My Dad Died Today

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My Dad died today. He was 83. He had lived a long and productive life. A good life.

But.

He was my Dad. Dads are immortal, invincible and always there when you need them (and even when you don’t). Dads don’t get sick or leave and they certainly don’t die. As my friend Sylvia said, “Your Dad going is what happens to other people, not to you.”

At least, that’s what the little girl in my heart tells me. The adult in my brain unfortunately knows otherwise. She knows people age, get sick, leave us. She knows she is growing older and thus the people in the generation above grow even older.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

My Dad was a healthy man up until a bit less than a year ago when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. At that time, he bragged he’d only been in hospital twice – for appendicitis and for a severed tendon on his left hand. (He ended up with a permanently bent little finger. He always joked about being a nine-and-a-half-fingered pianist.) In the end it wasn’t the mesothelioma that took him but something unrelated that couldn’t be operated on because of the mesothelioma and thus claimed his life. Perhaps it was better this way, not to see him gasping for his every breath at the end.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

Dad was forced to leave school early to help in the family business. He completed his high school qualifications at night school, put himself through university and finished up with a PhD in Accounting from the University of Cincinnati. Education was important. We were given the best, even if it meant he was still paying school fees off two years after the youngest child finished school. He retired as Associate Dean of Management at Deakin University. He could have had glory. He was offered full professorships at universities in the USA. But he turned them down, not wanting to unsettle his children, wanting them to continue their schooling where they were. I have a first class education and a university degree and I had a steady upbringing because of the sacrifices he made.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

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Dad couldn’t swim but always took us to the beach every summer. He would sit on his towel on the sand and watch us for hours, occasionally venturing to the water to paddle no deeper than his knees. The beach holds no fears for me because he overcame his own.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

Dad was a teetotaller until the day, in his 40s, someone introduced him to wine. It became one of his great passions. And so my memories of family holidays are coloured by the wineries we visited. Brown Brothers, where I learned to love olives (they used to offer cheese and olives with their tastings – too young to drink, I just ate the cheese and olives); Delatite, where they had the best piece of playground equipment ever (it was four connected seats with a handle and footrest that you pushed/pulled and it made the seats spin) that I have never seen anywhere since (sometimes I think I must have dreamed it); Taminick Cellars, with their Trebbiano wine I loved (ahem, when I was old enough to drink, of course, ahem) and we visited so often that when I was 13, the owner Cliffy Booth gave me a bottle of port and wrote on the label it was to be saved for my 21st birthday which it duly was and enjoyed; Tahbilk, which when I first knew it was ‘Chateau Tahbilk’ until the French got snooty about people using the word ‘chateau’ and they became simply Tahbilk Winery. As I write, I have a glass of the best wine I own in my hand. I have an appreciation for good wine because of his passion.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

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Dad took his young family of a wife and four small children to the USA for a year in the late ’60s and for as much of the time as possible travelled with the whole brood (including a less-than-one-year-old me) across the States in a time when travelling with small children was not the done thing. We certainly drew a lot of attention. He went on to travel extensively, returning to the USA to complete his PhD, presenting academic papers to conferences around the world, and just travelling to see what was there. I, too, (and more recently with my husband and children), have travelled the world to see what is there because he taught me the big, wide world is there to be explored and nothing should stop you from seeing all you can see.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

Dad was a master of the segue. I think it always bewildered him that he had produced a family of geeks and nerds. At our monthly family dinners, as the conversation inevitably steered towards sci-fi, IT or superheroes (when we weren’t passionately arguing our political views), he was at a loss to contribute. As a man who liked to hold court at the head of the table, this was not acceptable. And so he would listen carefully and at the opportune moment latch onto a word or phrase and execute a breathtaking segue into a topic on which he had much to say. It became a bit of a shared family joke and we would give him a score out of ten for the segue dependant on how tenuous it was. But, at the end of the day, I have a passionate interest in many, many things because of his fierce intellect and insatiable thirst for knowledge. Really, I am a Jack of All Trades because he showed me there is so much to learn.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

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Dad was a giver. He gave of his time and expertise to so many organisations, councils, committees that I wonder, come the funeral, how we will fit in all the people who knew him. While in no way in the same league as my father, I hope I am also a giver of my time and expertise to the things that interest me, that need me. I hope that I make a difference because he made such a difference to so many.

It doesn’t make it any easier.

My Dad died today. It was time. He was ready to go. He is now free of pain and at peace.

But it doesn’t make it any easier.

 

 

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56 thoughts on “My Dad Died Today

  1. Dear Heather, I am so sorry to read of your Dad’s dying today. You have written a wonderful tribute to him. Our love and prayers are with you and all the family as you prepare for Bob’s funeral. Much love, Heather and Paul Cooney

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  2. Oh….I’m so sorry to read that you’ve lost your Dad today. But I’m so glad you wrote this and shared him with us. I love that story of the seague…that’s such a lovely funny memory and he does sound like a man who not only loved his family but made sure they were ready for whatever life threw at them. My note won’t make it any easier, I know, but I do know that you’re going to be okay because your dad was a man who always looked ahead and so shall you. He isn’t gone…he’s just watching you from a different seat now.

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  3. Dear Heather, our condolences to you and your family, your words about your dad are so beautiful and memories that you will carry for all time. Thinking of you Michelle & Les

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  4. I am so sorry for the loss of your dad. What you wrote about him here was beautiful and I’m sure something you will go back and read often through the yeas. I lost my dad about 3 years ago, suddenly and it’s so tough. But writing and remembering helps bring back the joy at least, to see that vivid personality.and character shine through in words. Take good care…

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  5. I am so sorry that your dad has passed away. I know the pain believe me and I know that the memories are treasures for a lifetime which will keep him so close to you at times you will forget he has gone. You had an amazing dad and that’s something to be grateful for. Thank you for sharing him with us in your wonderful tribute to him.

