My darling Dad would have been 95 today. He passed away in the middle of 2006, a year after we moved to the Gold Coast. In fact the last time I saw him was on his 85th birthday just before we moved here.
My Dad was a gentleman through and through and all though he had his demons, he was also a gentle soul. He had a tough upbringing, which he didn’t talk about very much. His father was an abusive man and left Dad and his brothers and sisters when Dad was still quite young, not long after the death of one of Dad’s older brothers. Diabetes was blamed but Dad always thought a beating his brother had received from his father 3 days before hand was the cause. I guess there were no Coroners inquiries in 1925.
He spent his entire working life as a farmer, firstly in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains region of NSW and later on a small farm on the Central Tablelands of NSW. This farm was a ‘Soldier Settlers Block’ granted to him and my Mum, as Dad had served in World War II. Although it was only small by some standards (just over 1300 acres) it was very well run and he was very proud of his achievements. I don’t remember seeing my Dad ride a horse, although he could. He preferred to walk everywhere.
He would always walk around the ewes and lambs every morning and take his shotgun with him in case he saw a fox. He hated foxes for the way they would senselessly kill half a dozen new born lambs in one night. I remember him coming home one morning very pleased with himself, as he had shot 3 foxes in the space of 10 minutes. He would peg their skins out on the floor of the shearing shed until they dried out and then sell them. You could get $35 a skin back in the ’70’s which was a lot of money. It helped supplement a sometimes meager income.
Retiring in 1979 following a massive heart attack he took up tennis and played twice a week up until he could no longer see well. Sadly he lost most of his eyesight to an eye disease called Glaucoma, something that he found endlessly frustrating.
The thing that he had the most difficulty dealing with was the distance between his daughters – not physical distance, emotional distance. My oldest sister and I had not been close for many years and Dad found this very difficult to deal with. She also did not get on with my middle sister and he would often say, ‘I wish you girls could all just be friends.’ Even at his funeral we were not united and still aren’t today.
One thing I hope he did know was that he was well loved by all of us in our individual ways. I am glad that he was able to see the addition of two grandchildren and a great grandchild in the last few years of his life. I am fortunate that Miss M and Master B were able to know him and I will never forget his pride when they were both born. I remember him asking me to take Miss M out on the balcony of the hospital where the light was better so he could see her more clearly. He took his glasses off and peered into her little face and we both cried. From then on they shared a special bond as this cheeky photo from his 80th birthday party shows.
The night after he passed away I dreamt that he was holding my hand. I could feel the shape and texture of it as well as the rough, bristly hair that grew on the back of his knuckles. I woke up crying, but felt at peace, knowing that he had paid me one last visit.
Nine years on, I still think of him often and wish he could see how happy I am and what fine young adults his grandchildren are growing into. But mostly I just think of how much I loved him.