My Dad was born in 1948, three years after Armistice day. He grew up in post war England, and he didn’t tell very many stories about his childhood, so I feel like maybe it was grim. He did tell us tales of playing with the wombles of Wimbledon common, close to his home, but I feel like maybe they were made up….
He moved to NZ in his teens with his parents, and a few years later met my mother and started our family. He had good friends, although, they called him by a variety of nicknames. He was known as Jim or Dave, though his legal name was William. He built a world around our family. As one child after another was born, he journeyed through a range of jobs, despite chronic pain and sometimes debilitating illness from his rheumatoid arthritis.
I have patches of memory of my dad, jumbled up and without a clear time line, they tell the story of our lives: When we ran a local dairy and Dad would chat to the customers coming in, when he made me a bunny cake for my birthday, when he called me and my little school friends, Bernadette and Catherine and Bianca “Giggling Gerties” and held the door in the bedroom closed while was laughed at nothing at all. I remember how he worked extra jobs to either barter or afford to pay for little extras in our life- a new bike he made from old bikes, a volley ball, a swing ball set. I remember him smacking me with the wooden spoon, for telling lies, and I remember him apologizing when he found out I wasn’t lying. I remember when we lost our home, and mum was sick with the baby in her belly and me and him and my younger two siblings stayed in a caravan in Huia for a while, it might have been a week or a month I don’t really know: What I do recall was him helping me with my astrology homework, and thanking me for helping him with the little ones.
I remember my tenth birthday: We moved into emergency accommodation that day, one room in a giant big house full of other people with broken lives. I remember we went to McDonalds to celebrate my birthday. I didn’t know how hard that day must have been for him, how challenging the decision to spend all that money buying junk food for a family of seven and my best friend must have been. I remember ginger beer and purple death and home brew. I remember Judo classes, which Dad did with us, teaching us to fall, and to count to ten in Japanese. I remember back yard cricket and days at the beach and renovating houses. I remember him working, all the time, trying so hard to bring us back from our precipice.
I remember him crying when mum miscarried, and I remember him reading us the hobbit on chairs in the lounge by the fire. I remember him telling us to get out from under his feet. I remember him teaching me how to fix a car, and how to check my oil, and how to drive. I remember him telling my high school prinicpal to go suck a fat dick (ok he didn’t use those words) and telling social welfare that he couldn’t fix our broken relationship when I left home. I remember him holding my baby daughter, and just loving her, and never making me feel like I had fucked up. I remember him telling me that my own family came first now, and I had to keep them safe. I remember him doing the same for the next baby.
I remember him telling me before we walked down the aisle that I didn’t have to do it. I remember him helping me to put the pieces of my broken life back together when my husband left and never saying I told you so. I remember him being so angry when I let the girls go live with their dad, so angry his eyes boiled and he scared me a little. I remember him helping me fight to get them back. I remember him coming to collect the VCR recorder that he’d paid off the HP on to save me from the weekly payments, telling me he had bought it, so I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. I remember him teaching me how to make life choices and live with them, even when they were bad.
I remember the music of Queen, and The Who, David Bowie and Prince, Annie Lennox and Enya. I remember dress ups and laughter and card games and his handwriting in block letters because the nuns used to hit him for being left handed. I remember him making my guy friends move a piano because they had fucked up and burnt my little brothers GI Joe figures head. I remember him being a dad to my girl friends in high school who didn’t have dads of their own. I remember him telling us he was dying. I remember him pretending he wasn’t. I remember him fighting and I remember him giving in. I remember his last day.
I remember my friends crying for his loss as much as I did.
I remember wondering how we would get through this.