My Dad died last Friday. Not a huge shock as he was 86 and had been quite ill for many years. But still a little unexpected as he had been quite ok in the last few months. Not like last year, I’ve never seen anyone so frail and confused as he was then. In the coronary unit connected up to machines and drips, I just thought it was kind of inevitable.
I took the photo above just before leaving the hospital for the last time last year. I was sure it would be the last time I would see him alive. Holding his hand, I had never been so aware of how alive someone ‘feels’. I was conscience of Dads skin, muscles, bones tendons and the warmth of the blood pumping. It felt like his hand ‘hummed’ with life.
Dad was ultimately a warm and friendly man with a kind heart. But at the same time he was frustratingly complex, full of regret and panic for a past he couldn’t fix no matter how much he tried or wished.
I also wished alot of things could have been different (along with my other family members). I wish he didn’t leave my Mum, brother and I when I was five. But I also wish he didn’t grow up in a 1920’s orphanage in Paramatta. A bleak introduction to the world to say the least. I wish he had parents of his own who showed him love and how to love. I wish he was able to mend the lifetime of heart ache he must have experienced as a result. Dad so desperately wanted to love and be loved, but never knew quite how. A bit like wanting to read, but never being exposed to words and books let alone being taught.
I feel lucky to have come to terms with him as a person, there was no malice or frustration in the end. I was glad I was able to spend some time with him while he was in hospital last year. We were able to chat and say all the things that I’m sure alot of people don’t get the chance to say to each other before they die.
One of the last times I saw my Dad I spent an hour or so sitting with him in the nursing home he was moved to from the hospital when his condition improved.
Dad talked, alot! He seemed to hate silence or perhaps he spent so much time alone, anytime with anyone was an opportunity to commune. He wanted to talk this night but rather than go over old ground I told him I was more than happy to sit and spend 'time' with him without a commentary. He had an old radio tuned to a religious station and we listened to a brass band warble through some old hymns. It was great.
When I was a kid I used to twist my Dads ‘comb over’ into a ‘horn’ that sat on top of his head. I thought it was hilarious. He thought it was pretty funny too. Sitting there in the nursing home, listening to the crackly hymns on the am radio, I couldn’t help myself, I just had to reach over and curl his hair up once more into a hair horn. I giggled and so did he.
Dad, the last time he visited us in Brunswick a few years ago aged 83. And below where he felt most comfortable in front of a piano, aged 30(ish).