And it’s very hard to process what I feel about it.
Have I ever considered what it might be like to live until I was 98 years old? Would I have hoped that mind and body fit enough to know what is going on, that I might reach the age of 100?
I’m nearly 69, and still with reasonable mobility and clarity of mind. It’s possible.
Sadly, for my father, it’s not. Having contracted COVID at the nursing home where he was living, he has been in a battle to survive. Over the last three weeks, it’s been a journey of ups and downs.
This morning, at 6:11 am, he died.
It’s is supposed to be a moment of sadness, mourning the loss of a family member, especially since he was my father.
Unfortunately, although I do feel a sense of sadness, it is not a moment that causes intense grief. It might have been, had he not embarked on a path that put a wedge between us, and equally sadly, had not spoken in nearly 8 years because of it.
Yes, bridges could have been mended, but as the saying goes, it takes two to tango.
I guess, in the hours since this morning, I’ve had time to reflect. In those years since our last meeting, a very bitter and acrimonious argument, I made an effort to find out more about him, his life, and perhaps reasons why he became the man he was.
It would be easy to blame the war. After all, so many men came back broken. Back then, no one knew about PTSD, and after hearing some of the stories of what it was like in New Guinea, added to malaria while he was there, and for a long time off and on after he returned home, it’s not surprising there were demons.
it would be easy to say that he was a man from a particular era, brought up in a world where men were the boss, that women were supposed to stay at home and look after the man, the house, and the children, in that order. And do as they’re told, or else…
It would be easy to say that in the days he was a child growing up, the cycle of domestic violence would have been part of his life, a life that he would not know wasn’t the norm, not like now.
It would be easy to say that if he knew he was my mother’s second choice, that she would always love the first man in her life, and that she would not look after the house, and care less about the children, though she might have cared for him once, that disappeared long before we children understood.
But it was what it was.
The cycle of domestic violence stopped with us children. The cycle of vicious discipline stopped with me. I did not perpetrate any of that on my family, and that had paid forward my children’s behavior towards theirs.
At a funeral, we always look to bring out the good points of their lives, not the bad. In those first 20 years at home, it had its moments, but the mind, in its infinite wisdom, tends to close off those memories and look back on the good memories, afternoons at the football or cricket, the tent holidays at Easter, and Christmas when we weren’t painting the house, school holidays with our friends building cubby houses out of whatever we could scrounge from nearby building sites.
At times he was larger than life, starting a Worker’s Club for ordinary people, and a junior Football League to give boys between 6 and 14 a place to go rather than become idle adolescents.
There’s still a story to be told about his life, one we are still finding out like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the fact he was a projectionist before the war, the fact he became a cook just before he joined the army, he was a soldier in the war, as a cook and a gun layer, a somewhat odd combination, the fact he went to England, and Europe, after the war, and was engaged to be married to an English girl, the fact he worked at the Snowy River Hydro-Electric scheme as a projectionist after the war, how he met my mother (so very Dolly Levi – ish), and how his relations with his family were fractured, almost beyond repair. It explains why we never saw any of his relatives.
It’s a story my brother and I will no doubt explore for many years to come.
Now, at 98, his innings is over.
Perhaps now he will be in a better place and find the happiness he so long searched for but never quite found in this lifetime.