Dad, I Love You

Every day, I tell my sons I love them. Sometimes 10 times a day, often 50. It all depends on how cute they're being, how soppy I'm feeling or how drunk I am (the latter's a joke: I reserve those moment for my wife).

Like all dads, I love my children with an intensity that sometimes makes me ache. Every molecule of their being. Every ephemeral aspect of their characters.

And in between shouting and nagging and cajoling and sighing and gritting my teeth, I tell them so.

I tell them when they wake up in the morning, and when I drop them off at school, and when I pick them up later, and when I give them their tea, and when they read their stories to me, and when I put them to bed.

I tell them in private and I tell them very publicly, in front of their friends. And they never wince, never cringe. Never express a hint of embarrassment at their oh-so-embarrassing dad's very public displays of affection.

No, what they do is say it back to me. They tell me they love me even when I haven't told them I love them.

Many times, it's a prefix to the question: "Can we go on the Xbox or iPod."

But more often than not, it's a gesture that requires no reward. They love me, they show me, they tell me. And everything is good with the world.

But will it last? Anecdotally, my own experience says no. I can't ever remember my dad telling me he loved me, or my three younger brothers. And on the one occasion I told him I loved him, it backfired.

A few years, while I was going through a metrosexual phase, and he had health problems, I wrote him a letter to tell him how much I respected, admired and, yes, loved him.

He never replied, and he never, ever mentioned it. But my mum told me he was utterly mortified.

"You don't have to tell him you love him," she said. "He knows. That's all you need to know."

My mum's dead now – a woman I never tired of telling how much I loved – and my dad's knocking on 76.

And despite the fact I see him rarely because we live so far away, and worry about him dearly, because he's just had a knee replaced, I would rather saw off my tongue with a rusty razor blade then utter Those Three Words.

No doubt he feels the same way, despite the fact he doesn't hold back when declaring his heartfelts for his grandsons.

What's all that about? Granddad-to-grandson love is perfectly OK, in his eyes. But father-to-son and son-to-father? As he would say: "Give it a rest."

And one day, I imagine, my wonderfully expressive and affectionate sons will feel exactly the same way towards me.

This is just the way of the world, according to a survey which found that one in four people feel too awkward to say 'I love you' to their dad.

The study, which looked at the nation's relationship with their fathers, also found less than a third (28 per cent) will give their father a hug and a mere 10 per cent will greet him with kisses (TEN PER CENT? My dad would punch me in the face if I tried to kiss him).

With that in mind, and with Father's Day coming up on June 15, I've decided to broadcast my appreciation for my father with this online love letter, but only because he has never heard of the internet so will never, ever read it.

So here they are, 10 Things I Love About My Dad:

1. He worshipped my mum. I'd catch them kissing and cuddling in the kitchen when I was a teenager – which at the time, was utterly nauseating. But I really understood the depth of his feelings for her when she had to go into a nursing home because she had severe dementia. He visited her every day, sometimes getting a lift, often taking two buses there and back – and sometimes going twice a day. The tenderness with which he fed her, and rubbed emollient into her dry legs, moved me to tears. She died in December 2010 and pretty much every day since he has gone to the plot where her ashes have been interred.

2. He knows the price of a pint in every pub in town – and will only drink where it's cheapest. At weekends, it's the Jolly Carter where a pint of bitter coasts £2.10; but on a Monday, it's the Queens, which has a 'happy Monday' offering of £1.82 a pint. This is up north, mind. When I tell him how much beer costs Darn Sarf (£3.85), he spits his pint out. Well, not quite – that spit would be worth 15p.

3. He literally cries laughing. It doesn't matter whether it's a chortle or a guffaw: the tears spill out of his ducts. Whenever he watches Tommy Cooper, I think he's going to have an hilarity-induced heart attack.

4. He loves animals, especially dogs. He had two dogs in my lifetime – both called Sam. He was so upset when Sam 2 died that I named my youngest son after him.

5. He has an astonishing ability to connect with people and make friends. When I was growing up, I used to think he knew everyone, and that everyone was called Jim, for that is what he called everyone (even the women) from bus drivers to pub regulars to shop assistants.

6. He has an incredible moral compass and a very defined sense of what is right and wrong. This was instilled in us from a very early age, and even though he and my three younger brothers are as hard as nails, they have never got on the wrong side of the law. And neither have I (without the hard as nails bit).

7. His obvious love and pride in his grandchildren. They don't see him often enough, but when they do, the connection is instant, the trust immediate and unconditional. They are in thrall of him, and he them.

8. He's also called Keith – a name that has become much-maligned over the years. But he is proof that Keiths can be cool. He wanted to call me Luke, but my mum insisted that the first-born son took the father's name, just as her brother, Tom, had taken his dad's (the man my own first-born son is named after).

9. The fact he lives 200 miles away. Because despite all of the above, the man drives me bananas. I can just about handle a weekend staying with him because, at 76, he is very, very set in his ways. I won't tell you about his infuriating relationship with the TV remote control...

10. He has never told me he loves me. Let's keep it that way.