My father, the man who gave me the feminine version of his face from which to look out at life, but also gave me the moral code on which to base all my decisions in life! I was born on his twenty-first birthday (which we shared with Elvis!) and – perhaps because of this – we had a really special relationship i.e. he was putty in my hands.
He was an extremely funny man, very strong and very clever, although his strength did not prohibit him from being a terrible sissy when it came to spiders. He also cried unashamedly in sad movies, at weddings and at christenings. I guess that constitutes a lesson? To embrace and appreciate the softer side of people, weaknesses are – after all – just the counterpoint to strengths that make each individual just that: a one-off.
My dad loved music and my memories of him have a sound track that makes me now, year later, able to actually smell the occasions. Play Janis Joplin for me and I’m instantly transported to Kei Mouth beach, fishing rod in my hand with the scent of the fish on the fire behind me. Jimi Hendrix puts me flat on my bum, playing on the kitchen floor while my dad and his friends made batik pictures; the thin, sweet smell of what I now know to be marijuana drifting through their philosophical banter. So, there’s a second thing he gave me, a life-long and passionate relationship with music and the understanding that music is as much a chronicle of our lives as the history books.
They were the firsts for one another, my parents; neither had dated anyone else and they remained quite silly about each other until he died; they embarrassed us dreadfully in our teenage years, letting themselves get caught kissing in the kitchen. He was very soft on us, too, and gave us each our rightful place in his world: I was the apple of his right eye, my sister of his left and my brother was his Adam’s apple. None of us ever doubted or felt cheated of the bottomless pit of his love. From this I learned how infinite the capacity for love is, it can be dished out willy-nilly; to all and sundry. The well will never run dry.
I wish, so very much, that he could have known my child.
1. They were having a dinner party, I was sick with bad sinusitis. At one stage I began to cry from the pain. He left the party, took a nectarine from the fridge and came to sit by my bed. He rubbed the fruit over my face and promised me that would make it better, that it was a magic trick. It didn’t, but I fell asleep anyway. I always associate the smell of nectarines with feeling safe.
2. Hanging on his back in the swimming pool while he did dolphin dives under water, he always came up before I ran out of breath.
3. Year after year, he faithfully tended a bed of carnations, despite their short-lived display.