Saturday, August 31, 2002

NICE TO HAVE YOU HERE, WHY NOT STAY A WHILE.

Earlier this year a close friend lost his father to a stroke, and as the least challenged of his family, he stepped up to give the eulogy. A few days later when we were getting good and smashed, he told me how hard it was to write, and advised me that it was a good idea to have it ready ahead of time.

Last year my father was diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer. Within weeks, he went from a healthy, vigorous man, to someone with two brain operations to his credit, and a doctor telling him to go home and die.

Lucky for him, we met Dr Charlie Teo, and his Magic Weed Whacker. Charlie went in with a grudge and a desert spoon, and got most of the cancer. We know that it will come back, but Dad’s had two clear MRI scans since then. After being given six weeks to live, he’s still with us 18 months later.

So I thought I might take the advice, and put some things on record. This is not a eulogy. But there is no denying that my appreciation of him has sharpened, and as I said on another day, the things that go unsaid are often those that most need to be told.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, DAD.

What do you say about the most important man, in a man’s life? Is there any aspect of my life where his shadow does not fall, where his voice is not heard, where his advice does not operate? How much of my own marriage is his? My fatherhood?

There isn’t a clear answer. I know that I am the man my father made me, and I can’t say exactly why. Our lives have taken utterly divergent paths; my values are to a large part not his. But how different are we? After all, the only thing I have ever been sure of is that I would be married with children. Like my father. And his values are my values. Look after your family. Honesty. Fair dealing. Honour. The value of work.

In my entire life, I have never heard that man utter a word against his wife. Never. Neither has Mum. Other couples might think it’s funny to run their spouses down at parties, but not those two. Still married after 45 years, droughts, floods (this is Australia, you can get them in the same month), broke, flush, kids, kids moved out.

Dad only made it to sixth grade, leaving school to work on the farm. That’s how it was done then. The pity of it is that life as a farmer means no time to study, no time to pursue interests. And since he is one of the smartest people I have ever met, it makes the loss deeper. Through high school, university and four careers, there has never been an aspect of my life he was not interested in hearing about. I wish I had always shown him the same politeness.

Without him, my wife would not love me as she does, and hopefully will continue. Without him, my children would not be the smart, happy, well-behaved, interesting small people they are, and hopefully will continue to be. I’m a better man, a better husband, a better father for his influence, and safer for his love.

I love you Dad. Never said it to his face, maybe never will. But I do. I’m glad you’re here, and I’ll take what you can spare of the time you have.

So happy Father’s Day to Kevin Wright, of Finley, NSW, Australia.
Husband To Margaret.
Father to Michael, Paul, Mark and Lesley.
Father in law to Erin, Judy and Lisa
Grandfather to Jayne, Simon, Leah, Iain, James, Kate, Matthew, Sam, Jessica, Cassidy, Nicholas and Olivia.

How far a man must see when he stands over this?

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