Alice Springs Aust
Work travels had me in central Australia (Alice Springs NT) last week. Escaping a southern winter for a few days is always a good and working with like-minded teachers/ business leaders, whose efforts to support and prepare the regions younger people for work is always rewarding.
It was of course the week heavy with the disgraceful loss of life that is the Malaysian Airlines tragedy. It was a week where I felt the need to ‘disconnect’ from the news………. The Middle East, Israel/ Hmaas, male baby sitter raping children, government child care ‘guardians’ who turn out to be predators, Gerard Baden-Clay – geez!! And just as I was losing the fight to ‘look up’ and see all the good stuff going on, a young man at my speaking gig says ……..
“You old guys are lucky you know. All the mess you’ve made, all the fighting and conflict- the ‘my dick is bigger than you’re dick’ wars………. But don’t worry he says, “women will eventually be in charge and we will all find all the work we need linked to fixing your mess”. A bit harsh I first thought….. then I found myself smiling at him, “well put, thanks. When can I hand over the reins”. “Any time Chris, we are mostly ready”, he said. applause all round………
At day’s end I headed to a local lookout to take in the view and let another very busy day seep from me. I sipped an icy cold beer, Lana Del Rey was flowing through my head as the sun buried itself in the chilly desert. Good luck young man I thought, if the next generation of ‘doers and leaders’ thinks like you I’ve nothing to worry about.
kind of ironic that the lookout was also a war memorial……..
A week of travel has seen me in Australia’s very South- Tasmania. Along with a colleague I was presenting to many varied groups on the topic of Mentoring and how as adults there are some very simple/ practical things we can do to encourage, engage and enhanced confidence in the next generation of those transitioning from school to work. I always learn so much from the insights and experience of others, thanks ‘Tassie’ for the company and the optimism top up!
Mt Wellington, you dished out the pain in the most beautiful way !
I’d been travelling the 1800k trip home to visit my sick dad on a regular basis. Like many men from his era he had been stuck down with dreaded cancer a few years ago and after some intial positive interventions, he was now losing the fight.
Dad not known for shying away from a fight had battled hard, the boxer in him was evident early as he took all then dreaded results ‘on the chin’, shaped up and stepped up for more.
Edward or ‘Ted’ as I’d only ever heard him called was at his best around other people. My dad had spent his younger years in country Victoria where he did what ever was available at the time to keep himself employed. I know he did everything from driving the local school bus to assisting at the local mortuary in the basement of the local hospital. He was such a great story teller and practical joker. I remember so many ‘yarns’ from dad, my brothers and I rarely knew what was fact or fiction as I’m sure was the same for many others. The story of him hiding under a sheet at the local morgue and sitting ‘bolt upright’ as a few of his mates and girlfriends called in to see him is one of my favourites. I’d heard it so many times over the years but I loved it, I almost felt like I was there when it happened.
Dad like many boys from that era worked from a very young age and had just kept on working. He had missed the call up for the War but he hadn’t missed out the post war lack of money, jobs and very difficult times. Dads CV would include working in shearing sheds, a cook, school bus driver (even without a licence), barmen at numerous country pubs and a boxer. Boxing was a real love of my dad. We always had a crude boxing ring at home and my brothers and I had all learnt to dance the ‘duck and weave’ as he called it.
My dad had boxed and won many formal fights but he was at his best in the informal ‘tent’ boxing troops that set up on the outskirts of many country towns. I think he loved the smokey, noisy, beer swilling atmosphere and the cash of course, he regularly got a good fist full of crumpled damp notes to bring home.
On this visit home I’d really noticed how much dad had wasted away. It was the first time he hadn’t walked out the front door to meet me as I walked down the path. On this trip I had my two very cute daughters with me. Distance had meant dad hadn’t seen his granddaughters any where near enough these last few years, I loved seeing my ‘tough old dad’ melt at the site of these two giggling little cherubs.
Time to leave came around as it always did, I was conscious of his energy / fatigue levels and with a long drive a head of us the girls had said there sweet goodbyes to ‘grandpa Ted’ and were all strapped in the car. As I walked back towards the front door I could feel the emotion, the gravity of the situation. I sat next to my dad on his bed and we held hands. I didn’t know what to say this time. He didn’t take up much room in his big old bed any more, he was frail and he hated that. “I’ll see you next trip”, wasn’t going to cut it this time.
“Son’ he said. “there are times when I haven’t been the greatest dad to you and your brothers……… and I’m sorry’. A heavy silence hung over us, I fought back tears thinking of how hard he had initially fought this debilitating disease. I squeezed his hand a little tighter and told him that there were times when I could’ve been a better son and ‘I’m so very sorry dad’.
