The arguments that really said: ‘I love you, Dad’
PUBLISHED: 09:31 04 April 2018
Like father, like daughter: Rachel Moore pays tribute to her father Terry.
If my father said black, I’d say white.
If he dared to air a political view at our family kitchen table in the ‘70s and ‘80s – and then at my own table in the ‘90s and 2000s – I’d fire back the counter view.
I rowed with my father like no one else. Sparks flew from the time I learned to talk – early and non-stop, as he frequently reminded me. We both liked the sound of our own voices, my mother would say, as we slugged out our arguments, much to her frustration.
Both of us wanted the last word, so ‘discussions’ in my teens and early 20s could be lasting and furious.
We rarely saw eye-to-eye, viewed the world through such different perspectives, occupied polar stances when it came to opinions and accepted very early that the chances were that we would never agree on anything.
His rules were made to be broken. He, very much the blazer and tie man and a stickler for “proper dress”, eyed my hideous sartorial concoctions with disapproval, the black puff-ball skirt, leggings and Doc Marten boots springs to mind.
He liked etiquette, routine, rules and neatness.
I liked none of the above, and let him know it often. His job was to set the rules – too many for a young me. My job was to rebel, loudly and crossly.
I believed there was no such thing as Daddy’s Little Princess in our relationship. We challenged each other and became conditioned to disagree, even if there was a glimmer of agreement.
I was the most exasperating teenager lumbered, I believed, with the most exasperating parents, who would never see life from my view and whose narrow parameters of acceptability had me screaming for freedom.
“The problem with you two,” my mother would shout, “is that you’re too similar. You are just like your father.”
She was right. We were both hot-headed, outspoken, straight-talking, opinionated and unafraid to challenge. Left in a room together with an issue, we could drive each other to distraction.
We knew each other so well. I could predict his next point and was ready with a response, but he was often ahead of me. We went down a one-way street so many times, ending up laughing because our arguments had deteriorated to the ridiculous.
He taught me to question and stand up to anything I didn’t believe was right.
I often envied the calmer relationships my friends had with their fathers; never a cross word, silent meal times with no Radio 4 news on in the background which provoked daily family rucks, no expressions of opinions or views exchanged and politics never discussed. Their lives seemed easy, quieter and relaxed, while ours was exhausting and made my brain hurt.
What I didn’t realise until decades later, when I became a parent of challenging teenagers who had an opinion about everything – it’s in the genes - was that the the ease in which we embarked on those years of disagreements, discussions and fiery exchanges of opinions was the solid bond between us.
We fought because we were bound by unconditional love, no argument would break our relationship. He was my father and I was his only daughter, with his DNA. Arguing sealed our closeness.
And when it came to fighting my corner, my father was always there with passion and loyalty, fiercely proud and protective of his only daughter. He was my most staunch supporter, never afraid though to tell me when I was “talking total squit.”
I probably never truly understood how strong his love for me really was until my marriage broke down eight years ago in my mid-40s. He was there, fixing things, gardening, keeping the practicals going, quietly propping me up, pottering around me checking I was OK as I grew stronger.
I always wondered if he was trying to make up for all the weekends and evenings away from the family as a passionate sportsman who gave up evenings and weekends to coach young cricketers and footballers.
He dedicated his time after his playing days to developing young talent while we did our own thing at home, a little resentful that he put others before us in terms of his time.
Four years ago, our arguing stopped for good when a stroke left him unable to speak or walk again, the cruellest punishment for one so communicative and active.
I spent many hours sitting by the nursing home bedside of man who could once never sit still.
We laughed about my horrendous teenage behaviour. I knew when he disagreed with something I’d said by a look he’d throw me, the look that told me my view was “squit”.
Last Monday, as an infection took hold of his frail body, I told him how proud I was that he was my father, the values he had taught me and how he’d encouraged me, by his challenges of me, to speak out.
I was proud for all the young lives he had touched as a teacher and sports coach, giving them opportunities to travel abroad and play sport, at school, local, regional, national and even international levels, and the legacy he had left.
When died last Tuesday, nothing had been left unsaid.
We had disagreed about nearly everything in our lives, apart from the love we had for each other.