Just a father standing before his daughter

Two years ago today, I received the best gift of my life. Thinking back my heart still floods with emotions and every time I tell the story I get all prickly-eyed.

What better way to honour the moment than a small note…

Growing up, our childhood was let’s say – colourful.

Our mother left when we were young and our step-mother left when I was in my early teens. Both of these moments came with the emotional upheaval you can expect.

But when everything you know gets burned to the ground, from the ashes will always spring new life.

Once the dust settled in our downsized family, I discovered the best thing a girl can have – my father.

As a shearer, my father was away a lot as a child. He was a strong, hard-working, humble man whom I always loved and respected, though it was my step-mother who ruled the foreground of our lives (not always with the most positive hand either).

When she left, my father thought he had failed us by losing another woman. He thought this created a hole in our family that only a mother could fill (he was wrong). It swallowed him for a time, but then he came back stronger than ever.

And what began to grow in that space was love. I discovered my father to be a far greater man than I ever knew. As he finally came to the foreground of our lives, we forged a strong, new relationship built on love, trust and respect.

There were plenty of moments where I am sure he wished there was a woman around. But he took it all in his stride and handled each topic as only he could.

On feminine matters – out grocery shopping, he turns to me and says – “you need any lady products – throw em in!”

Or the ‘sex-talk’ - when I started dating someone older than me, my father decided it was time to sit me down and our chat went something like this –

“So, erm, *clears throat*, I know you are a certain age and I know that there are things like injections or pills, so if you need me to take you to the doctor, I will”.

I did my best not to laugh as this was the most uncomfortable I think I had ever seen my him; my response: “thanks Dad I am already on the pill”. A little shock washed over his face before he quickly recovered – “ok, good, that’s all I had to say”.

Then there were times I pushed the boundaries – like when my best friend came around to my house in tears and covered in bruises once again after being beaten. I told her she wasn’t going home, went inside and said “Dad, she needs to live with us, I am not letting her go home”.

Having already raised a tribe of children himself, another mouth to feed was more than most would take on, but in his ever calm and fair manner, he said “first I need to have a conversation with her mother”. When he returned, there was little more said, he merely confirmed she could stay with us, then added – “you live here with us, you are part of our family and need to abide by our rules.” That was it.

The list could go on to depict the incredible man that I am lucky enough to call Dad.

There were so many moments when he took action and showed his integrity of character, then, there were moments when one would expect a father to step in, but he didn’t.

Like when I finished my law degree, then decided to manage a restaurant instead. Or when I last minute decided to move to Australia by myself, got engaged, moved to London, broke up with my fiancĂ©, went on a nomadic streak, ended up in Croatia as a tour leader on boat, fell in love…

I can’t imagine having a daughter, watching her run so wild and not feeling compelled to add my 2 cents and steer her on the ‘right course’. But he never did.

He didn’t idly sit by; it wasn’t that he didn’t care; but somehow he had the wisdom and discipline to allow me to forge my own path whilst showing me nothing but unwavering love and support from the sidelines of the arena – even when I was face-down in the mud.

This has led me to making a hell of a lot more mistakes than the average person. I have stumbled, tripped and fallen time again, but I have always risen stronger and more determined – and I have no doubt as to why.

I thought booking a one-way ticket to Croatia for love, was the crescendo of my wild and untamed ways. I was wrong.

After 2 months here with the man I loved, we knew this was it. We got on skype with my father – the first time they met each other – and Mirko asked for my hand in marriage (a modern day romantic gesture).

His words were – “I don’t have anything to my name, but I am a hard-worker, I love your daughter and I will do anything for her.” (Looking at this now, I realize he could not have said more perfect words speaking to my father).

Dad was sitting there with his amazing partner Celia and never one to be taken aback too easily, he barely hesitated in saying –

“Well I don’t know you, my daughter will make up her own mind, but as far as I’m concerned - as long as she is happy, I am happy” – this was a yes.

We knew we were going to get married, the only question was when.

We contemplated doing it in NZ or Australia after his season on the yacht, but as the end of my 3-month visa drew nearer, we realized we didn’t want to wait. This was it.

As fate would have it, I visited the registry office in town, the next available time they had was in 5 days (2 days before my visa was to expire), Mirko was able to get off his yacht for a few days, his mother and sister were in the country, so we thought the ultimate – fuck it – and decided to get married.

Living on the wind comes at a cost.

Though I knew this was the right thing for me, I was steeling myself for the fact that I was about to have one of the biggest moments of my life with none of my loved ones around.

There was no way I was going to put the financial stress of my personal choice on them, so I played it off as nonchalantly as I could (following in my father’s footsteps).

“It is just signing the papers, it is not a big deal, we will celebrate when we come to Australia to visit…”

This was a lie. It was a big deal, but I didn’t want them to feel bad and I couldn’t allow myself to think too much on it otherwise I would crumble. So I was convincing myself as much as them.

I spent the week trying to be as Zen as possible; though my emotions were like a plastic bag in the breeze – blowing this way and that, no order, no rhyme, no rhythm.

The day before the BIG day and I had dealt with my emotions as best I could. After meeting a beautiful friend who came to my rescue as the only person to represent my loved ones; we were patiently waiting for Mirko to arrive from the 11pm ferry.

11.10, 11.20, 11.25, no sign or word from my love. 11.30 he burst into the boat we were on and was  acting all kinds of strange. After a very confused exchange, he told me I needed to turn around.

I was annoyed at him, because he was being so aloof, but acquiesced nonetheless.

Standing there in a casual t-shirt and shorts was my father.

I was momentarily stunned and turned to Mirko in disbelief. Then the tears came and I jumped on Dad.

It was like one of those clichĂ© scenes from the movies, except it wasn’t a movie, my father had somehow flown from NZ to Croatia with little-to-no notice and was standing before me on a yacht in Croatia.

I have never doubted his love, but this was more than I ever expected. Once I finally caught my breath enough to stutter a few words, I managed to say “You’re here, I can’t believe you’re here!!”

As always, my father had the perfect response –
“You’re my daughter, of course I am here”.

Even as I write those words I am tearing up.

Tomorrow I will celebrate my 2-year wedding anniversary and there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that the example my father set, is the reason I have found such an amazing, grounded, hard-working, humble man to be by my side through this journey of life.

But today, on the eve of our anniversary, I will forever be reminded of the strength and depth of my father’s love.

Love is not measured in words; it is measured in actions (unless you are a writer of course…)

Thank you Dad for all that you are and all you have given us. There was never a hole in our lives, your love was always enough.

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  1. Absolutely beautiful read and yes I have met him and he is a very humble person

  2. Oh Tash! What a beautiful story. It brought my eyes to tears. I feel so touched. I barely know you but I'm sure your dad has raised a wonderful woman. Denise xoxo


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