Benalla Victoria, April 2019
My Way is a song that could be the anthem of a lot of people. Whether in today’s world it has a message that still resonates as when it was first sung could be debated. Nevertheless it sums up a lot about my father.
My dad passed away recently. 80 and out is not a bad knock. It was only in his last week that there was a decline. He didn’t have to go into care and was active til that final week. True, he was forced to slow down over the last months of his life and his frustration was evident. He was more worried for others than himself.
My dad liked Frank Sinatra, so my aunt told me. “He loved Frank. We used to dance to him and others in that era,” she went on to say. It was all news to me. The last time he took a real interest in music I really don’t know. We never talked about music at all except he would sometimes ask what I was up to. He came to some of my local gigs and said he liked it, as dads do.
I received the news Dad was gone on a Saturday morning. My plans for the day changed. I didn’t feel like going into town. I decided to mow the grass, it would give me some thinking space as I went about it. Dad loved his grass so in mowing mine, I reckoned he would approve.
His love of his lawn was intense. He had two mowers – one for his lawn, the other for the nature strip. He dug out a bore so water would be available. Yes, he was a serious lawn and yard kind of guy.
My brother, who had made the trip from Sydney to see Dad in his last months, used Dad’s whipper snipper to do his edges. Dad wasn’t backwards in saying it wasn’t as good a job as he would have liked. That was Dad, he liked a good job to be done well, including the many tasks of building and making things over the years.
I don’t have his love of grass, nor did my interest in the arts stem from Dad, but the idea of making do, and creating things obviously did. He had a strong work ethic. Basically he liked to be busy doing stuff. When he moved from the farm to a suburban block the idea of relaxing and taking it easy was not in Dad’s nature. He soon had projects to do and having a good lawn was one.
Wangaratta Hospital became ever-present as he started chemo. I took him to his first session and thought I would do what I could to help out with the burden of it all. Then, when circumstances changed, I was in hospital. Dad would come and visit, Lorraine my step mother often telling him what I was trying to say. One sunny morning we went around the block with him pushing me in my wheel chair. That memory will stay with me.
As I pushed my mower over my sometimes grass, sometimes weeds, I remembered many things. When we were little Dad would take us to the footy in Sydney and we supported the team others love to loathe, Manly, just as he would support Collingwood when they made the move to Melbourne. I remember we had all the gear – maroon and white the Manly colours. Lorraine knitted Dad a nice cardigan and years later, though not so long ago, when they were doing a clean out it came to be mine. My partner Cass at first didn’t really like my new item of winter apparel but her friends thought it very cool and retro, kind of like a Richie Cunningham look from the old TV show Happy Days. I will wear it again this winter and remember.