After a lengthy battle, on Friday I had to say goodbye to the most remarkable man I know, my dad. I find comfort in his passing that he went on his terms, pain-free and peacefully, surrounded by family. Getting the phone call on Monday at 4:30am telling me to get to Albury as dad might not make it til lunchtime is an indication of how much of a fighter he was, fighting his infection for five days. Not only the infection, but he battled for 8 months a lack of white-blood cells, before then 8 years involving two bouts of cancer. While not heavily advertised, dad was instrumental in my pursuit of architecture, being a bricklayer-come-handyman for 50-something years, I found myself occasionally out on site with him. When I told my boss I wouldn’t be in Monday, he told me not to stress and just think of the good memories and lock them away. That is my plan for this post, I want to share with you some of the good memories I have of dad, in no particular chronological order.
I remember as a kid, dad would often be away for weeks [felt like months, well could have been months] at a time for his jobs, and would often get excited when we heard his big V8 Ford 150 outside. He would come in, often exhausted, slump in his chair and my little brother and I would take his shoes and socks off. Once relaxed he would surprise us with colouring books he bought us while away.
I remember dad breaking his wrist once, and while in plaster my brother spotted dad cutting it off in his shed as it was getting in the way when working.
I remember calling dad when I found out I got into university and told him the news, “Dad, I got accepted into Deakin University.” to which he replied, in typical dad, “Oh yeah” but I knew he was proud.
I remember getting woken up at 5:30am every Sunday to go to the Albury Markets, getting a hot dog and soft drink and either some KFC or a pie from the Howlong Bakery on the way home.
I remember my brother telling me dad poured some concrete out at a job on the morning of one of his chemotherapy treatments when he was battling cancer.
I remember coming home from the pub one night, with a few mates, urging everyone to be quiet as he slept in the room just off the kitchen. He came out, saw he wasn’t getting robbed (except of dim sims and chips), went back to bed and never did have an issue with it.
I remember how dad could easily clear the room of us kids by simply flicking the TV over to the ABC news…. That got rid of us quick smart!
I remember crashing dad’s Statesman, and did a pretty good job of it too. What I remember most about it was he wasn’t angry or upset, he was just relieved I wasn’t hurt.
I remember dad would often give his proteas away at the end of the day at markets, and found joy in seeing peoples’ faces light up when receiving a bunch of flowers.
I remember making dad his coffee, and can remember only one time he visibly showed disappointment in my ability to make it!
I remember digging some foundations for his brickwork on a job, while anyone could have done it, and at the time I probably wasn’t pleased with it, it was good to be involved. I was also fortunate enough to help build a couple fences and an outdoor area with him as well.
I remember dad asking me to draw the plans for the Oaklands Mens Shed that he designed and would build, and how great it felt we could work together and had something to talk about.
I remember helping dad with the Christmas lights, and what joy he found giving to the community.
I remember many of the very early mornings and late drives from Oaklands to Melbourne for my doctor appointments. He must have been exhausted, quite often opting to catch a nap in the waiting room, but I can’t remember dad never not being there with mum.
I remember how terrifying it was to fall asleep in the car with him, as he would often either scream or slam on the breaks and scream, just to make us crap our pants.
I remember spending the entire morning at the Albury Markets with him, on my birthday, only to receive a phone call the next day with him wishing me a happy birthday. He never was great at remembering birthdays.
I remember how happy he was whenever he saw my brother’s daughters, his granddaughters.
I remember him saying he’d never retire, and he never did until he just couldn’t work anymore, which was only a few days before his down spiral. He was a hard-working man, did everything he could to provide for his family and was well-respected within many communities. He touched the lives of many, whether through his building or his flowers. While he may be physically gone, his legacy, these memories, will continue. It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to dad on Friday, but he is now at peace and reunited with mum. Not to sound, but if you didn’t know my dad, that is your loss. Dad,you can finally hang up the tools, sit down in your recliner, turn on the ABC and rest now.
Rest in peace dad, I can’t remember a time when we both said ‘I love you’ to each other but we both know we did.