I Love, In Spite Of It All: An Alternative Father’s Day Message

I love my father. I do. But back when I was 10 he broke my heart. He walked away from my brother, my sister and me. I still have the scars. And though they are old, sometimes they ache and burn. And sometimes when things are bad, they pull apart a little and bleed.

“They fuck you up your mum and dad,

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had,

And add some extra, just for you.”

 I was asked to write about Father’s Day; a day I’ve never celebrated even when my Father did live with us. Mother’s Day I observe religiously each year. From handmade cards and dried pasta tins when I was 7, to perfume and books when I started my first job. For part of this epilogue, I was also asked to write about what I have learned from my father; the values he instilled me, and the lessons I learnt from him growing up. This is very hard to write about because my father left before I had the chance to grow up.

“But they were fucked up in their turn,

         By fool’s in old style hats and coats,           

Who half the time were soppy-stern,

And half at one another’s throats.”

 My father is clever, quick witted, incredibly funny and unafraid; he can look at a map once and know where is and where he’s headed; he’s handsome and slim with fiery auburn hair. He introduced to F1 Racing and the romanticism of trains, Casablanca and all things Humphrey Bogart. He taught me how to ride a bike and play cards; he gave me his long legs and my tendency towards the melancholy. And finally he taught me that love sometimes breaks your heart but it can also put it back together again.

                                                      “Man hands misery to man.

                                                        It deepens like a coastal shelf.                       

                                                        Get out early as you can,

                                                        And don’t have any kids yourself.”

My father is not an easy man to love particularly when he’s depressed. He is never the one to call; he disappoints. Loving him is like walking on unsteady ground; never knowing when you might fall and hurt yourself. I make excuses for him more than I would for anyone else. He is judgmental and unsympathetic. I am in a perpetual state of fear of upsetting him in case he leaves; and I have never been entirely sure if he loves me the way a father should; the “I will seriously maim any boy that breaks your heart” kind of love; not the indifference I sometimes feel from him.

As I said, I love my father but it’s complicated and painful, and a lot of the time, it still feels like it did on that day when I was 10. So, writing and talking about my father, particularly on a day that is reserved for those fathers who are to be celebrated; who stuck around; who didn’t break their children’s hearts; who are the perfect Dads’, is hard.


But despite, or in spite of all of this, I am determined to love him until the end. I am determined to have a father I love, and to hold onto memories that although are bittersweet, are ours. And I am determined hold on, even when hurts.

Lyrics from ‘This Be The Verse’ by Philip Larkin


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