Tell Your Dad You Love Him Day

My dad would have turned 65 today.

He didn’t mind having a birthday just before Christmas. Even as a boy he didn’t mind people telling him they’d just get him a bigger birthday present, rather than give him two presents within four days.

He also didn’t mind sharing Father’s Day with mum’s birthday on the years they fell on the same day. He was an amazing person – for many reasons above and beyond his attitude to presents.

This is a tough time for me and my family — his birthday and Christmas, so hard on the heels of his death.

One thing I am grateful for, though, is that I often told my dad that I loved him. It could be awkward, but we were all well-trained by Mum. He wasn’t as good at saying loving things as Mum, but his life included an amazing group of women who gave him excellent advice about these things. And so, his wife, daughters, sisters and his mum knew they were loved — because he told them so, in words as well as actions. (See what having good women in your life can do for you?)

Because I’ve been thinking of my dad a lot I’ve been telling everyone I only know — especially those who are traveling or living far from their parents — to tell their dad that they love them. If their dad is in hugging range, I tell them to give him a hug too. And I’ve been surprised by how many have said “err, no, I don’t think so. My dad is not that kind of guy”.

That’s too bad and so sad. I hope those people are wrong about their dads. As someone who suddenly has no dad, I think everyone with a dad should have a special dad appreciation day. Today, on my dad’s birthday. At the very least, call your dad and tell him that you love him. No matter where you are in the world, no matter how skint you are, get your dad on the phone and tell him you care.

I’ve prepared a script for guys who really don’t feel comfortable with this kind of thing. (Girls, I’m confident you can do this without a script.)

Here it is, guys:

Ring, ring.
Your Dad: Hello.
You: Hi dad, it’s your son.
YD: Hello, son.
Y: Hey dad, are you watching the game/doing some manly activity/going to Cheryl’s for Christmas lunch this weekend?
YD: Well, actually … *manly talk goes here*.
Y: That’s great. And dad, there’s one more thing. A friend of mine’s dad just died, really unexpectedly, and it made me think about things. So *manly cough* I just want you to know that I love you, and that it’s been great having you as a dad. And try not to die, OK? I’ll call you after the game/manly activity/see you at Cheryl’s lunch.
YD: Err, right. Thanks so. *Coughs, clears throat*. Talk to you soon. Bye.

See – it’s not that bad is it? Just blurt it out and get off the phone and give your dad a bit of time to process it. And it’s all done before Christmas.

And if — and I so, so, so hope it doesn’t happen — your dad suddenly drops dead like mine did, you will have had the talk and it will be a comfort to you. A small miniature microscopic comfort, but when the pain of losing a loved one is so raw and deep, you need every bit of comfort you can get.

I miss my dad so much. The world just doesn’t seem right without him at the end of the telephone. And I feel so ripped off that he looked after his health all his life and yet his heart gave out on him in October while he was doing charity work in the Solomon Islands. I hate the fact that the words “autopsy”, “embalmed” and “cremated” are now associated with Dad, who was always so full of life and noise and vigour.

I even found the perfect birthday/Christmas present for dad at a market outside a temple here in Chiang Mai — another ridiculous hat. He would have loved it, and Mum would have hated it … and he would have insisted on wearing it to the shops, or to a Rotary meeting or a posh Christmas party.

Please, tell your dad you love him today. You would have loved my dad and his outrageous outfits, that’s for sure.

Here’s what he wore to collect me from the airport in September 2009 when I flew home to have Miss M. It wasn’t a special getup he created to impress me, though. He’d just come from chairing a Rotary meeting.

I couldn’t fit Dad’s entire ensemble in one photo. Believe it or not, he was more famous for what he wore below his knees than above.

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8 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Oh my goodness, I can barely see the screen right now through my tears. What a heartfelt and beautiful post. My heart goes out to you and your family. I always think this could happen, and make it a point to tell my parents every day how much I love them. Beautiful tribute to your dad. <3
    dtravelsround recently posted..Escape of the Week: Radovljica, Slovenia

  2. Sophie says:

    Saying “I love you” is probably a bit awkward and even strange in some cultures/languages. So I think actions can speak as loud as words. I think your dad had the right idea, though – letting his family know both in words and actions.

    Such a lovely post, Barbara!
    All the best,
    Sophie recently posted..The Hollywood Gang Hideaway

  3. your dad was awesome. and, i am so sorry for your great loss. you’re right – DADS are important – and so is telling everyone how much you love them. happy birthday to your dad – thank you for sharing your love with us!
    wandering educators recently posted..Postcard from Chiang Mai, Thailand

  4. This brought tears to my eyes. So sweet and sincere. I hope that writing this brought you a little more comfort during a difficult time of year.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..A Million Penguins… And I Took a Photo of Each One!

  5. Sally says:

    Oh wow. This was beautiful. My dad is also “not that kind of guy.” So that’s why I was surprised a few years back when he started to end our phone conversations by saying he loved me. And hugging me at the airport. It was kind of awkward at first as I’m also “not that kind of girl.” But I’m trying to follow his lead. I definitely know I’ll be calling him this weekend to tell him I love him. And not just because you told me to do so. 🙂
    Sally recently posted..Stuff I Really Kind of Like About My Life in China: Old Timey Villages

  6. ayan says:

    from that outfit alone, i could tell he was a great fun guy.
    i should give my dad a present for christmas. like a hat perhaps =)
    ayan recently posted..not.home.anymore

  7. Tracey says:

    I got a good laugh out of your dad’s outfit! Especially when I looked closer and realized we have that same hat from Wycliffe Well – UFO Capital of Australia! What must they have thought at that Rotary meeting!!!!
    Tracey recently posted..Home – 6 Reasons Why That Word Will Mean Something Different in 2012!

  8. Adrian B. says:

    What a beautiful post! I just can’t find the words to express how sorry I am for your great loss – I’m a guy and, you are right, I’m not that good at these things. But I’ll make sure I tell my parents I love them, when I’ll see them for Christmas in a couple days.

    Take care.
    Adrian B. recently posted..Bucharest Christmas Lights by Night

  9. […] Plus, it doesn’t help that I keep on reading stuff like this and this. […]

  10. Suzy says:

    This is a great tribute to your Dad. He sounded like a joke-ster by his loud outfits. And you are so right. We don’t say how we feel about loved ones enough.
    Suzy recently posted..Milan, Italy Wishes You Were Here

  11. Tanapat says:

    Wow! After reading 3 articles about him, I’m sad I’ve never met such a legend. He remind me of this paragraph from Kerouac’s On The Road:

    They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

    I’m sorry for your loss.
    Tanapat recently posted..Go Time

  12. Laura says:

    Great tribute to your dad. Wonderful read. Thank you.
    Laura recently posted..The Igloo Village: Enjoying The Northern Lights From… An Igloo

  13. Barbara says:

    Thanks for all your lovely comments. I just don’t know how to reply, except for thank you. And he was a great dad. I really miss him.

  14. […] me off, really — a thoughtful email from a friend, a thank you note from one of my students, a touching blog post, or my parents telling me that they love me on the phone. Heck, I’ve been known to blubber over […]

  15. I lost my dad in 1996, when I was 17, and it’s something I will carry with me for the rest of my life… This is a beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing it with us. I hope many take it to heart. And to action… <3
    BakoymaTravels recently posted..Where to go?

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