From my heart to yours – a letter to my dad

Dear Dad,

When I came to hang with you in hospital recently, tears clouded my vision. I wanted to feel calm and confident. I felt wobbly. I paused at the entrance of the hospital and thought of you – both your immense calm and your quiet confidence, and dried my eyes before they had a chance to swim.

That day we spent together with you in pain (as everyone tried to work out what was wrong), was tough. Usually I’m able to provide a salve of loving touch and humour – one that can make the pain feel smaller and more manageable. I suspect I learned these techniques from you – the art of distraction and the comfort of loving touch.

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But nothing worked on that day. Even with all my best intentions, there was no reduction in pain – there was merely unanswered questions and more pain. We didn’t think you were dying, but for periods of that day it sometimes felt like that. The mind is a complicated thing that can head in many directions. The true reality is that one day you won’t be around – and that will be hard in too many ways to mention. I understand that death is part of life. But it still hurts to think of it, so I don’t usually go there in thought. As you know well, I normally prefer to focus on life in all its abundance.

So, I’d like to be sure you know how much I appreciate and adore you. You are a regular dad and an extraordinary dad, because you are my dad. Incredibly, for a bloke in the 1970s, you started knitting me a baby outfit. It was finished three years later in time for my brother’s birth – possibly due to you chucking it over the back of our couch any time a mate stopped by. You would give us ‘horsey rides’ to bed – to our absolute delight – always conking out along the way and never quite making it to our bedrooms.

We kept the faith though, that one day you would! I will remember those moments forever. You let us work beside you in the garage and the backyard, digging holes and making things. We were relevant to you, and you received our mangled creations with enthusiasm, no matter how many nails were bent in the process.

Lying in the back of the Toyota Hiace on long road trips, we would watch the power lines skip up and down on the sky while we listened to your voice, enthralled by your tall tales. You are a great storyteller. You taught me to drive with sweaty palms, and didn’t give up on me, even when I gave up on myself. You supported me going to university for years and years to get a degree where employment wasn’t the end goal. I felt that support every single day.

You believed in my brother and you believed in me and I need you to know that this helped us to believe in ourselves. We knew we were welcome in your heart, and Dad, I have always felt comfortable there. It’s great to see you out of hospital now, and the awful winter virus is finally losing its grip on your lungs. It’s good to see you smiling again, and working and travelling once more. Actually, thanks for taking Theo to soccer on Waiheke Island today. (I’m sure his sweatshirt will show up soon.) And by the way, he loved the ham and cheese croissant you bought him – thanks for your constant generosity.

Even though the roles have gradually changed over time and I am now the parent of young folk, two roles have never changed. You are my dad and I am your daughter. I want you to know you are always welcome in my heart, and I hope you feel comfortable there. Let’s continue to grow older and wiser, making family adventures together, treasuring this dance we call life.

Thank you, Dad.

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About Author

Petra Bagust

Petra has enjoyed a stellar broadcasting career over the last 20 years, fronting a wide range of successful series including national and international programs. She is known for her honest wit, enthusiasm and ability to connect with anyone. Petra is a regular columnist for Parenting and presents around the country as part of our Hot Tips Roadshow. Follow Petra on Instagram at @petrabagust

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