Out of all the days my dad chose to die* on the one date that would really hit home every year. Clucking Father’s Day.
I approach it, and the whole month of September, each year with the enthusiasm of URGHHHHHH.
For years my sister and I would ring mum and wish her a Happy Dead Dad’s Day, which wasn’t very funny to anyone listening in to our phone conversation, but it was hilarious to us. And a bit sick.
But this year, for the first time, it wasn’t about him. There was a new dad in our midst. And even though I started the day cranky and irritable (with a good excuse for once), I had to cheer up and celebrate because this year it wasn’t about me. I took our daughter to a local ceramics shop and had her hand and footprint painted on a mug which was decidedly kitsh enough for the occasion, and I tried to keep my bad mood at bay.
The truth was I was pissed. Our daughter will never have the opportunity to meet one of her grandfathers. I want him to be part of her life, as he was a huge part of mine. I want to feel as if she knew him, even though she’ll only know my version of him.
It’s difficult to condense the life of the most important man in the first-half of my life in 10 points, but here’s a start.
10 things I want our daughter to know about my dad
- My dad would hide behind furniture – walls, doors and wine tanks to jump out and scare you when you least expect it, only to give you a ridiculously huge bear-hug once you’d got your breath back, that trick started when we were 1 year-old and never got old. For him at least.
- He was passionate about organic viticulture – and had wine-stained hands to prove it. He made full-bodied wine that is a pleasure to drink with friends. He’d want any kid of ours to invest time and effort into making lasting friendships, and then making them drink good wine.
- He was exceptionally generous – with his time and money – if you were his friend you were with him for life, and every meeting would be filled with his exuberant energy.
- He loved his toys – he had 110 acres of land, and that required three tractors, two slashers, a rotary hoe, at least seven different types of ploughs, five sheds, two houses, seven chainsaws, two ride-on mowers, two big dams and two little dams, a four-wheeler, ride-on-mower, farm ute and paddock basher.
- He worked hard and partied hard – and was no shrinking violet – if you didn’t feel like talking you’d make sure to sit next to him at the table. He was naughty and cheeky and most people loved him. He was prophetic and knew he wouldn’t live a long life, so made every second count. In school holidays I once worked by his side all day, went out to dinner with him with friends that night, then went home in time to start picking grapes at midnight. I worked a 40-hour shift with him and when I asked him why we went out to dinner instead of having a sleep, he looked at me like I was crazy and replied ‘because Sal, you only live once’. ay as well make it a good life.
- Sometimes he was an arsehole, but we still loved him. He didn’t suffer fools, wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and loved an argument – even if he didn’t believe what he was saying. He was a fierce debater and had a tough exterior, but was gooey on the inside and would do anything to protect those he loved.
- He believed the environment was a finite resource, and needed protection. Every thing he did he thought of the impact it would make on the next generation. As well as the environment he loved animals and would save anything he could. He drip fed a sick blue-tongue lizard when we were kids, and I once found a lamb on the road and brought it home to give to Dad to raise. He got a vet to come out to give it a local anaesthetic to have its balls removed, saying if he wouldn’t do it to himself, he wouldn’t do it to an animal. He believed in reincarnation and said he’d come back as an eagle. Every time I see an Eagle I think he’s saying Hi.
- He spent most of his life in a considerable amount of pain (he lost one leg in a motorbike accident, had a triple heart bypass and kidney cancer) – yet I NEVER heard him complain. One time he had been bitten by a white-tipped spider and calmly asked if something was on his back (there was a hole the size of 50c) before driving himself to hospital without saying a word to us. He was the bravest person I have ever met.
- He had three rules when it came to dating men 1. they had to play rugby union 2. they had to be in 1st grade and 3. they couldn’t play on the wing. (I broke all the rules as soon as he died.)
- He called me salad, darling and Sal. I think about him often – sometimes with a bit of a heavy heart but always with a smile.
*Dad didn’t actually choose to die on that day – that day chose him. It wasn’t really his fault at all. He died happy, watching Australia win the Bledisloe Cup. Australia hasn’t won the cup again since he died back in 2001. He definitely wouldn’t have had anything to do with that, and would be shouting inflammatory comments at every grandiose Rugby game from wherever he is. He died before September 11. I’m happy he didn’t have to see that.