I had written my Father’s Day blog for today especially for bereaved fathers, but at the last moment I decided to dedicate this blog to my father, David Banfield. I know that he has had the single most influence on my life and continues to, even though he passed on 20th January 2012.
Growing up, we were not wealthy, in fact, were it not for my mother’s ability to turn a penny over twice, I don’t know what he would have done. He had absolutely no money sense and bringing up 4 children is not for the faint hearted when you don’t have a high school education. This did not hold him back though. My father was so widely read on a vast range of subjects. His determination to self educate was admirable. If he came across a subject that he felt he was uneducated in, he would go out of his way to read up and educate himself in that area so that he was fully conversant. It did not matter if it was electrical, engineering, mechanical, mathematical, history, geography, spiritual or natural history. He is the most widely knowledgeable person I know. His love of birds (the feathered kind), led him to become somewhat of a locally renowned ornithologist. His Robert’s Birds book was always at hand. We always had orphaned, abandoned or injured birds (and occasionally other animals) at home that required round the clock attention, besides his ongoing involvement in falconry. He taught himself how to make the leather jesses and leashes, lures and plumed hoods used in falconry. Whatever hobby or interest he was involved in, at any time during his life, he threw himself into it with such enthusiasm and become an expert in that area. Ornithology, lapidary, show pigeons, bass fishing, photography, rose cultivation, UFOs, esoteric, metal detecting and so many more that I have lost count. His obsession with the WW2 Battle of Britain and in particular the spitfire and hurricanes was monumental. . He was a great fan of National Geographic, Jacques Cousteau, David Attenborough and all the other conservation greats through the years.
When it came to his job at the local paper mill, he immersed himself in all the processes of paper making to the point where he would experiment at home. Much to my mother’s exasperation, he would commandeer her kitchen and her most prized pressure cooker. His loyalty to his job and employer was unquestionable. He explained to me once that the quality of the work you produce is a reflection of your character and is the legacy you leave behind when you move on. Any job worth doing is worth doing to the best of your ability. That principle has stood me in good stead all my working life. He was medically bordered from work way before retirement age due to stress related issues and this was a huge blow to his self confidence. Even in the face of such an unforeseen setback he remained focused and diligent in providing for his family.
My dad was always one for a good laugh. He loved to play practical jokes on family members, especially on his mother-in-law and my Gran was so up for it. She gave as good as she got. He so loved family get-togethers. My mother comes from a huge family of seven, so a family get-together at Easter or Christmas was a gargantuan undertaking of sometimes more than fifty people. He loved that; the beers around the braai, the late-into-the-night chats around the fire, the card games around my Gran’s huge dining-room table, the early morning fishing trips. He loved those get-togethers, but he also liked his solitude. He loved to spend time in the bush bird-watching or fishing because it gave him that alone time, yet he was always there to give us attention. He taught us to respect, appreciate and find the beauty in nature. We were all well versed in survival in the wild. He would invent all sorts of games and once he made us a pinball machine out of plywood, tin cans and a sprung trigger to launch the ball. When we were younger, he would play hide-and-seek with us, but that become old hat because we could never find him.
His honesty and integrity were a mark of his character, as was his ability to pass on to us all he knew. When my dad was explaining to you how something worked or teaching you how to do something, whether practical or theoretical, you listened. You were getting a lesson from a knowledgeable source and there was always a life lesson thrown in as well. I never once heard him say anything negative about anybody. He hated gossip and did not suffer fools gladly. He would just quietly walk away. My father hated prolonged social visits. After the initial greetings and a cursory cup of tea, he was ready to go and very often would embarrass my mother by cutting the visit short. He had said what he needed to say and now was ready to go home. In fact my dad was always a man of few words unless the subject of conversation was a point of interest for him. Once he had made up his mind to do something, no amount of persuasion could dissuade him. I loved that about him.
It was from my dad that I learned to deeply appreciate music. He loved all genres of music from jazz to rock n roll and educated us on all the artists. As much as his love for music, he also liked to dance. At many a family party, him and my mother would be on the dance floor doing the jive with everyone cheering them on. I think this is how I would like to remember my Dad and how I think he would like to be remembered.
My dad may have passed, but he is still delivering lessons from the other side. One such instance was some years ago when I was replacing a large pane of amber obscure glass in my front door. All had gone smoothly and the job was almost complete. I was struggling to get a smooth finish on the putty around the glass. Every time I pulled the putty knife across the putty for a smooth finish, it would pull it up into ridges. I was getting quite frustrated. That is when I heard my dad’s voice, “Change the angle of the knife, my girl!” I spun around so fast that I almost fell off the chair I was standing on. I was alone. I did and it worked. I very easily finished the job. Thanks Dad.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you and thank you.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there. You are appreciated and deeply loved.