Dad’s were traditionally seen the source of all strength and knowledge, hence the school yard argument of “my dad is better than your dad”. Not until Master Chef or My Kitchen Rules were there arguments about whose parent could make a better risotto.
Growing up in the 70s dads were expected to be able to fix anything from a flat tyre to a hole in the fence to a broken washing machine. They were also meant to teach their sons (yes the 70s were still structured around gender stereotypes) how to do these things for when they become fathers themselves. My dad taught me how to swear when fixing things.
Normally very mild mannered and quietly spoken, but when he took off the back of that washing machine then linguistically he resorted to the language of his youth when he served in the navy.
I did also learn to fix a flat tyre. I will not have children until I can fix a fence and a washing machine. That is my vow.
Mum’s were expected to know about school things; the three Rs. Dads were meant to know about everything else. Dad’s were meant to answer the question “why?” My dad could and did. I was always amazed at how much he knew. As a teenager growing into an adult it was intimidating, how was I ever going to know so much?
As an adult I learned that it was not that dad knew everything but rather he knew a little about a lot. It turns out this is something that I did get from my dad. The ability to absorb snippets of information about a wide range of topics without getting bogged down in the details, the more trivial the better. I know that you can tell the gender of a giraffe but its horns and the shape of its dropping. I know that 90% of the world’s opals come from Australia. I know that construction is considered a sign of the areas wealth and that approximately 25% of the world’s cranes are in Dubai.
Unfortunately this type random fact, although useful in creating an impression of knowing a lot about everything actually fill the brain preventing it from knowing much about anything. I do, however, have something to add to every conversation.
I do, just ask me.
Before the era of quinoa, reductions and deconstructions, dad’s were not expected to cook. Except for BBQ’s in which case the hot flames were clearly too dangerous for the lady folk who were constrained to making the salads, in the kitchen. My dad could make stew. I do not remember this stew fondly.
Dad’s stew did not have any flavour. Dad only made stew on the rare occasions that mum was too sick to cook dinner. On these day’s Dad also got us ready for school. This meant that all day we knew what was going to be served up for the evening meal. Dad’s stew consisted of whatever ingredients Mum had arranged for dinner, which was always meat and three veg. One of the vegetables had to be green another one red/orange the third was up for grabs though nearly always potato.
Dad’s stew meant he took these ingredients, chopped them into pieces of roughly the same size placing them in a pot covering them with water and boiling them till all the flavour was cook out of them.
This would be served with some bread to help mop up the “gravy”.
Gift purchasing was always left to mum. All but one gift. Birthdays and Christmas there was always a Dad gift. He even wrote the gift tag. The Dad joke on the day prior, every year was “Oh is it your birthday tomorrow?” or “Is it Christmas tomorrow, I hope Santa remembers”. We were never sure if this was a joke or a statement to try and cover up the fact that Dad had only just remembered and was yet to buy a gift. Hiding in plain sight. Either way Dad’s gifts were always a cherished present to be opened last.
They were usually a little abstract but clearly represented Dad’s understanding of us kids. I think we also knew what an unusual thing it was for Dad to enter a retail area for something other than hard wear. This always added to it value, regardless of how much he paid.
Into his seventies Dad still repairs driveways, installs kitchens and buys those special dad gifts. Although he still knows just as much about everything the recall of this information can be somewhat slower. Not to fear it is all just on the tip of his tongue. Sometimes I do not know how he can still close his mouth.