reflections on my father

My father died on 24th March 2012. He was 88 years old.

These are some of the things that I shall remember most.

I shall remember the our regular morning drive to school, and at times irregular and often late pick-ups for home in fading light after sport practice.

I shall remember the man who each morning sat in the back porch ritually polishing the shoes. For indeed shoes maketh the man. …and so indeed did a firm handshake and square shoulders.

…and the great collector of interesting and sometimes useless, but interesting none-the-less, stuff to accumulate in a shed.

I shall remember our summer afternoons on the beach at Largs Bay. The seaweed and the sand and riding on his back that felt as big a whale.

I shall remember the evening trips to listen to Henry Kripps conduct the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the Town Hall… and dressed in our best clothes taking pie floater and tea suppers at the pie cart around the corner.

I shall remember the man at once just as comfortable in his sarong or an old suit…. gardening… and always the hat.

And on leaving home at a young age, as he had, I shall remember the occasional scribbled “memos” on old company letterhead referring me to a paperclipped news cutting that might be of interest. In time I grew to understand what they really meant.

And on my in all too infrequent returns to home, I remember his framed chart created by an indian swami theosophist, that hung upon the toilet wall titled the “Goal of Humanity is Happiness”, illustrated by a detailed hierarchy of requirements. It’s summary read “The Happiness of self is the harmony of healthy body, refined feelings, with informed intellect and a devotional spirit. In thought word and deed to be least harmful and most helpful to all living things. Be Good and Do Good”

Given nature’s regular imposed times for restroom reflection, I reflected upon it often. To me it so represented his ideals and his approach to life. Enduring and ordered.

But in the end I shall remember a passing glimpse of him a year ago in the nursing home, as he sat in the sun room, alone.

I watched as he prayerfully raised his cup of tea, closed his eyes and sipped… and then, longingly looking upwards to gaze upon some distant horizon past.

In that moment, in that sunroom, alone, with sun streaming through the windows I shall remember him.

Standing in the shadow of the corridor, having excused myself for a moment, I knew that that for him that moment would be forever lost to the next, but for me it would be forever.

I remember his face proud, now gaunt.
Back straight, shoulders back in proud demeanor.
Hat resting upon the table.
Hands politely crossed.
Tweed jacket, pressed trousers, polished shoes.
A singular respectability.
A singular man.

And behind his now child-like gaze, I remember an uncommon man. In virtue and in practice, a principled man who walked to the beat of his own drum. For better and for worse.

And as his day was drawing to it’s close, that drum beat sounded doggedly on against the fading light.

I hear it still. In me.

That is how I shall remember him (with apologies to Dylan Thomas).

For you no rage against the dying of the light.
But a quiet slip into the dark of night.
No fight for you, nor complaint or cry out loud
Robbed of mind, your spirit remained unbowed.
It was of no shame or matter how straight your gate
Or that no longer master of your fate
To the beat of your drum strode you purposefully
Now mute, but for its faint echo in me.
And with my drum I honour you each passing day
For in its rhythm your spirit play.
And that is how I remember you.
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