6 July 2020
My dad would have been 94 years old today. He passed away almost 9 years ago, but certain parts of his final few months feel as fresh and as sharp as if he died last week.
My dad eventually died after “doing a Lazarus” on a number of occasions – we would be told he likely wouldn’t survive the night, only to find him the next morning sitting up in bed, enjoying some custard for breakfast and wondering why we had this stunned look on our faces.
In our family, we all display certain traits that we describe as “Rankine” – whether it’s the skill – nay an incredible talent – to pick things up using only your toes, or a latent hoarding ability, or photographic interest, or a gardening fixation, or handyman talents,or purple front doors…. these are just some of the small things we attribute to Dad.
When asked to give an instant memory of Dad, one of the first that comes to me is the whistling Mum used to do to let Dad know that a meal, or morning or afternoon tea, was ready. Dad was rarely in the house – he would most likely be found in the shed or the garden, but the whistle (with the answering “yes I heard you, I’m on my way” whistle also worked from inside the house if Dad was in the study. Unspoken yet highly effective means of communication.
There’s obviously many many memories. Some fade a little as years progress, but some are a part of me and will always be there.
Dads love of the colour purple, by the way, had nothing to do with football. If pressed, he would generally say he followed the other West Australian team in the national competition, but watching any football games with Dad would invariably involve him commenting frequently that they were all “playing like schoolboys” and identifying emphatically where the umpires had got something wrong. The fact that I follow a team whose primary jumper colour is purple, is not significant in any way on Dads’ fixation with the colour.
Dad had a purple front door, purple gutters, wooden handles of tools in his shed were painted purple, a purple ladder, and we all have him purple shirts, socks and jumpers on every possible occasion.
Did he really really love the colour purple, or had he been given a free batch of purple paint that he had to use up???? We will never know, but for most of our childhood it was an unspoken but firmly held belief that Dads favourite colour was purple.
There’s a generic statement that people live on in the hearts of those who loved them, and it’s so true.
Dad’s funeral was, I hope, a celebration of his life and reflection of his impact on us all. We had a service in his home church in Busselton followed by the burial at the cemetery. It rained, but I had brought back some purple rain poncho’s from the US which got very good usage on the day.
I have been to funerals of very elderly people whose funerals were so sad and depressing, and also to funerals of very young people whose funerals were an wonderful uplifting celebration of the life of that person and the impact they had on their family and friends.
I’d like the latter type of funeral, please.
But when I’m 94 will be fine.