Family guy 6am at Parramatta Park during
Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988 . . Hot air balloon watching!
Bicentennial Celebrations in 1988 . . Hot air balloon watching!
Today is Father's Day in Australia. It means little to us since my kids never knew their father, he died at 35 years of age when they were just 2 and 4. Babybro is obviously away for the weekend, his progeny spread from Melbourne to London. Babysis and the Plumber are not only celebrating Father's Day but also Joel's birthday and Drumerboy has gone to share the day with the Fringelet and her dad. My father was the closest thing they had to a male role model and a fine example he was. Sadly, he also passed away in 2002 . . So we have no father's to celebrate on the day.
Now don't go buzzing off to some less emotional blog, I'm not going to get all maudlin on you but there are a few home truths that my own children need to know about their father, rest his soul:
He was always late. I mean always. I'm a punctual person and from the day we met I was picked up late, missed the first 20 minutes of every movie, arrived for the main and missed entree or worse, got there and they were closed. He managed to be on time for his wedding date because he had three groomsmen who were fastidious and ensured his timely arrival.
He was sociable. He had loads of friends, he'd talk to anyone no matter their age, race, creed or code. He was an instantly likable guy. Confident, chatty, intelligent, knowledgeable, well-travelled and genuinely enjoyed people and all they had to offer. A rare talent these days. I can't tell you how often I hear "Oh he wouldn't get on with my friends" as an excuse for not mingling. Ray could get on with and impress ANYONE from the giants of industry to the lowliest of the low. He was the least judgemental person I have ever met!
He was a good amateur golfer. Nope actually a great golfer and my 'glory box' laid testament to that fact. His handicap vacillated between 1 and 4 and I can't tell you the number of times I've caddied over hill and dale during Pennant competitions as an excuse to spend time with him in daylight hours rather than miss out on the opportunity. He never lost his temper but I never, ever, heard him say "God I had a good round today" even after being the Castle Hill Golf Club Champion for four years running. A record I think remains to this day! He once picked me up straight from golf in a pair of green and cream checked trousers. I sent him home and told him to come back when he looked less like Arnold Palmer.
He had no fashion sense. His idea of colour coordination was to pick a colour and dress in it from top to toe. If it was a maroon shirt, then followed maroon pants, socks . . .if blue, then yep, blue on top down below and right down to his socks. I used to drag him into shops and make him vary his colour scheme but he never felt comfortable dressing well.
Our first formal date was at a family birthday at Remos, an Italian restaurant in Surrey Hills. I wore my sexiest Merrivale dress, he looked handsome, we had a wonderful night but it was before the advent of random breath testing. He spewed 4 times on the Epping highway on the way home. Naturally was overly apologetic but refused to let me drive. Naturally there was no 'first kiss' on that night and he blamed the teensy weensy glass of Dom Benedictine for the upset. Of course the next day I forgave him (might have had something to do with the 2 dozen roses). The rest is history.
He bought me flowers every week. Not always the flash jobs but he stopped on his way home from work every Friday and came through. Now I buy my own and rather long for those stinky bunches of roadside or service station mangled flowers that I used to get.
He collected Penthouse magazines. I think from being 18 years old and they came with us whenever we moved and the collection was added to on a regular basis. I hated it. They stacked up in the wardrobe to the degree that they used to crease his finely ironed shirt tails. I still don't understand the compulsion. When he died, I offered the collection to members of my own family (male of course) all said yes . .all their wives said "No fucking way" they went to the tip!
The engagement ring he gave me was intended for someone else. He had an abusive girlfriend called Laura before I came along so when his mum and dad tripped over to Hong Kong, he asked them to buy a diamond ring with every intention of asking her to marry him. The relationship finally ended after she threw a bowl of soup over him at a posh restaurant (not the first apparently) so my engagement ring was remodelled and re-presented. I loved it anyway but no longer wear it. When I had babies in nappies, I used to scratch them with it so it hasn't been worn for over 23 years.
He kept a photograph of a Philippine girl in his wallet all our married life. Rosie, who he met and had a fling with just before he met me. She went in the bin the day after he died. Jealous? Moi? Never. But I couldn't understand why he hung onto the photo even after we were married.
