Samuel Johnson’s touching letter to his father
Samuel Johnson is an actor, breast cancer advocate and Dancing With The Stars winner. This month, he launched his edited book Dear Dad, a collection of letters from notable Australians to their father. Here Over60 features Johnson’s letter to his father as an excerpt from the book.
One day when I was about eight or nine, I was sitting at our family table (the rectangular one you swapped the round one for) and I rather thoughtlessly mentioned that I was bored. You bristled and then your ears went hot red. You glared at me with that look that said, “Don’t you dare look elsewhere!” Your lip curled. Your eyebrows were tight. Your contempt and your fury jostled for position. Eventually you said, very calmly, very intently, way too politely … “Bored, are you?”
I gambled well on this being rhetorical and you stormed off into your study. I didn’t move. After some loud noises you seethed back to me, hiding something behind your back. I had time to wonder whether it was your belt. You slammed a pad of paper down on the table in front of me as hard as you could. It made a huge sound and the table nearly broke. I was terrified. This was a new level. Out of nowhere, you slammed a pen down just as hard, frightening me equally. You stood back over my shoulder. I couldn’t see you, and you spoke calmly, very measured, sickly polite.
“On that piece of paper you will write down ten things – no, let’s make it twenty things – that don’t cost any money, that would alleviate your boredom. Give me an example.”
I fumbled through my mind nervously for an acceptable answer. “I could read a book?”
“Excellent! What else?” “I could ride my bike?”
“Fantastic, now don’t move off that chair until you finish the list, then call me.”
It wasn’t a hard list to fill, once I thought about it. I triple-checked the list before calling for you in my chastened voice. You came back into the room without all the bluster. You ordered me to read the list out to you.
Then you leant down and put all your weight into your words … “Now f***ing pick one! And then, if you get bored doing that, I dunno, how about you pick another one!”
Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day choosing from my list and doing stuff. I remember you kissing me goodnight in your study that night. As I was walking away you called after me … ‘I hope you don’t grow up to be a boring person.’ I’m writing to thank you, Dad. I’ve remained curious since that day, and that curiosity you fostered in me has, all these years later, propelled me beyond my wildest aspirations. Your many other wisdoms endure, too, and I remain gratefully yours,
This is an extract from Dear Dad, a collection of letters from Australia’s most notable notables to their fathers, edited by Samuel Johnson (Hachette Australia, RRP $22.99), out now.