My Dad did many things in his life but there’s one thing he did that to me, feels like he achieved the impossible.
He managed to leave me and each of my sisters with the quiet belief that we were his favourite girl.
That wasn’t a word Dad would have used, nor was it something for which any of us competed, or for that matter, boasted.
When we got together after he died in April 2010 and started to share stories, it was clear then that we each felt that we had a special relationship with him.
I’m sure we’re not unique in that regard. It seems to be a universal truth that little girls form a special bond with their Dad.
However, each of my sisters and I felt that we had an extra special, secret claim on our Dad’s affections. From his love of horses, to music, poetry, literature, languages and history – each of us laid claim to cherished moments of shared interest and conversation.
The truth is, he loved all of his kids and we saw him as our hero. He was so young at heart and energetic it always felt like he would live forever.
He crammed a lot into his 88 years, from his childhood home in Scotland to a new life and a growing family in Australia, with seven children (five girls and two boys) in total from two marriages.
Serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II, including deployment to Burma, had a large impact on Dad. His war stories had a big influence on his kids.
I remember a friend’s parents telling me a funny story once about how their kids used to say their Dad, who served in the Royal Australian Air Force, had ‘won the war.’
They were laughing because it was such a wildly exaggerated claim by these proud kids. I was laughing because at my house, there was a bunch of kids who thought essentially the same thing about our Dad.
Dad was born in 1921 into a home still lit by candles and a community that still relied largely on the horse and cart. He saw the advent of jumbo jets, man on the moon, the internet, mobile phones and countless other giant leaps forward in a century of progress.
Like the world evolving around him, Dad was no stranger to change. He trained as a fitter armourer in the RAF, raced motorbikes, played the bagpipes, went from small business man to farmer, took up horse riding in his mid-50s and worked with harness ponies into his late 80s.
Dad was a wonderful storyteller and I really wanted to capture the stories of his life in a book.
It was something one of my sisters and I broached with him in his latter years, but he was reluctant to participate. As well as being a modest man, he said that once you started to remember things, you didn’t get to choose which memories came rushing back.
There must have been things in childhood and during the war that he preferred to forget, but it was all the happy, funny and adventure stories he had shared that we wanted to preserve.
After he died I felt that need even more strongly, but the whole thing remained shelved because it felt too painful to revisit.
I’ve been thinking about it more this year, particularly since my trip to Scotland in May. In the past week, it’s gone beyond just thinking.
I sat down with a friend to watch a video that includes my Dad – the only one that I have – for the first time since his funeral. There were tears, but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be, so I’ve made a start on Dad’s book.
Instead of a collection of his stories in his own words, it will now be a memoir which includes his stories as remembered by me and my brothers and sisters.
All of this could change as I get into the writing and the book evolves, so I will keep you posted on that.
Whatever form it takes, the main thing is to create something for our family, to capture treasured memories of Dad.