Today I celebrate the life of my first love. My father

It’s hard to appreciate the immense value loving parents bring to our lives when it’s all we’ve ever known. It’s so easy to take such unconditional love and nurture for granted.

Only now, working in the toxic space of ‘parental alienation’, where a good, safe parent is eradicated from a child’s life, do I understand just how crucial fathers, as well as mothers, are. And, today on the 31st anniversary of my adored father’s death, I give heartfelt thanks for the many beautiful, yet often unacknowledged, gifts he gave to me.

My father was my first love.

Earliest memories on his shoulders for walks when toddler legs gave out. Squealing with delight playing ‘aeroplanes’ across the room. Gripping the sledge tightly while he pulled me through thick snow during an unexpected blizzard back towards the warmth and safety of family and home. Walking up the beach to buy yet another Cornish ice cream and many happy hours learning to swim and catch fish with our little nets. Small, seemingly trivial moments in the midst of time, which now mean so very much.

Through the eyes of an adult, I understand why he wrecked my ‘cool’ image by ordering me off my boyfriends motorbike. Only as a parent myself do I understand just how much it meant when he forgave me instantly for the teenage party which wrecked our family home. Despite my many transgressions, he always unfailingly reaffirmed he would always love me.

We were blessed to have a father who loved my big sisters and I unconditionally and unwaveringly. Always there to listen. Always ready to dispense wisdom, Always thrilled to hug and be hugged. Always there to wipe away the tears from ill-advised relationships.

That love extended to my first born daughter, adding so much richness to her own life as she grew into the beautiful, compassionate and loving woman she is.

He was an absolute rock.

We never know what slings and arrows life will throw our way. I took my fair share. The protective love of my father (and beautiful mother) always saw me through. They gave us the precious and irreplaceable gift of resilience, confidence and self-worth. The secure knowledge that, no matter what we did, we would always be safe.

It literally breaks my heart to think of all the precious little girls (and boys) who have lost the love, nurture and reassuring presence of their own fathers. Lost those special, irreplaceable moments. Lost the inner belief they are worthy of love because their own daddy loves them.

Lost not because their father does not love and adore them. Lost because it was decreed they didn’t need him any more. And shut him out.

We’ve recorded so many tragic stories where beautiful women bravely speak out about that love which was stolen from them.

One spoke of suicide ideation before the age of ten. Promiscuity with unsuitable partners. Substance misuse. Hysterectomy to avoid passing on the searing pain deep in her soul.

And, once we hear their voices, we might reflect on the latest English/Welsh statistics which inform us that a quarter of young women aged 17-22 have a mental health disorder. How many of those young women grew up without a father who actually yearned to be in their lives?

I give thanks for mine. A million times over I give thanks.