My Dear Dad Jour­nal by Rebecca Mud­di­man

The Simple Things - - THINK | WRITING - What means a lot to you? Tell us in 500 words; thes­im­plethings@ice­berg­press.co.uk

My dad of­ten spoke of writ­ing his mem­oirs and, search­ing for the ideal present, I came across this jour­nal full of ques­tions to jog the mem­ory and dig into your past. Per­fect, I thought. Ex­cept once I got the book through the post, I re­alised that it was in­tended for the re­cip­i­ent to fill in and give back to me. Home­work is not what most peo­ple want for a gift, es­pe­cially when said home­work in­cludes what I per­ceived as rather nar­cis­sis­tic ques­tions such as “What do you like about me?” I de­cided to find another gift to go along with the book.

But my dad be­ing my dad, he du­ti­fully filled each page in his spi­dery scrawl with mem­o­ries and anec­dotes about his own life and mine, and, as a fam­ily his­tory buff, also in­cluded in­for­ma­tion and pho­tos about my an­ces­tors, be­fore hand­ing it back to me. Cu­ri­ous, I sat down with it and flicked through, won­der­ing if he’d have an­swered such ques­tions as “If you were an an­i­mal, what would you be?” (He did; it was a bear.)

I only in­tended to have a quick look, to read a page or two at a time, but I soon found my­self turn­ing page af­ter page, get­ting to know things about my dad I’d been to­tally un­aware of. There were things that made me laugh, that made me cry, his trou­bles and re­grets, sto­ries of youth­ful mis­chief and one about the death of a fam­ily pet that af­fected him deeply, ex­plain­ing his re­luc­tance to form at­tach­ments to our pets in later life.

We’re not a fam­ily of hug­gers, nor do we say that we love each other. And even though I al­ready knew he loved me and my mam and sib­lings, through his words in the book it be­came so much clearer. It might be cringe-in­duc­ing to ask some­one what they like about you, but it still warms the heart to read a re­ply that says, “If the world was full of Beckas, it would be a bet­ter place.”

Of all the (many, many) books on my shelves, this would be the one I reached for in case of a fire. So I keep the book on my desk, dip­ping in ev­ery now and then, stay­ing con­nected, even though he only lives down the street. And as I flick through now, land­ing on the ques­tion (another cringe alert), “What at­tributes did I have as a child that I still have now?”, I see part of the an­swer is that I seem to put “real ef­fort into buy­ing gifts for peo­ple that re­flect their in­ter­ests”.

Per­haps it wasn’t such a bad gift af­ter all.

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