A Girl is Never Too Old to Need her Dad

15 August 2016

My father and I have absolutely nothing in common. He is the team manager of an AFL team and I work in the arts. He would happily spend hour upon hour watching sport (any kind – it really doesn’t matter if it’s football or ping pong) on the box, whereas I would rather flick rubber bands into my eyeballs than watch five minutes of the stuff. Dad has kept scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings of his beloved Melbourne Football Club for the past fifty years and I keep clippings on inspirational authors and screenwriters. Dad is as appalled by my lack of knowledge and interest in who last year’s top goal kicker for Melbourne was as I am by his cluelessness about this year’s best films. Fortunately the colossal differences between us don’t change the fact that I absolutely adore my father and always have.

This was the man who gave me lion rides around the lounge room when I was a toddler, the man who told me he loved me pretty much every day of my life growing up (and still does whenever I see him), who taught me to ride a bike, gives the best bear hugs in the world and has a laugh not dissimilar to Mutley the dog from Penelope Pitstop. In primary school he coached the little league football and came to the Grade Six parents and students disco where he burnt up the dance floor. When I was a teenager he was the “hot” dad (apparently thick black moustaches were the sexiest thing around in the western suburbs in the eighties) and although I pretended to be revolted when my school friends raved on about what a spunk my father was, secretly I was proud as punch.

He’s also the man who once shut me in the boot of the car and locked it when I was a hormonal fourteen year old (a.k.a. bitch from hell) who unwisely decided to shriek at him in front of about twenty of his mates at a football club barbeque. Another time we had a huge fight (same bitch from hell era) and I refused to go to my room so he dragged me down the hallway as I screamed “I HATE YOU!” I found him half an hour later sitting on our front fence crying. Apart from when our beloved Dalmatian had passed away I had never seen my father cry up until then and to this day it remains one of the most shameful moments of my life.

At 66, Spike Harris is one of the most active and fittest “seniors” I know. He walks every day and his work with the Melbourne Football Club has kept him on his toes mentally and physically. However, despite all signs pointing towards him being around for many years to come, Dad recently began writing his memoirs. He asked me if I would run my professional editing eye over them to see if he was doing a good enough job and I was more than happy to oblige. If there’s a better way of getting an insight into the people your parents were before you arrived and took over their existence I don’t know what is. There were many anecdotes in there that I’ve heard numerous times over the years, but also a few that I had not.

For instance, at fifteen, Dad told his parents that he was staying at his mate’s place for the night. There was a test match being played in Adelaide so Dad and his mate had concocted a plan to hitchhike over to have a look. They had absolutely no idea how far Melbourne was from Adelaide but they did manage to get to Mount Gambier and ended up spending a terrifying night in the Blue Lakes forest. Around the same time, Dad pinched his older brother’s car keys and he and his mate pushed the Austin A40 down to the main road and went for a drive to visit a friend in Altona North. This is the same man who balled me out years later for crashing into six parked cars on Melbourne Road. Sure, not my finest moment as a teenager but now I know where I inherited my slightly foolish driving sense.

Dad met Mum when he took a mate to see his girlfriend marching in the Williamstown Marching Girls. Apparently the moment my mum clapped eyes on my wayward father it was love at first sight, although she understandably had second thoughts when she discovered that his real name was Cyril.

Needless to say, reading these stories has only made me adore him more and this week my dad proved, yet again, that he deserves the title, “Best Dad in the Universe”. My husband is away at the moment, so when a mouse appeared at my feet in the pantry the other night my first instinct was to call Daddy. Despite the fact that I am fiercely independent in every other area of my day-to-day life, the mere sighting of a mouse paralyses me and I am ashamed to admit to my completely irrational and chronic fear of mice. True to their nature, my parents got up off the couch on a cold, wet Thursday night and drove thirty-five minutes to clean out my pantry and lay traps for their hysterical and very ashamed adult daughter. Not only that, but when I heard a snap ten minutes after they’d left, they turned around, came back and disposed of the dead rodent as apparently I am incapable of going near them whether they be dead or alive.

This Father’s Day I want to do something truly special for my dad. Every year it’s is a time to reflect on how I really did hit the jackpot when they were giving out Dads and that I am truly blessed. I would do anything for my father and I know that he’d do anything for me. So I stand corrected; we do have something in common after all.

Happy Father’s Day, Cyril!