Thursday, August 14, 2008

Father figure

I'm going to tell you the story of my hero. The bravest, most courageous, generous and loving man I know. My Dad.

When Dad was a young man he trained as a carpenter before joining the Australian Army. He did two tours of Vietnam, the first as a Tunnel Rat and the second as a Vampire. When we were growing up Dad spoke little of his time in the war but he collected all the books and literature he could about it. Both of the roles in which Dad served put him into situations in which I'm sure he witnessed countless horrors and so none of us ever pushed Dad into talking about it. He played a vital role however and his children are immensely proud of him.

When Dad returned from the the war he became a Prison Officer and started off working at Fremantle Prison. Once he was fully trained he was transferred to several regional prisons, including Wyndam where he met my Mum. Mum actually lied about her age when they met as there was a nine year age difference between them. I don't think it bothered Dad much that he had a younger girlfriend as they became quite serious and after the birth of my older sister Jo they married (the second marriage for my Dad as he had married earlier and had had a son, my half brother Scott).
Dad was soon transferred to Pardelup Prison farm where I was born and a couple of years later we were transferred again to Roebourne where my younger sister Barb was born. We stayed in Roebourne for about eight years and in that time Mum and Dad went through quite a lot. I was constantly hospitalised with my asthma and Barb came down with chicken pox which led to a rare blood disorder in which her platelets were destroyed. She was kept in isolation for months and if anyone even brushed against her she would haemorrhage. Several blood transfusions later she was released home but it was years before she was well again.

Eventually Dad was transferred to Bandyup and we moved down to Perth. Dad has a wanderlust that he has passed on to all of his daughters and so none of us can ever sit still. Every weekend that Dad wasn't working he would take us out and about. Almost all of the places that I'll be taking Boo and Mouse in October are 'Dad places'. He would take us to Mundaring Weir one week, Hillaries Boat Harbour the next, then we'd be off for a bbq at John Forrest National Park or swimming at Lake Leschenaultia. Dad also introduced me to Cricket and whenever there was a game on at the WACA he'd take us there or we'd watch the away games at home together. When Barb started playing Dad would take her to the games and I'd tag along to watch. He was always interested in getting us out of the house and we always had so much fun.

Mum and Dad split when I was 17 and that was really rough. I remember one night when Dad slept the night in the spare bedroom - I stood in the hall knowing that Mum was down one end and Dad was down the other and I just burst into tears, knowing that it was never going to be the same.
Dad moved out shortly afterwards but we still saw him as much as we could. Jo had Darcie and he became such a doting Poppy. I was working as a manager at KFC at the time and when I had days off during the week I'd meet up with Dad and my sisters and we'd take Darcie out to new parks and 'Dad places'.

Dad was still working at Bandyup as a Senior Prison Officer even though he'd passed retirement age. On the 27th of September, 2001 a cell fire broke out and Dad was the first on the scene. He risked personal injury to help several prisoners to safety and was awarded a Commendation by the Justice Department for his 'dedication, courage and outstanding commitment to duty'.
Dad eventually retired but continued to work at the prison on contract.

Soon Dad met Dianne online and we all knew that it was getting serious. Di lived in Canada and it wasn't long before Dad booked a ticket and headed off for a few weeks to meet her in person. He returned but not for long, organising to go back to Canada for a six month stint. He did this several times, staying there for six months and then coming back here for the next six to spend time with his growing brood of grandchildren. Barb has three children and all of them dote on their Poppy.
Christian and I married in 2003 and Dad and Di came over for the occasion. Di is a lovely woman and we all got along like a house on fire. After returning to Canada, they two got married and we couldn't be happier having Di as a step mother. Dad had to come back here to apply for residency over there and I must say we were rather heartbroken at having Dad leave for good. The kids were miserable and miss him as much as us older kids do.

As the trip of Boo and Mouse comes to an end, I'll be getting ready to fly out to Canada to spend some time with my Dad and I am so excited. Jo and Darce are going too but are flying out several weeks before me. We have so many plans and it's going to be fantastic to catch up. There are so many things Dad wants to show us and his wanderlust will be well taxed. I doubt we'll be spending much time in the house while we're there.

I guess the whole point of this post is that sometimes we take certain people for granted and don't fully appreciate them while they're here. So I'm going to say this...

"Dad, we've never been a family that really vocalise our feelings but I want you to know that I love you and you're the best Dad a girl could hope for. Thanks so much for everything you've done for me and I cannot wait to see you come October."


NEO said...

That is lovely, I wish I could say the same about people who used to be in my life, but it isn't always about me.
When you go to Canada you have to come see me ok.

Accipiter said...

You're right: that [i]was[/i] "rather soppy". . .yet also a good post. ;-)

It's good to see that you're still close to your family even when they're far away and you all have gone through a lot.

And I have a lot of respect for anybody who was a Tunnel Rat. That sort of thing is most definitely not something you do for the fun of it.

Mouse said...

That was a lovely post, sweetie.

Shawna said...

What a wonderful tribute to your dad! I'm glad you've been able to stay close to him.
Remember, if you manage to hit Montana, you'll have to stop and see Dave, the clan, and me!


daveprime said...

It sounds like you have really been blessed in your "choice" of parents. :)

I hope you have a wonderful time in CanookLand, and if you get close to the border, give Shawna and I a shout!

oppiejoe said...


DavePrime said...

Wow! LOL Those ARE highly hung doors. So far i made it through day one. (That playground looks like terrific fun, but no way would it get past the safety inspectors of today!) :)

I look forward to tomorrow! (I am going to read one day a day, if you know what I mean! LOL

Looks like great fun, Nettie!