Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Things I Learnt, Laughed about and Loved, and What I've Lost: Dad's Legacy

This is the reflection/eulogy I delivered at Dad's funeral.

Dad's Legacy
The things I learnt, the things I laughed about, the things I loved and the things I've lost.

Dad taught me to be generous. Not in a formal way but by example. At various times a cheque would arrive in the mail with no strings attached, just Dad sharing what he had. When we went out for meals, Pop always paid, even if I offered but I'm proud to say that in recent years I've paid the dinner bill a few times, and, following his example, when we take the kids out, we pay. When I came to my senses about buying a house Pop was 100% behind us and gave us a gift that helped us towards a deposit. I rang him to thank him in tears and he said it wasn't necessary, he was just  happy to help.

Pop taught me that you have to work hard to be married. We talked a lot over the years, about all sorts of subjects and when it came to marriage he bore the scars of two failed marriages and the regrets he had, especially about the way he and Julie split up. He regretted not fighting for it, not working harder, not changing, being stubborn and pig-headed. He encouraged me in my marriage and taught me the value of working at it, and 31 years in we're in the best place we've ever been. And I don't mean that I'm here and Carolyn is in Scotland!

Pop taught me the value of family, of close relationships with the people you love. He had an interest in genealogy and kept a detailed family tree. He knew who all his cousins and ancestors were on both sides. He especially loved his sister Merle, visiting as often as he could. He loved his nephew John, considering him to be his 4th son in many ways. He loved his parents and of course, he loved us four kids, although it did take him quite a few years to be comfortable verbalising it. Over the last few years Dad was prone to strong emotions and tears. He said he wasn't bothered about crying, it was the way it rendered him unable to talk or regain control that he hated. The thing that was sure to trigger tears was anything to do with his family, kids, grandkids, even ex-wives. Seeing and knowing that he was loved in return was a great comfort to him.

Pop taught me the value of friendship. He considered a person fortunate if they had 3-4 really good friends. He cherished his many friends and maintained contact with them regularly. He accepted that his mates weren't perfect, Keith, but loved them anyway, just as they accepted him. Allan Davies, Keith Grimshaw, Neil McQuinn, Allan Banfield and Warren Green, your names  are written in the Holty Hall of Fame of Mates.
I have sought to follow his example and work hard to build strong friendships with my mates. I am especially proud that one of my best mates Gary is the son of one of his best mates, Allan Davies.

Pop taught me how to care for him as he was dying. All four of us kids spent time with him in Queensland as his own father was dying and the tenderness and care with which he treated his Pop always moved and inspired me. I can still see him stroking Pa's forehead, cooling him down with a damp cloth and attending to his needs.
Late one night in the hospital with Dad as I was talking with him and trying to care for him he paid me a great compliment when he said "You're pretty good at this". 
I had the dual privileges of being there with him when Pa died, and of conducting his funeral service. Therefore it was incredibly special for me that my son Paul arrived at the hospital just half an hour before his Grampa died and that I was holding Dad's hand telling him "I love you Dad" as he took his final breath.

I have lost the long late night talks as we discussed life, love and the state of the world. We didn't agree on everything but we had great respect for one another and loved one another's company.

I have lost the road trips we shared to places like Benalla to see Danny Delaney, to Bendigo to see his great love, the other woman in his life, Marilyn Monroe and her exhibition. The trip across the Nullabor through kangaroos in plague proportions and surfing Wave Rock. The trips to Carnarvon Gorge with Bruce and Peter King as we tried to get past Dad, the Mack truck on the track. Dad loved driving and thought nothing of heading west across the Nullabor, especially when Vicki and family were still in Wudinna.

I've lost the wise man on the other end of the phone who I would ring for advice. He always said he hated telephones but I had plenty of great conversations with him on the phone, sometimes at inconvenient times, like when I was living in London and would forget they were 8 hours behind!. I rang Pop whenever I had a big decision to make or something I needed to discuss and work through and his advice was always wise and thoughtful and with my best interests foremost in mind. And I always knew when Pop was calling me because I had assigned him a personal ringtone.

I've lost the chance to make more memories so it is very important that I hold onto the ones I have and take the time to remember Dad. On the first night he was at McKellar I stayed with him and around 4.00 in the morning he stirred and was awake and restless. I sat with him and we talked for about an hour. I thanked him for being my Dad and told him he was my hero, that I had always admired him and looked up to him.
"That was a mistake" he replied.
I apologised to him for being a little shit when I was a kid.
"You weren't a little shit" he said, "you were a big shit"!
I asked his forgiveness.
He responded, "Easiest job I've ever had".
He asked if I remembered when Pa died, about the struggle to take his "final breath" and I asked him if that's how he was feeling now? "Yes". I didn't think he would make it through the night but he held on long enough for the boys to make it from WA and Greenie from Qld.
Pop didn't like the taste of water and preferred to drink lemon squash but had given it up on doctor's advice. Finally at about 5.00am he said, "F&%# my guts, let's drink the can of Solo" which was in the fridge. I cracked it open and held it up to his mouth. After he had taken a couple of sips he turned the straw towards me and invited me to share his drink. It was a gesture and moment of intimacy that I will treasure forever.

