Just a few days ago was my dad’s birthday. So here are 10 things about him.
This is the ONLY wedding photo to exist of my parents. And as you can see it was cut out to fit a round frame at some point — both my folks are wearing black…
It was a tough assignment he got. He was just 21 when I was born and only 24 when my sister arrived. When he and my mum split, I was about three and my sister was just a few months old. A year or so later mum moved to Sydney and my dad raised me and my sister for at least 5 years until Kate moved down there and I stayed up in Brisbane.
1) One night-time car trip (from visiting my grandparents in Ipswich) I lay down in the backseat, still strapped to a seatbelt, and I begged dad to tell me the secrets of the Universe. And As I curled up with the whole back seat to myself I had only the vaguest idea where I was in the universe. Time was either fast or slow — I could not tell. And only the street lights hid the glimpses of the stars and the darkness above I eagerly listened about. And over the course of that one-hour journey he explained the origins of everything. Literally everything. And he was channelling Carl Sagan because I have just recently re-visited those “COSMOS” documentaries — which are free to watch on YouTube — and I recognise lots of the vibe and the things Carl got excited about — which is exactly what Dad tried to make me excited about. A few years later Halley’s comet arrived and dad woke me up in the middle of the night so I could see it.
Consequently — knowing the secrets of the universe meant I was this thing called “an atheist” and I embraced it. And this contrasted the vastly religious bullshit of dad’s mother (and most of the planet it should be said) who would claim to me once to have had god speak to her. And at school where we said the Lord’s Prayer at Assembly every morning – this was controversial. While every other kid in the whole school was made to say that “lord’s prayer” — I was excused because my dad made a stand and the principal et al were compelled to respect that. I really enjoyed having that power of saying nothing while everyone else was droning away. Kids would be intrigued and I would explain as best I could.
2) When I was 4 he took me to see Star Wars at the Schonell Theatre and I got really, really scared at the Cantina scene and I begged him to leave but he didn’t get mad. Even in that tiny viewing I got hooked and would practice my lightsaber techniques in the backyard with a recorder — which stills looked incredibly similar if you ask me. One early morning I grabbed that recorder out of the garden not really looking and stuffed it into my pants like I was Luke and not knowing it now harboured a new colony of ants and as they got annoyed at this new interruption they swarmed over me and I raced upstairs and I screamed to wake my dad and on the tiny strip of deck at the top of the stairs he stripped me naked and sprayed me with Mortein. I wonder now if I will ever be able to properly conceive.
A year or so later he took me back and I made it through the whole viewing. I remember he had to dictate the scrolling text at the beginning. Later he would let me stay up late to watch the yearly Friday night Star Wars viewing on TV. I would go to bed after with my mind exploding with fantasy.
3) Also on this theme when the SEQEB strikes were about in Queensland and all our power was episodically cut — and this continued for weeks — we would suddenly be faced with all the power to our house and the neighbourhood around it instantly cut. In that random darkness Dad would lead me outside so we could look at the stars cause Brisbane suddenly had not as much reflective light to obscure the heavens. And we would lie on our backs on the grass on the footpath looking at constellations and looking for shooting stars and occasionally spying (and tracking) a satellite — something it should be said, I found much more intriguing. When the power came on all that magic disappeared and we would instantly get up, go inside to resume our humdrum repetitiveness of watching TV again.
4) He bought me my first bike and taught me how to ride – the hard way. In other words he was safely holding the back of the bike while I spun circles around the street directly opposite the house, but then when I realised he was missing, I crashed. Later he decided I should do ballet — just cause he was trying to be a new-school parent. I hated it. My dad pretended it would introduce me to chicks — TRUE STORY. I think my dad was in some denial about the world.
5) Although Dad finished school at Bremer in Ipswich, he got such bad marks he decided to repeat the two final years of school (at an adult education facility in Kelvin Grove) the very same year I started school. I found this hilarious! Eventually this led him to getting into Uni and by the time I finished primary-school — he had a degree and an idea and something of a business opportunity.
A picture I drew in year one of my dad at school
6) That “business opportunity” made him initially comfortable, then one day — suddenly rich. It was enough to instantly retire and for him to randomly offer to give me some money to buy a house. It was all very fast and I accepted, mostly cause I was living in an appalling single bedroom house. I then had a mortgage and only earned just about 15% above the minimum wage. Life was tough, but I had some boarders to help and I was used to living very, very frugally.
7) I think my dad is at heart an “educator”. He would love to be that professor with elbow patches and a leather chair and a pipe. He even became a english tutor in his quasi-retirement. He would always correct my grammar. And in turn I asked a lot of questions as I grew up. I see that in my nephew Hugo who talks constantly and says “why?” all the time. I guess my dad just answered me as straight as he could each and every time I asked “why?” — except the times I asked why I had to go to bed — to which he would say, “Because I said so.” I could ask why a billion times subsequently, but the answer would always be the same.
8) Dad is an entertainer. Each and every birthday he would have a “Virgo” party. I am pretty sure he was ironically embracing the astrology thing. Those were cool parties and I got to stay up extra-extra late.
9) Dad is a vegetarian. And I was consequently raised so. But he would allow me fish. The first time I ate meat in front of him was when I was 12 and it was because I lived with mum then and he was just a visitor at the table. I felt so awkward and guilty. And to this day (on his actual birthday) I still feel a bit weird when we are eating together and I am eating meat and he is not.
10) I think dad is also a closet adventurer. He was always a “fuddy-duddy” about certain things. He would make me wear a bike helmet yet he would send me on a 20 hour train journey as 8 year old — by myself — to Sydney and back. And also he would leave me at home at night until almost midnight while he was out on dates. I would leave all the lights on and put the stereo on to dissuade any intruders. And one day he dabbled in sailing and we would go to Lake Cootharaba and sail around in a borrowed (and then a 2nd-hand) catamaran and one day he randomly capsized and put his head through the hull and was only saved by his life jacket. And now he gets nonsensical about my bike-riding. Lol.