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  6. Beautiful Heather. A lovely, loving tribute to a wonderful, dedicated and generous man. Thankyou Bob for all you so freely and tirelessly offered our community. Cheers! X Lisa

    >

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  7. He’ll never be just a memory. You’ll see him every day in the things you teach your kids, and the things theyll one day teach theirs, That doesn’t make it any easier either. But it will.
    I’m so sorry. We’re never old enough to lose our dads when they were as good as yours. (And mine, so I know. Mine ended up as VC at UNE.)

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  8. Yes, I can ‘like’ this, because it is a link between the two of you, dear H. It is something you had to write; and in so doing, it helped you a tiny little bit … we need SO MUCH to express our love for them when our loved ones go.
    Please don’t bother to reply: just believe that I cried a little when I read what you wrote, because I’ve been there and your pain is something I understand. Dads are heroes.

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    • I know you said don’t bother to reply but all day I’ve wanted to say: I knew you would understand about the need to get the words out. I couldn’t even eat until I’d written the words that had swirled in my head all day. Thanks, M-R.

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  9. Love in every syllable you write. Grief and love, hand in hand. Bob was quite exceptional, and you’ve done him proud. Thank you for sharing.

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  10. Dear Heather,
    Thank you for the beautiful piece you have written about your father. He was very proud of his family and their many different talents. He was also proud of the fact that his family was the largest family group at Wesley at Church.
    Bob was a proper academic, which a Deakin found difficult to appreciate. Organisation was important in the new university, but not its main business. Bob thought hard and independently and came to his own judgements – the proper business of a scholar.
    It has been an honour to know him.
    Ian Weeks

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  11. Im sorry to hear of your father’s passing. It seems like not long ago that I found out he was has meso. so this is quite a shock. It is nice to write, and you have done it beautifully.
    My thoughts are with you and your crew. Keep well.

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  12. How wonderful you can articulate your deep love and respect for your wonderful Dad… it doesn’t make it any easier but you will carry him in your heart everyday and because of who he was it will help you to be master of something.

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  13. You wrote a beautiful tribute to a man who obviously was very special to you. The loss of our fathers leaves a gaping hole. No matter how well our intellectual mind understands the inevitability of age, our hearts are still stunned by the loss.
    I’m so very sad for you and your family.

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      • If it makes you feel any better, some days I still feel the loss of my dad like a fresh wound – even though it’s been 15 years. I think it’s an indication of how special they were to our lives and that’s a huge compliment to them.

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  14. My father died today, and I just surfed on over to your site.

    My father was a refugee in WWII. As a child he saw dead people hanging from every second tree and was almost shot by a Russian soldier. He told me that one time. It explained why he was so interested in WWII documentaries. He loved to travel and soccer. He traveled all around, even to Cuba during the early Castro years. That, he passed onto me. He always passed onto me strong feelings of altruism and calmness. He loved Brazil. I eventually married a Brazilian woman. Life is funny and grand. I miss him so much already. He advice and countless nights where we’d stay up talking. In the later years, he suffered from dementia, but we could still talk and he would still give me advice. It’s as if a part of me died today, although I know he wouldn’t like me to said that. I rationally knew he would died, but I still don’t believe it. He was 76.

    God bless you, dad. You were the best dad I could ever wish for. We miss you.

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  15. Pingback: Run Forrest, Run! | Master of Something I'm Yet To Discover

  16. All honour to your father. I, too, was lucky in a similar way with my multitalented father – a Far East POW survivor. I am still working on the story he and my mother left in my hands. Next week I will join my brothers to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday.

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  17. In India, we have a hindi saying, translating to, “A son remains with you till marriage, a daughter will be with you till the end!”

    One of the best gifts a man ca have is a doting daughter. Your father was very lucky!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My father was my best friend. He was the single person in this world who understood and loved me for who I was. He got me, period. I took care of him in his last year of life. With no help from my siblings, who lived less than an hour away. They decided, behind my back, to have him cremated. Even though I was the POA, they planned his funeral without one bit of input from me. This was 14 years ago, and I cry every day. I sleep with his watch and sock underneath my pillow. I regret any and every argument we ever had. I have nightmares about losing him all over again. I am so terribly sorry for your loss, the pain, at times, is unbearable.

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      • It was sudden, and it took a long time for the fact that he was really gone, to sink in. It’s never easy. In some ways, I’m sure his “good long life” only gave you many more reasons to miss your dad. We keep them alive in out memories, and I’m sure that would make them happy.

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        • I think the sudden, unexpected deaths leave the deepest scars. With my father, we knew the end was coming and as it was over a weekend, all of his surviving children and most of his grandchildren had a chance to spend time with him before the end. And even though at every monthly family dinner I miss him sitting at the head of the table and his funny segues, I feel a certain sense of peace about his passing. However, losing my sister and niece in a car crash in 1993 has left a scar so deep it has never really healed properly and I don’t think I will ever really get over it. I imagine it would be the same for you with your father. The pain runs very deep.

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  19. Reading this a second time is as touching as it was the first time. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years.
    I hope your thoughts of your dad today are full of happy memories – the kind that make you laugh out loud. Those are the best ❤
    Big virtual hugs.

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