The 15th of January (almost a week ago now), is Dad’s birthday. I’m using the present tense with intention.
It’s difficult to accurately describe how I feel now, nearly a year from losing him. I’ve been particularly sad lately, surrounding his birthday, and among the holiday period surrounded by other family, noticing his absence so clearly, but I haven’t been distraught, I haven’t been devastated.
I think it’s been easier because I’ve made a conscious effort to shift focus. It has hurt so much to think of what we lost by losing him, and all the potential we could have had if we’d just had a little more time. I want his birthday, every year in the future, to be a day of celebrating him, commemorating him. We can do this for other significant figures, I think it’s appropriate to do so for Dad too.
He aged like a fine wine: only growing cleverer and wiser over time. If he’d been allowed to continue, I’m sure his wisdom would have grown infinitely. It’s in that spirit that I’m choosing, not in an attempt to avoid the grief, but just to find comfort and strength in acknowledging and holding onto some of the life lessons I learned from him.
He was so worldly and well-travelled. One of my favourite experiences was when we got to travel together in Japan, just the two of us (my alternative to Schoolies). He was such an example of the benefits of exploring and celebrating other cultures.
At the same time, the world could be so small to him – he knew so much and so many people. Part of that comes from the exploration, but also the curiosity he had for everything. I daresay he was almost an expert on so many things – from Australian history to Zen. He was a ravenous reader, and always espoused the benefits of having too many books, and never letting go of them, even if he had a negligible chance of ever reading them again (this one is a Bad Lesson, I know!)
He was incredibly witty, I know it’s from him I got my sense of humour. Never underestimate how much you can give to someone just by being funny once in a while.
There was so much love in his heart, especially for his children and grandchildren, but he always had room for more. I don’t think this is entirely inherent in a person. I think that it’s a conscious choice to make that room to care for people, or beliefs, or endeavours. I know I’m the same way – I’m quick to care, and there are times when you should be careful and guarded, but I’d much rather be this way than cold to others.
Make time for art. He was excellent at drawing, and fancied himself as a bit of a poet. I know he would have wanted to have written a book at some point, but never did. It’s a real shame. However, the lasting effect of that passion for the artistic has made such an imprint on my life, and my siblings’ as well, I’m sure.
Do what you can to take care of yourself as well as you can, but also learn to ask for help. Unfortunately this was a lesson I wish I could’ve taught him more.
It’s completely cheesy to say, but ‘be yourself’. That’s what he did, and just look at how much he’s inspired and taught me. Just by being him.
And finally, from him I know that you don’t have to be perfect, to be the best.
It would mean a lot to me if you would consider taking some of these lessons into your own heart. I’ve had enough for now of thinking them over, with sadness yes, but with the strength and comfort only my Dad could provide.
Take care, Esther.
(Featured image of this post was him and I at the Boxing Day test at the MCG in 2020 – something we had always wanted to do together. It makes me so happy we finally got the chance to. There’s a bonus lesson in that, but I won’t spell it out for you.)