Tuesday, 20 June 2017

My most prized possession

We interrupt normal programming to allow me a moment of nostalgia...

My Father passed away 10 years ago this month.. it was sudden, unexpected and a massive shock.. I remember that cold winter morning like it was yesterday. I had just walked into my cubicle at work.. it was 8am in the morning.. The phone was ringing as I walked in... my husband was on the phone, crying... he told me to come home.. I was panicked.. I'd never heard him like this before.. I asked him what was wrong and he gulped out through his sobs.. come home, baby.. it's your Dad... he didn't make it.. What? What do you mean he didn't make it? There's nothing wrong with him.. I danced with him at Catherine's wedding last weekend...

Worst morning ever... I was 34 years old..

I know many people lose their Dad's younger than that.. but I'd spent most of my twenties living in America and had only moved home 18 months before.. I cannot tell you how much regret I have, at not having more adult time with him. He was my super hero. He was dynamic and charismatic and hot tempered and a fantastic Dad. He was excited by life, he would wake me up at 5 am in the morning. "Wacky do! Come outside! Look at the Sunrise!.. It's the best part of the day. Look how beautiful it is! Isn't it great to be alive!". He never treated me as a girl. He treated me as a person. He taught me to fish and catch crabs, including catching my own bait of worms, yabbies & soldier crabs. ("You'll always be able to catch your own food".) How to drive a boat (in case something happens to me and you have to drive us home.) How to paint a house.

He was passionate about the causes he believed in. Social justice, opportunity and dignity for the poor, workers rights, free education and medicare for everyone, fighting political corruption, animal welfare, support for primary industry producers and rural communities, trade with China.

I'm sure you've realised from the list above that he was heavily involved in politics & activism for his entire life.:)

He was extremely intelligent, but had no formal education past 10th grade. He was left handed at a time when teachers treated left hander's cruelly and it left him with a life long hatred of school.. but that didn't mean he didn't think others should get an education, particularly me. :)

He was a voracious reader.. He always had at least 10 books out from the Library at any one time. He could do complex mathematical calculations in his head. Some of my earliest memories are of him rattling off the working of a sum out loud that he was calculating. "Carry the 3". He used to bark out times table questions to me at the breakfast table. If I didn't answer immediately he would bark the question and answer at me repeatedly.. at the time it scared the heck out of me but I realise now he wanted me to have the foundations for future more complex calculations..

He insisted I read the morning newspaper each day before school. He started this as soon as I could read. He believed it was imperative for productive and active citizens to be across current events. He was a lover of history, he took me to Greece to see the Parthenon and The Oracle at Delphi.

Parthenon, Athens Greece 1978

We traveled the world, through South East Asia.

Hong Kong 1978

The America's, Europe, The Caribbean.. We went to Eastern Bloc Countries when there was still an Iron Curtain. Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia..

Peasant Farmer & Me, Bulgaria 1978

I was 6 years old. Only in adulthood do I realise how brave (or foolish) that was. He took a 6 year old into the Eastern Bloc in the 1970's!.. It was the best education I could ever get. Do I remember much at all about my primary school years? Not at all.. But that year of travelling.. I remember it all.

Transylvania, Central Romania 1978
Dad always bought very practical or educational gifts, fishing rods, a first aid kit, an Atlas.. you get the idea.  It's Christmas 1981 & I was 9 years old. I probably really wanted a Barbie Dream House or some such item.. What did I get? A Macquarie Dictionary..

Really Dad?? Not exactly what I wanted. "But it's the Australian edition! It has Australian spelling and all our slang & colloquialisms. It's great!" His excitement was infectious.. but I can't say I was overly impressed. :) He proceeded to read out loud the definitions of slang terms, pleased as punch with his gift and wanting me to like it as much as he did.

Of course I didn't.. and I was pretty vocal about it. I know it deflated him a little.... Fast forward 35 years and I no longer have any of the many Barbie products I coveted, but I still have that Dictionary. It is my most prized possession. If my house was on fire, after my husband and dogs were safe, it would be the only thing to tempt me to run back inside to save it. Everything else could burn.. but not that book.

Clearly Dad understood even when I didn't.

A parent or a teacher has only his lifetime; a good book can teach forever. —Louis L’Amour

I have a lot of regrets..

I regret I didn't have more time with him.. I'd give anything for him to still be here today.
I regret I didn't tell him I loved him more often. That I didn't hug him more often.
I regret I didn't let him drive home like he wanted to the last time we were out together.
I regret I didn't badger him to look after his health more. To change his diet and maybe not eat those three apple turnovers for dessert.
I regret I spent 10 of the last 12 years of his life overseas. That I didn't come home immediately when he asked me to every time we spoke.
I regret I didn't like my Dictionary gift at the time and didn't give him the pleasure of seeing me enjoy it. I wish he knew how much I value it now.

But, my deepest regret is that he died on his houseboat.. and I wasn't there to drive him home.


  1. This is a beautiful tribute. :] Be kind to yourself. From what you write, I'm sure he'd want that for you.

    1. Thanks Brae.. I think anyone who has lost a loved one has some regrets.. it's human nature. I don't beat myself up about them too much.. usually only on anniversaries. :]

  2. Hi Sam. This is very sad, but also great that you have so many memories of and with him. He obviously made a huge impact on your life. Yes, anyone who has lost someone has a lot of regrets about things they didn't do, but there would have been many more things that you DID do. You have to live your own life and he would have known that. My own dad died when I was 25 and I think about all the things he missed out on seeing and doing. But I also think there are things I am glad he didn't have to see. Any time I see a man about his age and who looks a little like him, it really stings. I don't have any words of comfort. Life sucks a lot of the time, but it sounds like he made a difference to you and to the world.

    1. Thanks Shannon, I think only people who have lost a beloved parent truly understand how life altering that moment is. I know you understand the conflicting feelings and grief. I'm so sorry you lost your Dad so young. No one can replace your Daddy.
      But you are right. I'm glad he didn't see a lot of what is happening today. I'm especially glad he didn't see Donald Trump become President of the USA. :)

    2. Haha! It’s not so much Trump as president that’s worrying; it’s the mess he’ll leave behind that’s gonna be tough to deal with. Unless of course the whole world gets blown up. Then no-one will need to worry.