Monday Musings is a bit different today as I kind of don’t know where to start with this blog. Its really hard to talk about my dad and who he was to me, as I had a much closer relationship with my mum. In a way, the time I had with my dad after mum died was some of the most precious, and as I re-read the fabulous memories that I have of my dad, I have a new found love of this wonderful man, who loved me so and and was incredibly proud of everything I did.
My first memory of my dad was when he would come home from working in the RAAF and swap shifts with mum (who was a nurse and worked night shifts) and dad would cook me dinner and he would sit and ask me about what I did that day.
My second memory of dad was him storming down the street and smacking me so hard, he kind of lifted me into the air, like a cartoon character and my little legs were running while I was mid air. You see, I had to walk past a play ground on my way home from school and every day dad would remind me to come straight home and every day I wouldn’t, I would stop and play (I was only 6) So when I saw him storming down the street I knew that was it and I was in serious trouble!
Those two memories kind of sum up my relationship with my dad.
Dad had a very hard upbringing and spent some time in a orphanage during World War II, so life was never really easy for him. He was one of 10 kids then another 3 from his dad’s second marriage, so lots of kids. It is surprising that he only had 1 child, however I do remember him telling me his one regret was not having more children, but it was just a matter of timing and finances for mum and dad. Dad met mum on a blind date and everything changed. They say that the love of a good woman can do that and in Dad’s case it was true. He loved mum more than anyone in the world and was so devastated when she passed away, because he always thought he was going to go first as he was 11 years older than mum and had emphysema. So when she died, his whole world crumbled.
The best memories I have of my dad are after he left the RAAF and we moved to the Gold Coast to be closer to family and so that I didn’t have to move around with lots of different schools all the time. We bought a block of land and built a house in Helensvale (at the time it was actually so far out of town that we had to catch the greyhound bus to school on the highway) in a fantastic spot called Calder Crescent. It was such a wonderful little crescent and everyone got along. Especially Tom and Kay, Gay and Ken, Les and Gwenda. They spent many a weekend, BBQing and chatting along with a few other friends on the estate like on the estate Lynne and Terry, Chris and Barbara and many I just can’t remember. All the boys played golf and they use to go away together for long weekends and play at different courses. The boys would play and the girls would relax and go shopping. They called themselves, “The Happy Hookers” It is something that doesn’t happen as much with people and their busy lives, but this fabulous community really looked after each other and enjoyed spending time together.
Then one day dad decided to build a fence around the house (brick pillars and wood) which was dubbed the great wall of Tom, so on the weekends we would have fence parties, drink and nibbles. On one of these gatherings it was decided that they would start a cricket club in Helensvale. Ken would be President, Dobbie (Les) would be Secretary and Tom would handle the money and be Treasurer (it was a no brainer as dad took money for their local lotto) so the Helensvale Cricket Club was born. I was there when they laid the slab on the club house, sold the first drink. Mum and I catered food to raise money. I was there when the council approved a grass cricket pitch and A grade won their first title. My dad was so proud of what they had done and especially when he was award the very first life time member award for services to the Cricket Club. Dad stayed on a treasurer long after the others guys went to just playing cricket. I really believe that the Cricket Club and his love of golf gave him a purpose and kept him going.
As it happens, people moved away, things changed and nothing was ever the same, but I would say that those 10 or so years living in Calder Crescent were some of dad’s favourite memories and moment in his life and some of my favourite memories with dad.
Golf and Cricket are still sports I liked to watch, as I understand all the rules and love seeing how the games play out. I use to caddy for my dad on some Saturdays, when mum had to work, and we would talk strategies and what club was the best for the next hit. We often spent summer together watching cricket and even went to a live test game at the Gabba, it was so much fun, even though Australia ended up losing. It was the moments just hanging out together that I really loved, and later I realised that dad was a quality time person and really like just hanging out with me too!
I think the moment that I realised how much my dad loved me was when I graduated from University. At the time I was the first person in both mum or dad’s side of the family to do so. He came up to me and gave me a big hug (which was rare as he wasn’t very tactile with me) and said he loved me and was so proud of me. The second time he did that was when I graduated with my Masters degree and said that I was now officially the smartest person he knew! It made me realise how my achievements were sometimes even more important to my dad and I found out later that every person he ever spoke to found out that his daughter had just gradated with a Masters in Education. I am still running into people that dad worked with that say all he ever talked about was me and mum and we really were the centre of his world.
I am grateful for the time dad and I had together after mum passed away. I am grateful that he was alive to walk me down the isle when I married Mr N. We chose to get married on my Dad’s 80th Birthday, so he could have a little party too because he was so sad that mum wasn’t there. Its was doubly wonderful as he and mum got married on mum’s dad’s birthday too! Dad found it difficult to show us sometimes, but he loved mum and I fiercely and the last 18 months without mum were really hard, but he so love that I stayed and looked after him even after I got married. He also loved Owen and all that he did for us and was so happy that I had someone to be with when he was gone.
My Dad passed away peacefully on 11th February holding my hand. He was a grumpy old bugger even when he was young, but would go out of his way to do anything for anyone. I do remember him coming home from being at the cricket club with two back packers that he had found at the Helensvale oval and told them they could stay at our house for as long as they needed.
My heart is now missing two pieces that will never be repaired. He didn’t want a funeral, just to be cremated and put with the woman he loved with all his heart…Mum.
I wrote this 2 days before he died and want to leave this with you. Thank you for reading and all the letter, cards, kind words, love and care I have received over the last 3 difficult years. It means so much.
As I lie here next to my dad watching him slowly breathe… I am reminded that each of us has an allotted amount of breaths. You will never know when your last will be your last, so please be kind, choose love and make the most of every breath you have. Create memories, adventures and moments as life is too short and you can’t take anything with you!