Sunday, July 09, 2017

The Life and Times of Peter Holt, my Dad, who died June 29 2107

Life and Times of Peter Holt

Peter Mervyn Holt was born at Healsville on the 28th of May 1936 to Mervyn and Evelyn Holt, or as we called them, Big Pa and Nanny Falia. His sister Merle was born two years earlier and his half-brother Jack was 11 years older. Jack's father died as a result of WW1 and sadly young Jack passed away at age 15 from tuberculosis. I asked Auntie Merle once what Dad had been like as a brother when they were kids. "He was very pinchy! He was always pinching me" she told me. Happily, they were close their whole lives, especially in the latter years when Dad often visited. Dad had many happy memories of growing up with cousins Danny and Tickey Delaney, John Ranton and David Ballard.
Dad moved around a lot as he grew up, living in various places including Benalla, Fitzroy and Northcote. He attended school in Collingwood and from there became an apprentice motor mechanic. It was around this time that he connected with a group of young blokes through the Northcote football club who would become life-long friends: Allan Davies who married Jeanette, Keith Grimshaw who married Anne, Neil McQuinn who married Joan, and Frank Johnson who Dad reckoned was the best footy player of the lot. Their numbers are dwindling but it is lovely to see Keith, Jan and Frank here today. Dad met and married Jacqui Burmeister in 1956 and these young families all grew up together, their children becoming pseudo-cousins.
The Holts moved around Victoria for a few years, with my older brother Alan being born in Birchip in 1957. Vicki was born in 1959. Myself and Bruce were born at PANCH in 1961 and 63. We were living in Bundoora at the time and Dad, having quickly decided he didn't want to be a mechanic, worked in various sales jobs with companies such as Westtools Good Year before taking up the position of BP rep in Geelong in 1966. We moved to 119 Aberdeen St Newtown. Dad enjoyed working for BP and made a number of friends through the job including Keith Harwood and Geoff Ferguson but the real treasure was to be found in Barwon Heads in the shape of Allan and Lorna Banfield. This friendship has endured pranks and practical jokes and grown for over 50 years and Allan and Lorna who are both in their 90s are here today.
It was in Geelong that the family's love of football blossomed and I have fond memories of Dad taking us to play footy in the Geelong West little league on Saturday mornings. Bruce and I played for The Toughies, against the same opponents every week, The Terribles. We both moved on to play for the Terrifics while Alan played for The Capris. Last year I tracked down Eric Nicholls, the Terrifics team manager and former Cats' player and Pop and I had a reunion at Kardinia Park.
I think we four Holt kids had a happy childhood but I have no memory of Mum and Dad having a close or happy marriage and it came as no surprise when they parted in 1970. We moved to Moolap and Dad moved to Brisbane with Julie and they became the proprietors of BP Cavendish Rd in Holland Park. It was here that fate dealt dad a Royal Flush in the shape of Warren Green or Greenie as we affectionately know him. You'll hear from Greenie shortly.
I will just say this: when I rang Greenie to give him the news Dad was dying, he replied "That's the worst news I've ever heard".
We spent Christmas holidays with Dad and Julie including the famous floods of 1974 that kept us marooned in Queensland an extra week.
By this time Mum and us kids had moved to Perth but I was pretty unsettled and after a difficult year I was sent to live with Dad. I spent three years with Dad and Julie, first in Rosewood where they had the Caltex garage and then in Toowoomba where Dad drove a school bus and owned a rubber stamp shop. In 1979 they were free of me and soon after set out on a long-term dream trip around Australia. Travelling around the country he loved became one of Dad's favourite things to do and he loved nothing more than a road trip. The red centre, Uluru, far north Queensland, outback South Australia, the Kimberleys, the Tassie wilderness and the Nullabor, he loved them all and never tired of discovering special places around Australia. Settling for a time on a small property near Maryborough, Dad and Julie spent a few years taking school photographs for Pacific all over Victoria and into SA. With Vicki and Rex and the grandkids living at Wudinna there were regular trips to the Eyre Peninsula. Sadly Dad's marriage to Julie did not survive which he always considered to be his greatest regret and for a few years he was in a wilderness of loneliness and pain. Hitting the road again he found himself in Tin Can Bay and booked into a caravan park. This proved to be highly significant because it was there that he met a group of people who not only rescued him from his heart-break but went on to become firm friends, Ken and Jackie, Margaret and Lyle and Albert. They hit it off immediately and had many laughs and good times before Albert's sudden death. Dad moved to The Palms, a property outside Gympie with Margaret and Lyle and they all lived together for a few years until Lyle also passed away. Dad's next move was to 74 Duke St Gympie, the house he lived in for over 15 years. Alan Vicki Warren Zach and I surprised him with a visit for his 70th birthday in 2006.
Dad considered himself to be a hermit, happy to keep his own company and during his long sojourn in Gympie he made very few friends, yet he was always keen to take a road trip south and visit friends and relatives every couple of years. Many times I suggested/urged him to move so he could be closer to his family but he stubbornly resisted and in fact he would still be in Gympie if it weren't for discovering he had bowel cancer in 2013. Vicki and I were on a plane the next day and what followed was a year in which at least one of us was with him the entire time as he went through surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. His favourite daughter Vicki spent months away from her brand new house in Leopold to look after him and the boys all made regular trips to share the load. Pop came through all of this with no pain and barely a symptom, no nausea, no hair loss, just one little blister on his bum at the end! Eventually though he realised that we had all sacrificed a lot to look after him and that if he got sick again it wouldn't be fair to be so far away from us, so he relented and moved back to Victoria. Alan and I had a huge garage sale, packed up his house and managed his relocation to his last Holtieshouse in Geelong.
If it weren't for the cold Victorian weather he'd have been very happy. He renovated the house, renewed regular contact with the Banfields, re-established a very close relationship with his first wife Jacqui which is a credit to both of them after divorcing 45 years earlier, and he was much closer to all of us kids, especially Vicki and I.
Regular visits and outings and occasional road trips continued and in fact Dad and I had started planning our next trip to Sydney and Brisbane, with me, then over to WA with Greenie for this very week when he got sick again. A UTI, bursitis and a very low mood combined with the one on-going legacy of the bowel cancer, frequent frustrating visits to the dunny were all signs something was wrong and after a couple of falls and mishaps he finally agreed to go to the hospital and get checked out. The bad news was the cancer had returned and spread and was inoperable. Dad elected not to have any treatment so we knew the inevitable end was coming. That was 6 weeks ago and during those last 6 weeks there was never a time when he was on his own, first at home and then at the McKellar Palliative Care unit to whom we are all deeply indebted and grateful for the wonderful care they took of Dad at the end of his life. We delivered a bucket full of chocolate bars and goodies to the hospital yesterday to thank them. There were many visitors including his cousin Danny Delaney, and for much of the time Dad was in good spirits, talking and joking and remembering old stories. I want to acknowledge all those who stayed nights at the hospital with Dad, part of the bargaining promise made when he went in!, son Alan, grandsons Zach and Cody, best mate Warren and especially my little brother Bruce who carried the lion's share of the load over the last couple of weeks which took a toll on him physically and emotionally. On behalf of Dad and all of us I want to say thankyou to Bruce for the wonderful job you did, and to all those who cared for him in his final days.

