“Mom died suddenly in a car accident. One day she decided to leave my 6 month old brother and older sister at home and go on a holiday with three year old me. We don’t know why she chose me, but I’m glad she did. It was a long trip across the Bass Straight and to a remote Victorian sheep farm. The sixteen year old farm hand took us for a joyride in a car without doors. Near the front gate he yelled hold on as he spun the wheel but mum lost her grip and fell out. That’s my last memory of my mum all messed up lying in the dirt. She went to hospital, but didn’t live long enough to say goodbye to my Dad. She died 5 minutes before he arrived. They tried to resuscitate her, with all the trauma that entailed while he screamed. It was tough on him. He’d never been an outwardly emotional man. I had never seen him cry until then. The next days are a blank. Back home, the entire town of people came to the cemetery, all in black, all crying. I didn’t cry. For me Mum never died. But I really felt responsible for all those tears. After the funeral, Dad couldn’t cope so the three of us were adopted out. Dad kept excusing himself. I’d follow him out to the car but he’d cry and go. I’d lie in my strange bed and talk to her as if she was right beside me. It was the most open and honest relationship. Mom had always been the outward face of the family. The talker and the feeler. She’d host the parties, sometimes sing while Dad played music on his harmonica and made sure everyone was glass filled and well fed. And now Dad had lost that connection to the world. Eventually he got himself together, sold our house and his business, in Tasmania, retrieved us all from our adopted homes and ran away to live in mainland Australia’s outback. He said that everything good about me and my brother and sister came from Mom: our intelligence, our kindness, our success. Listening to him, I realised how much he undervalued himself because he always wanted us three to have the simplest of careers. Which is ironic because my sister ended up one of the world’s leading barristers in International Law, my brother the CEO of a multinational advertising company and me, a successful international speaker and entrepreneur. I’d known that some of his dreams in life hadn’t worked out. He never finished school. He tried to start his own business’ when I was younger. I remember we’d go to the car auctions together. He’d put on his auction coat, and network with all the vendors, and pick his own “specials.” I was so proud when he’d bid for a car and win it. Then we’d arrange for it to be delivered and he’d get the mechanic to work on it. It was such a proud time in his life. But the car yard really stressed him. And he had to go back to work for other people, selling new cars. But no one he he’d ever worked with came to his funeral. From twenty years of his own business and many jobs. That’s what happens when your life changes a lot. His second wife (my step mother for 12 years) was an alcoholic, his third wife died of cancer and he survived his fourth by only a few years. Even if he was a little gruff, Dad was always kind. He was always giving. And even if he wasn’t the most emotionally expressive, he was always there. When I was seventeen he remarried and got the life he deserved. From then he always took an interest but never really understood. it. One time I visited him with my head shaved and from then no matter what I achieved in life, he always thought I was a monk and had given up earning money. It was strange given my Porsche in his driveway. Maybe that was more a reflection of the Dementia and Alzheimer’s that finally killed him. From seventeen I had decided to study self-mastery, which involved lots of weird experiments with my life like watermelon diets for 30 days and living without speaking for months on end. He become enthralled by it. Sending me articles. Sometimes jokes. Asking me details. I think he had this idea of himself as a grouchy old man, especially in times when he was so in grief, so alone. But that’s not how I saw him. Not at all. I saw him as the bravest person I ever knew. Knock down 8 get up 9, but it seemed to me, my Dad, knocked down 100 got up 101. A few hours before Dad’s death, he sat on the end of his hospital bed with his small bag packed ready to leave. He wasn’t going anywhere but Dad would forget where he was, and the nurses knew his routine, they’d check him back in as if it was his first day in hospital. I helped him unpack, again, for the 100th time, but this time, was the last. My Dad, never gave up loving life. So, maybe he was wrong about everything good is us coming from mum.
May 18, 2020