He had an incredible fear of needles. When Clare was born, I asked for an epidural at about 7 cms. Whilst he'd been very attentive and assisting with the breathing, remembering every thing from ante natal class and dutifully getting me cubes of ice, one look at the needle that I couldn't see and he hit the floor. Once comfortably numb, he left and was pampered by nursing staff to the extent that he was offered a chicken roast dinner which he ate in the hospital corridor rather than in front of me . .I was starving but hadn't yet delivered so he was being thoughtful!
He then spent the night sleeping with me in a single bed because a day without me was hard for him to take. I left the hospital after three days because sleeping alone was so awful even with Pamela Anderson's boobs and a sore you know what.
He was a sloppy babysitter. I'd take the kids to my mum's on Saturday morning and have a coffee and a chat. He'd drop by after golf and pick them up so I could go grocery shopping alone. I'd get home about 5 and there would be the footy on the telly, Ray asleep on the couch and Clare stinking to high heaven in a nappy that hadn't been changed for hours happily playing on the floor or tormenting the cat!
He was a GREAT sport. I mean in the 70s and 80s we went to loads of fancy dress parties and unusual events. He was up for anything. He's been a Tea bag, a piece of Fairy Bread (Aussie party food, white bread triangles with hundreds of thousands sprinkles on them) the Sweet Transvestite from the Rocky Horror Show, an 80 year old man, arrived in his pyjamas, been done over by the Nutrimetics lady and never cracked a smile during the face mask session. If I asked anything of him . .he'd comply. Great guy.
He was a lousy handyman. I mean lousy, lousy, lousy . . it took 2 days to erect a wine rack, a whole weekend to lay a slab for a very small garden shed and after topsoiling our turf, the remainder of the topsoil became known as the Faulkland Crescent Tit because the grass grew over it and it remained until the day he died. His father had to build our barbecue and none of our pictures hung straight, he didn't know a starter motor from a battery or a grevillia from an acacia . . .but that gave me some power!
He was so proud to hold his son. There's something about men and sons. Adam didn't wait for the epidural and I nearly had him in the lift. We dropped Clare off at mum's on the way to the hospital and Mr Havachat was exchanging pleasantries with Grandpa re golf of course. . .Nana came out to the car where I'm holding all together and asked "How are you darling?" I remember to this day saying that I felt sick "Raymond" she shrieked, "Get this woman to hospital or I'll have your nuts for breakfast!" Once his little boy arrived, the tears streamed. I had never seen him cry . . never . . . but when he held that little blue bundle he lost the plot.
He once told his mother never to choose . . .we'd had a family 'session'. I had been too needy and critical and not accepting of his brother's divorce (that is I still talked to the ex) and it all boiled into a "right, we need to sort this out" family meeting. I was never so secure in my relationship than when he said to his mother "Please don't make me choose, because I will choose Helen". Bless. Oddly enough that is so far behind us now that I have a very close relationship with my in-laws. They are wonderful and I love them so much I even endure the October Family Picnic. Believe me that's love in all its incarnations!
I fought with him three times. (Okay there were the snarky when are you going to do this or that arguments but not 'real' fights) Once because he deliberately antagonised his boss at a new job and lost his job over it. She was a cow but hey, we had a mortgage and babies and life was hard but he still told her to shove her job where the sun don't shine. I respect him for it now but at the time, it was devastating. Then I had a hormonal 'I'm sick of being a stay at home mum' moment and wanted to go back to work. Clare was in kindergarten, Adam about 12 months old and being the old fashioned type didn't like the idea of me earning more than him. I even slapped him and ran over to mummy and daddy's for the 3am cup of tea and the "I can't take it any more" sob story. Thank God my father made me see sense. I went back of course and all was forgiven. The last fight I can't even remember what it was about. I withdrew sexual favours and we slept on an argument . . never a good idea. At 9am the following morning, he had a heart attack in our hallway.
So kiddywinks, a few little secrets about Dad that you may or may not have known. Actually, they never ask about their father. Strangely, a visitor we had earlier in the year asked where photos of Ray were and I realised that I didn't have any on display. I prefer to remember him in the 80's than memorialise the fact that he's forever young and I'm old and wrinkly. Loved him tho! And that's why I'll never re-marry. Well that and the fact that nobody's ever asked me!
Now lay off the awwwwness please. There's been 20 years under the bridge and I've moved on. But he is always in my heart. Hope all you Aussie Dad's had a happy father's day!