This morning I woke up early and took a long walk with my dog, and remembered my dear Dad; today is 10 years since he died.
My memory of that day, and of the days and nights just after, are crystal clear. The phone call from my brother, the drive home, the call I needed to make to my sister, the rushed flight to Albany, the embrace of my Mum, the visit to the hospital. He’d died earlier that day – his body was still there, but he was long gone. We knew it was coming, just not quite so soon.
And then there was the putting together of the eulogy, the gathering of the uncles and aunties and cousins, the telling of stories and so many old friends, so many. I remember my friends who came, or rang or wrote, I still have those cards and notes in a box I keep in the bottom of my cupboard, perhaps one day I’ll get them out again and read them.
I like to think further back too.
Terry Tero, lover of dogs, French cars, of Mum and the rest of us. A man of a deep and committed faith. A worrier – for us, for the future. A man of poor eyesight, messy handwriting and a sharp mind. Having his own emotional frailties, but brave under fire. Sometimes angry, mostly gentle.
I like to remember the words he spoke at our wedding.
I like to remember him in his study, surrounded by hand written notes and books, talking on the phone to somebody or other – sometimes listening intently, sometimes roaring with laughter. I remember Dad being on the front page of the local paper in Kalgoorlie when I was a kid, leading the charge against a proposed casino – adamant that the big losers would be the families in town who were already vulnerable. I remember him taking a funeral during the day and then dressing up as Little Red Riding Hood for the church concert that night. I remember him staying up all night trying to tile the bathroom floor; sometimes the frustration boiled over a bit. I remember his long walks, with the dog a constant companion.
A while ago, a mate asked if I still missed my Dad, even after all this time.
And I do. When he first passed, I missed him terribly. I just felt raw sadness that he was gone. No anger or resentment, just a loneliness that the man so dominant and shaping in my life wasn’t with me anymore. Certainly for me there was many tears, and it was unpredictable when they’d come. Every now and again, the sadness still creeps up and gets me.
But it changes, it does. It is not so much an ache as it was, it’s more a comforting memory now – of a dear Dad, of a life well spent, with it’s own struggles but full of such richness.
There are particular times I would rather he was here: at times of change, when there are decisions to be be made. And at times of sadness. Dad was a good man for a crisis – a good listener, a giver of wisdom, able to offer words and actions that offered comfort and hope in ways that were real. I often think of him on school prize nights too , knowing that he would be the proudest Grandad out.
Some memories fade, but a great deal of our relationship stays with me, a bit like an engraving on me of our life together. And it never really leaves. I feel heavy hearted about it sometimes, but the sadness isn’t dominant anymore.
I thought today of the Michael Leunig prayer we read at his funeral.
Give comfort and peace to those who are separated from loved ones. May the ache in their hearts be the strengthening of their hearts. May their longing bring resolve to their lives, conviction and purity to their love. Teach them to embrace their sadness, lest it turn to despair. Transform their yearning into wisdom. Let their hearts grow fonder.
Yes, amen to that. Longing, conviction, sadness, wisdom, fondness – words for my family and me today. It was good to sit with these memories, and to mark the moment.