It’s Father’s Day this coming Sunday.
I’m sitting here looking at the card I’ve bought. It says: “Dad. Thanks for making me believe……that nothing is impossible.”
I’m not giving anything away by writing here what Dad’s card says.
He doesn’t use a computer. He won’t see this.
I doubt he’ll take much notice of the card itself. He never has been one for cards, or writing.
It was always a disappointment when I was growing up. I’d show him something I’d written and he’d take little interest in it.
I was a great bookworm, always reading. He rarely even glanced at a newspaper.
It was only when I was in my late teens, that I discovered my Dad is dyslexic.
He can hardly read or write.
And yet, we never knew. My mother never knew.
It was a traumatic secret, that he’d successfully kept hidden.
Having left school early without taking any exams, he had little need of language and writing skills in his job as an apprentice builder.
As a craftsman he soon excelled, becoming a skilled stonemason and carpenter. At one stage in my childhood, he built a home for us – from foundations through to the roof, and everything inside. He completed it in 10 months, whilst also working full-time.
His practical skills became second to none.
But I know he’s embarrassed by his lack of academic achievement, frustrated by his inability to read a book or write a letter.
I can understand now why he never took an interest in our schoolwork. But if it was a physical challenge, he’d be the first to encourage, give advice and lend support.
When I was little he used to run alongside me, saying: “It’s only pain, it won’t kill you,” when I tearfully found the going a bit tough. I’d grit my teeth, reach the top of the hill, and realise – yes I could do it. I see now the pain he pushed himself through in order to know that truth.
The challenges I’ve undertaken over the years – long-distance walks lasting days and sometimes weeks, climbing mountains, cycling, swimming, and now running – Dad has been there, giving me that same: “You can do!” advice.
That’s until recently of course. I knew there was something wrong when his interest in my marathon running tailed off, and he no longer quizzed me about how many miles I’d done in training, how fast, how much effort I’d put in.
His dementia is so advanced now that he’s barely aware when I take part in an event. But he did remember the word “marathon” the other day, when a visiting social worker asked what sort of running I do.
They’d come to assess Dad as he’s struggling at the moment and it seems likely he’ll need residential care in the near future. His frustration at not being able to express himself is plain to see. Difficult for him. More difficult for my mum, his main carer.
This is my 50th post. I’ve just entered what I hope will be my 50th marathon raising money for the dementia research charity BRACE. It’s at Edinburgh on Sunday May 31st 2015, three days after what will be my 50th birthday.
It was once a vague dream that I’d ever run one marathon – let alone the 39 I’m on now.
When I think how much Dad has made of his life, despite lacking skills it’s easy to take for granted – being able to read and write – I can see where my determination comes from.
That’s why this Father’s Day – I’ll open the card with him, and tell him: “Dad. Thanks for making me believe……that nothing is impossible.”
PS: A difficult one for me to write this week. But my Dad’s dyslexia, now his dementia, are not things I’m embarrassed about. It just makes me even more proud of what he’s achieved.