Hi, I'm Bill Gate's daughter. Yes, really! No, no, no not that one. My Bill Gates, my dearly loved dad was, unlike his namesake, rather short of cash, lived a very simple life, would not know one end of a computer friim the other and rode a bike to and from his job on the railway.
He would have been staggered to know how much someone with his name has changed the world. My Bill Gates certainly never did anything that affected the whole world! He hardly ever used the telephone, he couldn't drive a car and he had never flown in an aircraft. But, he always had time to listen to my questions as I was growing up. We had great discussions while working together in the garden. Thankfully, my childhood years were pre-television so I knew I had his undivided attention when we were together.
My dad spent most of his nonworking time in our patch of ground which he kept full of edibles. We lived during the war years and if he hadn't grown almost all of our food, we would have starved. Everything was scarce or non-existent. Self-sufficiency was the norm for everyone. Even now when I think of Dad's homegrown tomatoes, my mouth waters. Vine-ripened tender skins and flesh, emerald green seeds . . . what flavor! The hard-as-a-cricket ball spheres, devoid of taste, that sell in the shops today don't come near those Dad grew. Dad worked hard to keep our garden acres like a minimarket garden.
During those years I spent sharing my dreams with him, we talked at length on any subject you could name. He was interested in everything and hungry for learning, he was fascinated by all the latest discoveries. I'm convinced that, given the opportunity, he would have been an academic.
When the first moon landing occurred, just four years before his death, he was utterly enthused and couldn't stop talking about it. "You're going to have such an interesting life," he declared, "I wish I could live to share it with you." By that time I had been in Australia for four years but communication between my dad and me never stopped. He didn't send me letters for he hated to write but he did send me tapes where he shared his thoughts and observations about almost everything! I replied in the same mode.
He was right, of course. I have had an interesting life. It had been full of change, travel (which he and I were both passionate about) and I've learned much along the way. Neither of us had any idea I was destined to travel widely after I left home while in my early twenties.
Dad was a great story teller. Some of his stories he entertained me with about India where he spent some of his army time have surfaced in later short stories in my collection. The older I get, the more I realize what a profound effect my dad had on my life. Although not deeply religious, he had a simple basic belief about our existence in those dangerous times. Without instilling fear, he taught me to value being alive each day and be grateful for the little we had. Surprising when you consider the air raids that occurred often in my young years. We were, after all, only a few miles from the coast where the dockyard and the airfields were popular targets. The coast of France was only 25 miles away. Life was quite uncertain.
Nevertheless, he managed to share truths which had really caught his attention, some of the which became indelibly printed in my subconscious. His favorite? "A soft answer turneth away wrath." It has proved helpful many times through the years when, on occasions, I am about to lose it. Suddenly I will hear his soft voice in my mind, "React peacefully child, Anger destroys." It's saved me more than once. He believed utterly in the rightness of trying to uplift people, of showing them the silver lining in the cloud. I'm sure he lifted a few people in those dark days of war. Both my parents admonished us that "if you can't say something nice or kind to people, then say nothing at all." In later years, when reading Philippians 4:8, I always think of my dad. I'd like to think I've had as deep an influence on my children as he did on me. Though sometimes I feel I haven't managed to pass on any of his values, now and again, I am agreeably surprised.
Such was a time a few years ago when, in a freezing New Zealand winter, my daughter-in-law told me they had bought a heater for a neighboring family whose income always seemed to end up in the publican's pocket. With six young children in the family, they needed some heat, "Your son's idea, Mum," she said, "but I agreed. We couldn't leave them with no heat." My husband and I were so proud of them. They were a young family then with their own needs but they put others first. I thought of my dad then. I remembered the times he'd drop ten shillings (a lot then) in an elderly widow's letterbox or a cabbage on someone's back step. There were a few aged women who lived near us and had no one to care for them. My dad did what he could.
Dad stressed absolute honesty and impressed upon us the importance of keeping promises. "Always keep your word. It will be appreciated." Dad was such a good, strong influence. Come to think of it . . . maybe the most glaring truth is that he made it possible to accept the idea of a loving heavenly Father.
I was a lucky child. In this age when both parents work, ghastly images on the television, videos, books and magazines abound, children really need to feel secure at home. But how many children today have the listening ear of even one of their parents?
I was incredibly fortunate being born into my family. My parents were the best! My father and the Microsoft Boss share the same name. There the similarities end. Our family may not have a fraction of the wealth of that other Bill Gates, but you know, somehow I fancy we have the greater riches. Am I proud to be Bill Gate's daughter? You bet!