Dad's condition deteriorated significantly on the Monday and we all sensed the end was very close. Vicki Bruce Jacqui and I were there all day and in near miraculous circumstances, grandson Paul arrived half an hour before the end and cousin Susan arrived from Queensland just two minutes before Dad passed away. He was surrounded by people who loved him, he was ready to go, he had been in no or very little pain all the way through, he had seen the people on his bucket list, he had been told a multitude of times how much we loved him and he even had his eyes open as he took his final breath. The last words he heard were "I love you Dad". 


Jamie Dawn said...

Wonderfully loving tribute to your funny, lovely dad. God bless you all.

Robyn Lee said...

What a wonderful tribute, Marcus. Thank you so much for keeping the updates posted during your dad's last days. Blessings to you all.

willowtree said...

Great read Marcus, must have been hard to write.

Dave said...

Wow.... beautiful post Marcus. I hope you continue to post more memories of your dad, and your family.
All the best,
Dave Champagne

Karen said...

Such a beautiful and touching tribute, very fitting of your father. He was such a special man and he impacted my life in many ways and I will miss him greatly. His memory and the love and laughter he shared with the world will remain in my heart. My heart goes out to you all, who were his proudest accomplishments and most treasured treasures. His family was everything to him and he treated us as part of his family and I am very honored. He was always there when I needed a smile, laugh, and love. I deal with many serious health problems and he always cheered me on and made me forget my pain for a while and he helped me keep it all in perspective when I'd forget how blessed I was/am. I was friends with Merle as well and I enjoyed our chats over the email when she was still able to use it. But Peter always made sure to let me know how she was doing after she couldn't use her computer any longer. I wish I had known more of you but I feel like I do know you all since he spoke of you all often.

Like Dave Champagne, I would like to hear more memories of your dad and his incredibly full life. Take care and you all will remain in my thoughts and prayers as you grieve his loss and adjust to life without him in this physical world. But I know he will always be watching and protecting you all in spirit. Your bonds can never be broken.

Karen Rasmussen