My Dad is an early riser. He has a great respect for time; to him, less than fifteen minutes early is late. I used to think it harked back to his years in the police, but I'm pretty sure now that he was born that way. Dad likes to know what to expect from things. He likes to know exactly how to get somewhere before he gets in the car, and he likes to take the most direct route there. He takes pride in beating the prescribed travel time to a destination. He times long car trips on his watch's stopwatch feature. I like that about him.
Dad cooks. He's always cooked. That's not such a big deal now, but when I was growing up, lots of dads didn't know how. He used to make Samoan food for family dinners; Mum would make chop suey, and he would make fa'alifu fa'i, often the proper way - scraping out the coconut straight from the shell, and squeezing it through that stringy stuff. When I picture the way it's done, I see his hands, and the coconut water running through them. Dad has really pretty hands. Later, he began making Thai curries, and experimenting with Christmas ham glazes. His specialty is smoked salmon, which he's frequently asked to do for special family dinners. He does this out on the brick bbq area in the back yard, with the smoker he's had for years, lit underneath with alcohol-filled tuna tins. He always has to bring in the washing first. Dad loves to feed us. He likes everything to be just right, and you kind of have to eat his food on his terms; you're not going to get away with eating garlic prawns without dipping them in his thousand island sauce. He loves seeing us really enjoy food; I think he gets more satisfaction watching my Mum, my sisters and me putting away oysters than he does eating them himself - and he loves oysters as much as any of us.
Today my Dad turned 64. I set my alarm for 7.45am to call him, but he had already gone to work - I didn't know it, but he leaves the house at 7.20am every morning. He didn't get home this evening until almost 7pm because of a late conference. The fact that it's his birthday won't have made any difference to anyone at the conference. The young offender won't have been any more likely to listen even if he did know. He won't know that my Dad is my Dad, and he probably doesn't know his Dad as much beyond his Dad.
For a long time, neither did I. I feel sad and sometimes guilty about it, but I think that's just how life goes; you have to grow up before you can truly see your parents as people in their own right, and not just your parents. The more I get to know my Dad, the more I worry about running out of time to get to know him more. Being away from him on his 64th birthday is hard.
Anyway. This song popped into my head before I started writing this, and when I looked for it on youtube, this version by Eva Cassidy popped up, which is perfect - my Dad, inexplicably, loves Eva Cassidy. I don't understand it; I don't particularly care for her voice or her arrangements myself. But that means that anytime I listen to her, I think of Dad, and I like that.
He doesn't read this blog (thank goodness!), so rather than tell him, I'll tell you guys. I love my Dad. Happy birthday, Owie.