I have lost the laughter, the fun and jokes we shared. Pop was quick witted and funny. He and Greenie could never be serious for more than two minutes. He had a twinkle in his eye and a wisecrack at the ready. When the Dr suggested that the job of looking after him at home was too hard for the team of family carers and asked if he knew what that meant Dad shot back, "Yeah, I need a new team".

I'll miss his idiosyncrasies, the strange quirks and funny habits.
Dad's favourite shop was Aldi and on countless occasions he would emerge with some strange new purchase that he hadn't planned on buying.
I'll miss his over-reaction to selling his beloved tent for $40 at the garage sale despite the fact he hadn't used it in 20 years and never would again.
His other favourite excursion was to Bunnings on a Saturday morning for a  sausage sizzle.
Talking of food, Friday night meant just one thing to Pop, fish and chips!

When we were kids Dad liked Frank Sinatra which was bad enough but it got worse in the second half of his life because he became devoted to country music and as you've seen and heard, his all-time favourite artist was Slim Dusty. The standing joke amongst the family is that I have inherited all Dad's Slim Dusty albums! In a moment of weakness I made a promise to Dad that I would play Slim every year on his birthday. You are welcome to join me in this annual ritual on "Slim Dusty Day" May 28.

Many years ago I introduced Pop to Blogging on the internet and he became a dedicated blogger on "HoltiesHouse" which in turn led to him becoming friends with dozens of other bloggers around Australia and around the world, especially in America. These friendships continued when he got on to Facebook and I tried for years to get Dad to go on a trip to the States but it never happened. I'll get him there by hook or by crook though, after he's cremated I'm taking some of his ashes with me on my next trip to America and will sprinkle them in the Grand Canyon.

Pop loved collecting movies on DVD and Blu-Ray, there are literally hundreds of them filling racks at home, and his favourite stars were Marilyn Monroe and The Duke, John Wayne. We counted up 55 pictures of Marilyn around the house, and found a file on the computer entitled "1000 pictures of Marilyn Monroe". Duke statue.

I dropped in to see Pop on the way home from work one night and put some ice cream in his freezer to stop it melting. He said it might not fit but it did. Next time I called in I couldn't believe my eyes, there in his tiny kitchen was a massive new two door fridge freezer. "What did you buy that for?" I asked. "So you'll have plenty of room to fit your ice cream in now" he replied!! The fridge was so big he could only just open the door without hitting the dishwasher. This led to an innocent suggestion that he needed a bigger kitchen. Lo and behold, next time I called in he had started drawing plans and working out how to knock down a couple of walls and double the size of the kitchen. Thankfully it never got beyond the drawing board. Fast forward a few months, Dad is at our place for tea and he asks" Could you use a new fridge? Mine's a bit big!!"

One night while having dinner with friends in Gympie, Diane commented in a slightly disapproving tone, "Marcus calls you Pop, not Dad" as if it was an irreverent term.
He replied "I called my Dad Pop".

Finally, I've lost the love that Pop shared with me and my brothers and sister. His love for his family remains perhaps my strongest impression of him.
He was proud of each of us, supported and encouraged us and wanted the best for us. He was saddened by the things that hurt us and rejoiced in the good things, our marriages, our children, our achievements.
He wouldn't have a word spoken against us.

We spent many hours talking about my progress at uni and I know he believed in me and was proud of what I was doing.

After the last road trip of his life, to Adelaide for Jenna's wedding, he told me how proud he was of Bruce and the way he had looked after him.

Dad believed in us and invested in us whenever and however he could.

He loved us unconditionally.

I love you Pop.


Dave said...

You never lost his love Marcus... he's just loving you from afar now.

When I reflect back, I remember he did a small contest on his blog, and the winner would get a set of DVD's about Australia, and I won. Good to his word, a few weeks later, a set of DVD's arrived in my mail, and my wife and I watched them in wonder, knowing my friend from "Down Under", that I'd never really met, sent them to me.

I'll watch them again this coming weekend, and silently thank him once again for the gift, and his friendship.
Him, and Merle... were two of a kind. Wonderful people, with great, strong family ties that persevere even to this day.

Marcus said...

What a great memory to share Dave, I vaguely remember him doing that so thanks for reminding me. It is very gratifying to know he was known and loved by people all over the world.
Thanks, take care, Marcus

Doug Cornish said...

Good stuff Marcus, well done.
One way or another, families are really forever, regardless of the circumstances. Their love, spirit & influence, lives on strongly in us, it is so evident.

Us 'Cornish kids' lost our loving & strong Dad at age 55, in a tragic sudden death work accident.
Hard to believe it happened, after he fought & suffered for 3.5 years as a Singapore P.O.W., and Thai Burma Railway slave, brutally treated by the Japanese.

Dad was a terrific bloke, we have very treasured memories and he was held in very high regard by many.
Thanks be to God, we will always love you forever Dad.

P.s. I now have the honour of helping/caring for my lovely father in law (89), in an aged care facility in Mundaring.
Able to personally visit, share with &/or take out every 2 or 3 days.