Growing up without a father

Father's Day is a bittersweet time for me. Sweet because I am a dad and will likely receive a voucher from a home improvement store. Bitter because my own dad left a long time ago and my life has never really been the same since.

Murray Jones died when I was 5. There were three of them out running near dark. A car with only one headlight came down a gravel road. They thought it was a motorbike and moved out on to the road a little.

Two of them were killed. One of them was my dad.

He was in hospital for 10 days before he died, so we got to say goodbye to him.

My mother made me talk to him even though he was unconscious. She said he could hear us. I thought she had gone a bit looney.

Growing up without a father is no fun.

I remember going to Dads' Dinner at Scouts and having to sit with the scout leader and two other boys who were also fatherless. It's like turning up to a pot-luck dinner with an empty plate. I should have stayed at home and played with my Lego.

I ended up really liking my football coaches. They were mostly my mates' fathers and I secretly wished I could have them as my dad too. In retrospect they probably didn't know a lot about football but it didn't matter. They would turn up, get muddy with us and didn't mind a bit of rough and tumble.

I loved play wrestling. My friend Rhys would invite me for sleepovers at his place and his dad would wrestle both of us. He even taught me a few tricks to try on bullies. In Gore a lot of things got settled with fists.

I think he worried I couldn't handle myself. I couldn't but I could run fast. It's the next best option when you aren't much of a fighter.

My 10-month-old son's sitting on my knee as I write this. He's sucking on a pen. He's at that age where even plastic tastes good. My wife would disapprove but I consider it a father's prerogative to throw a little caution to the wind.

I've already promised him I'm going to give him all the stuff my dad never got to give me. That means I'm going to coach his football team whether he likes it or not. I'm going to teach him how to bowl an inswinger, back a trailer, make a batch of home brew, sow a vege garden and, most importantly, delete from his phone the number of any girl who is careless with his heart.

One day when I'm really old I'm hoping he'll pay me back by driving me to the pub every once and a while for a shandy. That would be nice.

In the meantime, if any kid needs a bloke to take to Dads' Dinner at Scouts, I'm happy to fill in. The food's usually pretty good and it's nice to have the company.

- Hadyn Jones is a journalist and a father. He writes a fortnightly column.

The Dominion Post