Scott McLelland pays tribute to his dad and wonders what he would say if he could see him one more time.
—This is article #40 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
I’ve been sitting in front of the computer for the last hour thinking about how I should start this, how I should write about the person who in every way mattered most to me. It’s truly a difficult, almost impossible thing to do without discussing regret.
Not because of the time I had with him and the fact it wasn’t enough. Or that I ever, ever have any doubt how much love he had for me or how much more he had to teach me before he passed. My regret is that I was too young to tell him thank you, to tell him the last time I saw him just how much I loved him. So I am going to try and say it through this .
My Dad, Jock, was 20 years older than my Mother and grew up in the small Scottish town of Stranrar, on a farm where he was the typical tearaway young boy. I remember a few years back reading his diary and an incident where he stole eggs that ended up with him having to explain to his mother why his underwear ended up an egg-yolk yellow and I laugh. It’s a side of him I knew existed but was always tempered , not in a bad way, but he was old school. He was there to look after, to nurture and protect (for all he could be stoic)— and while he never raised a hand in anger and didn’t raise his voice, never ever— he always showed love and respect and people loved him for it.
My dad made learning things fun
He was a coach driver, not exactly a high flying job, but one that he worked damn hard at and his off time between cooking ( and man he could cook ) and gardening. He loved animals and I was always brought up with them and he was always very good with his hands. I think back and one of the things I loved most was in the workroom, him building me a fort for my toys.
He got me involved, he taught me about the wood, cutting it, measuring and building. I learned so much from that, things that to this day still help me when it comes to fixing a cupboard door or general house maintenance. He did it in a way that I loved I learned through fun, even him taking time to help with homework. I apparently was reading properly before I made it to school because of him.
My dad gave me the strength to carry on when times are tough
When putting this together one of the questions was how am I like him, and it’s one that I don’t know how to answer. I have a deep respect for people until they give me a reason not to. If I see someone who needs help in the street, or if I can help someone in trouble I will. Or even silly things that friends laugh at, things like when walking with a woman down the street, I’ll always position myself on the outside against the traffic. These silly little things that he always believed a man should do. I also think I challenge everything I feel needs challenged.
The greatest thing I took from him was strength and that for me has been a double edged sword as it has helped me survive some periods of my bipolar where I have wanted to end it, where if it wasn’t for him I would have taken that final pill. In one case I would have stepped off the edge but I didn’t, and in many ways it was for him that I have fought it as much. It also meant and sometimes still does mean that I will fight for others, often at the expense of myself.
Thinking about this I wonder what I’m trying to live up to, if my view of him as my Dad, as this massive force of all that was good in my life, means I am still looking at it through the eyes of the 9 year old that lost him and if it’s unreasonable. But then I think of what he saw in me and what he wanted me to be. If I can be half the man that boy knew then I will have done well to honour him.
I wish I’d hugged him the last time I saw him
My biggest regret I have always known (and when I visit his grave I do say it every time) was not to tell him I love him or to have hugged him the last time I saw him. To put that in context I have to talk about my last time with him. It was a Friday as I was going to my grandmothers for the weekend, he has a bingo run and always dropped me off as he was taking the old ladies to the bingo hall. I loved it as the women spoiled me rotten.
I always wanted to be taken seriously. I always tried to be a grown up around them and as such I would always just say bye to him, no hugs , not telling him I love him as I thought I was going to see him again in just two short days. It’s something that’s always torn me apart inside, and it’s a silly one as I know I am wrong…..I wonder if he knew how much I love him, how much he meant (and to this day still means) in my life and how proud I am to have his surname.
If I could have one last conversation with my dad
Little things bring back memories for me. Even now the smell of a cigar makes me feel like a kid again, or the taste of a freshly picked strawberry little moments that bring back being that boy again.
And it brings me to the point where I wonder what I would say to him if I could sit him down and buy him a pint to be able to spend time with him. Aside from telling him how much I love him and how much his love meant, and still means to me, the two words that come to mind to say would be “thank you”.
Thank you for being a friend, a protector. Thank you for the morals I live with and believe in. Thank you for the fact that when I think back and I look at my childhood with mother, before to a lesser degree, but definitely after he left, that him being in my life showed that a parent’s love can exist and is something that stays with you.
Thank you for my childhood and thank you for just being you. It’s all I could ever have wanted and needed.
Do you have a story to tell about your dad? If you want to follow in Scott’s footsteps and share your story with us, contact us today at [email protected].
You can find all of the #100Voices4Men articles that will be published in the run up to International Men’s Day 2014 by clicking on this link—#100Voices4Men—and follow the discussion on twitter by searching for #100Voices4Men.
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