40, with my own family to guide, we’re still close.
I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that even after all these years I can still count on your support. No matter what.
Even if a bucket of frogs, or a herd of thundering buffalo come to visit, I know that I can count on your to cheer me up, to make me laugh. I know I can count on you as one of my biggest cheerleaders.
It’s the best feeling in the world and your unconditional love is the most precious gift you ever gave me.
Having a Dad that cares enough to write so many letters really makes me feel like the luckiest daughter alive.
I’m so very thankful.
I love you, Dad.
Happy Father’s Day.
All my love,