What do you want your children to remember of you?
That they brought me the greatest joy in my life, that I adore them all, that I admire them all as people and that they are not just gifts to me in my life but also to others.
I have learnt a lot from my kids and, without a doubt, most of my fondest memories are of times with my kids, their births, playing together, travelling together, holidays, breakfast, everything really. Such joy. I get a bit misty eyed just thinking back on all of those times.
But I can’t be with them forever, and they know that, and when I am gone I hope (like all dads I suspect) that they will remember the good things about me and maybe forget the things that they didn’t like about me or when I annoyed them or ignored them or whatever.
But most of all I hope they take those good things to ‘pay it forward’. I hope they cry a little bit, or maybe more, when I am gone but if they were to spend too much time missing me after I die then I would worry that I had failed as a dad, because I want them to take whatever good things they have learnt and experienced and pass them on to their kids or nieces/nephews or other kids in their communities i.e. pay it forward. Thinking and expecting that they might do that for those kids fills me with comfort.
What do you remember of your father?
My dad was a mixture of great dad and troubled soul. He took us camping, often without notice or planning (much to our mother’s concern), often just sleeping under the stars, and in summer took us down to the river for early morning swimming. He was funny and he cared about his kids a lot and we loved being with him. But he also drank a lot when stressed, especially during his midlife crisis, and this caused him to become depressed and to wear a black, angry mood for long periods. Then we avoided him.
But he taught us all to contribute to our community. He formed a committee of young people from our working class neighbourhood to run a weekly dance to keep kids off the street and to learn responsibility and leadership skills. It was a great success. It epitomized my dad’s desire to undertake community service to help young people.
One night a carload of drunken young men tried to force their way into the dance hall. They tried to pull dad outside to beat him up but he put his hands on each side of the door and dug his heels in. They tore his shirt to pieces. My sister was screaming.
He was not a churchgoer and despite the other problems he had in life at times with alcohol, illness and depression, he was a ‘giver’. He was Deputy Mayor of Bassendean and President of the RSL. I am intrigued to think of where his values came from. But he certainly modelled plenty of strong values for his three children. I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am doing but for him. Although he died 22 years ago, I thank him for his example.