Happy Birthday Dad!

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Were you still alive, Dad, you would've turned 74 today. Although nine years has passed since you went away, I still miss you - some years seem to be more painful than others for reasons I can't explain.

I wish to write this tribute for you today, Dad. I remember, first of all, how you were born in Malta (from what you told me of course), the second oldest son and third oldest child. You were born just before WW2, and you endured the blitzes which would've felt never-endingly horrendous!

I remember a funny story you told me (well, more a miracle!) about how you snuck out of the air-raid shelter you were forced to live in, and crawled back into your bed at home. Your house got bombed and somehow you managed to not only survive, but slept through it all! A typical male even at that age! I laughed my head off when you told me, amazed by it all.

There was a not so funny story about how you saw a German pilot flying over you and your mum - my nanna - he waved at you all, only to be shot down moments later. I remember being rather upset about that, and my views about Germans in general changed from that moment on.

You migrated to Australia in 1951, like many of you from Malta did. Settling in wasn't easy for Wogs. You copped a hard time from one bloke in particular, until one day you lost it and hit him with a 4 by 2. After that, you became mates! Such is the way of Aussies, eh?

You met and married my mum, who needed permission to marry you because she was only 17. Your marriage was turbulent, I suspect that some of it was due to racial differences and upbringing. You managed to produce 4 children before she went away and left you for your best friend. As if that wasn't bad enough for you, some of the neighbours had the cheek to tell you that you should place us in a home. It was the 70s, single parents weren't the done thing - let alone a man! You told them in no uncertain terms where to go.

We had hard times and we were dirt poor, but somehow we got by. Despite my being the youngest, it fell on me to learn the value of money. I was 14 when I began paying your bills and I learned earlier to go to the doctor's and do stuff like that by myself. I developed an independent streak, for which I'm grateful.

I didn't always like you, I must confess, it was difficult for us to get along with each other. I had an anti-authoritarian attitude from the word go and I rebelled many times. Later on, I came to realise that you were right about a lot of things that I rebelled with you about.

I was the later in life parent, I remember you wrote me off as an old maid at 22 because I wasn't married with kids yet! I resented it, because I wanted that for myself, but I wasn't ready for it then. I had my first child at 28 and that pleased you no end.

I lived around the corner from you with my new family and you were a regular visitor to our home. We used to do birthdays and Father's day gatherings in particular at our place and it was great fun.

Our family moved away because the town we were living in just became rougher and full of Lebs and the like. Plus it was stinking hot in summer and freezing in winter. Luckily, we weren't far from you, so that we could still drive and visit you.

Then one day, I received the dreadful news about you. You worked in a fibro factory for many years, when they were made from asbestos. Many of your colleagues had already died from Mestothelioma. Then it was your turn. We were told the full extent of your illness, and there was no hope - it was only a matter of how much time you had left with us.

I lived through 6 months of watching you fade away to nothing, your hair going completely grey, breathing through an oxygen tank and mask, and doped to the eyeballs on morphine for the pain.

The last day I saw you, I laid my head beside you and I could smell the sickness through your skin. I knew then that it wouldn't be long now. I said my goodbye, with that sinking feeling I wouldn't see you alive again.

The night before you passed, I was at work when without warning, I wanted to throw up for no apparent reason. I think it was about 5 hours later that I got the call from my brother to get up to the nursing home that you were at. I arrived too late, you had already gone. I viewed your body, and I remember the look on your face - you didn't die peacefully, if anything you suffered a great deal.

The funeral, even now, is still a blur to me. People came up to me and offered their condolences - some people I recognised while there were others that I didn't. I spiralled into a living hell for the next 2 1/2 years, while my siblings squabbled, my mother interfered where it wasn't her business - I was raising 3 kids and my marriage was falling apart.

I finally made the decision to see a grief counsellor, I'd reached the point where I just couldn't continue any more. For the next 6 weeks, I had some of the most heart-wrenching, and yet, empowering sessions and began to turn my life around. I had the courage to walk away from an irreconcilible marriage and stand on my own two feet.

Nine years after your passing, there is still a rift in the family that shows no signs of mending, but at least I can look at my life with a better perspective. You seemed to be the lynch pin that held us all together, and it all fell apart. Our family unit was a sham, as it turned out. However, your parting gift to me was the spiritual journey that I continue to be on. My eyes have been opened to how life really is, at least for myself.

I now know why it was difficult to get on with you at times, Dad. It was because we were so alike in many ways. We both gave as good as we got, but in the end I know you worried about me the least - even though you didn't show it. I hope that you are proud of me Dad, as I am not only proud of being your daughter, but of having you as my father.

I love you always, Dad, and I know we will meet again - one day.

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  1. Sally's Avatar
    I really enjoyed reading about your father. What a great man!
  2. The Lawspeaker's Avatar
    Like Salford here, I really enjoyed reading about your father all that he saw during his life- which gave a unique insight in where you came from and who you are.

    He must have been a great man
  3. Jamt's Avatar
    Good writing, you write good as hell. And god bless your father
  4. Treffie's Avatar
    What a beautiful blog Bryn! It's a very personal experience to have lost someone as close as a mother or a father. Before I had lost someone, I was living without a worry in my own little world, but this really changes you. Let's just say that one grows up very quickly once this happens!

    I don't think that the pain ever goes away but one learns to live with it and memories of the past really become important, however insignificant they may seem to others.

    [I]I love you always, Dad, and I know we will meet again - one day.[/I] I can't wait!
  5. Gooding's Avatar
    It was a beautiful story, Bryn. I'm so sorry for your loss..
  6. Brynhild's Avatar
    I'll thank you all here:

    Salford, I believe he was, but then again I'm probably biased!

    Tristan, it is interesting how life shapes you and the perceptions you get from another.

    Jamt, I thank you, and so would my Dad.

    Trefelin, no it never completely goes, and I don't expect it to. I've learned to be grateful for the times we did have, and forgive him his human frailties - like we all have.

    Thank you Finn.