I don’t have any memories of my Dad without grey hair.
He’s 47 years my senior, and to be quite honest – I’ve always considered him to be an “old man”. And for as long as I can remember, he’s been a stay-at-home Dad. He’s always been there when I needed someone; actually, when anyone needed someone.
Dad was the reason I made it to school safely, up until about grade 5 when I decided I was old enough to cross the street by myself and count on the company of my friends to ensure I got to school on time. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of his peanut butter + butter sandwiches put together on squishy, whole wheat bread and the more brown than yellow banana he would pack for my lunches, Dad woke up every morning and made sure I didn’t starve through the day for all of elementary school. When I was sick – he’d come pick me up. When I forgot my homework, my gym clothes, etc. – he would make his way to the school as quickly as possible, with “Casper” the family dog in tow. When it was time to go home, he was standing outside the school doors waiting for me… and we’d walk home sharing stories about our day.
When I needed him, he was there. But it wasn’t always just for me.
Dad was sometimes at school as often as I was. He’d volunteer to supervise class field trips – and made sure to always engage with fellow classmates about the best parts of the trip. When we visited old mines, the planetarium, and the local heritage village – he’d immerse himself with fascination and get just as excited as all the kids about new information to learn. When my friends and I were simply stuck in class on a regular school day, Dad would volunteer his time to stop by for a few hours and help struggling kids improve their reading skills. And if there was ever a moment when he wanted to help out and wasn’t balancing on a pint-sized chair while helping students who were fighting their way through their required reading, you’d likely find him in the computer room tinkering away and teaching others how to use them efficiently.
Mr. Thomson (or Mr. T to some people) has always been one to offer a helping hand, but more importantly – a bit of encouragement. He’s always there for assistance or advice, but he’ll never take the load off your shoulders or give you the answers. He’s the type of guy to teach you a lesson, to help you learn, to make sure you get something out of the experience – rather than giving you an easy way out.
Actually, it’s always been about the experience with Dad. Playing outside or playing with manually propelled toys always trumped slouching on the sofa watching any TV show. Reading a book always beat out spending hours getting sucked into a video game – unless you were playing Zelda, and you let Dad play just as much or more than you got to play yourself. He taught me the importance of appreciating a simpler life, not getting wrapped up in the idea of “keeping up with the Jones'”, and living a life without worrying about judgement from others.
Because – and it’s really sunk in more as an adult than ever before – none of that stuff matters.
To Dad, having the latest, greatest, whatever was cool – wasn’t important. He knew that it was absolutely possible to smile, laugh, and enjoy yourself with crayons, a piece of paper, a pencil, and whatever other knick-knacks you could find lying around the house to incorporate into some sort of make-believe adventure; there wasn’t a need for luxurious things that cost more money than our family could afford. Dad taught me that having fancy, expensive clothing or something new on a regular basis didn’t define, change, or impact who I was as a person. And although I didn’t believe him for the longest time, he would always imply that my life and who I really was in it was perfect, without bells and whistles to dress it up.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Dad – it’s that you don’t need more than a shirt, a pair of pants, an extra pair of underwear, a good book, and staples like milk, cheese, a loaf of bread and deli meat in your fridge to get by for a lot of your days.
Life truly can be just that simple, really. He’s living proof.
My father has been a significant influence to who I am today. Over the last 30 years, we’ve drifted back and forth, bumped heads, and misunderstood each other on so many occasions, but he’s definitely impacted the way I see the world and how I’ve chosen to be.
Though he may not know it, he helped fuel my passion for writing. He’s the reason I’ve fallen in love with the smell of books and why I wish I read more often than I do. My confidence to face the public with no makeup, my attempts to be frugal, my willingness to be kind and help others as much as I can is all because of my Dad – and everything he taught me. I spend my life trying not to worry about things, because Dad’s never been the type to do so. I try not to over complicate things (although I’m not very good at it) because… Dad wouldn’t do that either. And I try to learn as much as I can, because that’s what Dad likes to do.
There’s been many moments when I’ve debated which parent I’m more familiar to, but the truth really is that I’m a solid half from both of them. And while it’s without a doubt that I’m my mum’s little girl, but there’s no question that I’m Dad’s baby girl too – his lil’ Miss Pennifer for always, no matter how old I am.
I can honestly look in the mirror and see who I am, because of who my father is.
He’s the man with the grey hair and the big heart, who’s taught me to enjoy life in such simplicity. He’s always home, and always there when I need him.
And that’s exactly why I love him, and am so happy to call him my Dad.