It was with horror that I realised this month is September, and that Father's Day was in June. It passed without any mention or mark from me, and for that I feel terrible. As an attempt to rectify my overlook, I thought I'd tell the whole internet about my Dad.
Without going into too much detail (because he doesn't warrant it), my real father left when I was newborn. Mum was a single mother with small children and a wholly un-supportive family. Because she is strong and awesome and stoic, we were fine and happy and had no idea how close to poverty we were. But this is not about Mum, great as she is, so let's fast forward a few years to when Dad showed up.
I remember meeting him. We still joke to this day that he was wearing a cowboy hat (I'm sure he was! I'm sure!), even though everyone swears up and down he wasn't. I think it was my impressed young mind taking in the tall, slim, curly-haired (it was a perm!) Texan that now, years later, falsely attributes a cowboy hat to the scene. He was sat on our brown velour sofa, legs spread wide and beamed at me. "Hai!" he boomed, in a two-note pattern that he still does to this day- HA-eye. I was terrified. Mum introduced him as Dave, and that's how I came to meet my Poppy.
He was never one of those cheesy over-involved Dads that you see in 80's shows (I'm looking at you, Bob Saget) but was a quiet, reassuring, firm addition to our family. Though he's not the most talkative, his comforting presence was always something I appreciated. I remember once playing on the floor of the kitchen with my sister when something in the oven caught fire. We screamed "Dave, Dave!" and I can still see him, like an Olympic hurdler flying down the stairs, clearing my little brother's baby gate like Flo Jo and "saving us". I remember when he was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I remember when he would chaperone our school field trips and how proud I was to have the "cool dad" who would pick all the kids up and throw them around the pool and help us climb through the obstacle course while other Dads, fat and panting, looked on. Everyone wanted to be in Mr. Dave's group.
We had a rough patch in my early teens where I had to push him, to really test him, and he passed. I think our relationship is stronger for it, the fact that we basically hated each other for a few years. We came through the other side a lot stronger. I'm not an easy person now, I can't imagine how difficult dealing with a moody 14 year-old version of me was. I remember after all the teenage drama was over he and I drove 5 hours in a shitty Dodge Omni to go skiing near Austria. I forgot to pack other tapes, so we listened to Fleetwood Mac on repeat, over and over. I still always think of driving in the dark in that shitty car with him when I hear the Rumours album. I remember on that same trip he forgot the key to the camper we were going to stay in, so we had to sleep in a tent in the mountains outside of the camper. I also remember on the same trip, him flying down the slope completely out of control, but grinning like an idiot as he "skied" - one leg up the mountain, one leg down, nearly doing the splits. I love that back then and still now, he is always up to try things that he might not necessarily be good at, but has a great time trying.
I don't know how many men would jump head-first into a family with three children and pick up the Dad ball and run with it, but we're really lucky that people like Poppy exist. I don't know that if Banoo had three children, even as much as I love him, I could have such a natural love and easy affection like Dad did. I have no idea how he did it. Maybe we were all meant to be, our big silly family!
So Poppy, thanks for being my Dad. Thanks for always burping the same way ("Yehh-UUP!"), for folding your tissues into little exact squares, and all the other quirky Dave-isms you have. Thanks for trying to teach us bowling (still working on it), being obsessed with the Cowboys, making us pancakes and sausages every Sunday, and for teaching me to drive like a dude (remember when I crashed...into your WORK WAREHOUSE? IN AN OTHERWISE-EMPTY FIELD?). Thanks too for showing me how unconditional love works, and for loving Mum as much as we did- maybe even more to put up with us three shitheads that came along with her. You may not be my biological father, but you're my Poppy, and that's so much more.