“I love you son”, “promise me you’ll wear your uniform at my funeral” he said with a stern, pride filled look in his eye.
I hugged my wonderful dad and remember saying ‘dad we will probably not see each other again’… we were crying together for perhaps the first time.
With tears rolling down my face, feeling like nothing more than a ‘passenger’ unable to do or offer something, I left. I opened the car door and heard my girls high pitched squeal of ‘grandpa Ted, grandpa Ted. Though teary eyes and with a heavy heart I looked back at dads front door one more time and there he was- proud as can be. Dad had found a way to get himself from his bed to the front door to wave us off as he had done for every visitor, for as long as I can remember.
My wonderful dad had a wonderful send off only two weeks later.
Sitting in the front row with my brother the small church felt very full behind me. I stood, straightened my tie, checked the Gold buttons on my Air Force uniform, took the two steps to the lecturn and turned to see not an empty seat in the place. So many people…..”If my dad had known this many of you were going to turn up, he would’ve charged admission”, we all laughed…….
The girls and I miss you dad, your great stories live on in me.
Very cold floor tiles reminded me that it was a brisk winter morning here in Adelaide that I was heading out into. I zipped up my cycling jersey and gulped down the last of my ‘strong flat white’ in preparation for the cold blast that was about to confront me outside.
I’ve been riding and racing bikes since I was a kid and this morning like many others was one of those ‘sessions’ that would have been easy to pass on but I know how good it makes me feel when I ride……. ‘Eddy’ has been a big part of my sanity, a reliable partner that has been with me on long rides here and on some of the most beautiful monster ‘cols’ in Europe.
I reset the bike computer, a few beeps and I see a healthy heart rate of 55 BPM on the small screen. Gloves on (thick ones today), 3 degrees now flashing at me from the handle bars -didn’t need to see that, Helmet on, lock one foot in with a sharp ‘crack’ into the pedals, garage door up and out I roll.
No cars, only the odd dim light in the houses, a left turn to see the crimson outline of the Mt Lofty Ranges ahead….. the air gets colder on my face as I select another gear, click zzzzzzzzzzzzzz the sound of mechanical harmony is sweet to my ears. The bike as high-tech as its now appears is still just a simple frame with an exposed gear box and a body driving it. I love the sound of a well-adjusted finely meshed chain, gears and wheels can make. At its best it’s so quiet you can hear everything else around you and I know this crisp clear morning will offer me a chance to ‘unthink’ by the kilometer as I accelerate towards the hills.
I’m into the first climb, its colder now as i think of my two girls tucked up warm in bed. I’m so proud of them and what we’ve been able to manage as a trio these past years, I change gears again get out of the seat, power up, smile and let Eddy know who’s in charge. Heart rate climbing through the 190’s cold air blasting my face and smiling like I’ve not a care in the world, ahhh Eddy what would I do without you.
When resilience and optimism supplies are low, the day can feel very dark…
I’ve learnt a lot about myself (and many others) over the past few years. I know that self talk, a plan (if only for the next few hours) and a friend or two can add a flicker of light to a what feels like a very dark day. As you get a few things done (maybe its write a grocery list), self talk becomes easier, more positive. You feel ok (all be it in short doses) and more light begins to penetrate that dark space that is the hurt, the anxiety, the feeling of failure. As the light goes from a faint candle like flicker to that of a warmly lit space, the way ahead becomes visible, optimism can surface and you feel the drip feeding of resilience flowing.
I can remember that night where I was able to lay in bed without hearing my heart pounding,throbbing between my temples. My light was back on.
Despite talking out loud most of the way home ‘keep your shit together tonight’, ‘no more tears’, ‘just focus on the little things’……….as I put the key in the front door I could feel the wave of emptiness waiting to greet me. Every day I would plan to be ‘better’ this time when I got home. My youngest daughter was still at school, I so desperately wanted her to come home to a place, to a dad that was at least ‘ok’. I felt pretty confident this time……….
Many of these ‘coming home’ moments are almost non recognisable in my memory , perhaps gone forever. I’m so glad that my ‘emotional self’ kept an eye out for me and deleted or hid them from me. There were many occasions where I just fell onto the bed and lay there, trying not to think about it while all the time having a head and heart full of it….. I was so very hurt, total disbelief….. anger was also bubbling away, but I had to park my thoughts and feelings and make some noise in the kitchen, make this place seem a bit normal for my Dani my youngest daughter.
Dani and I had been on our own when all the infidelity pieces had come together for me, my eldest daughter Tyler was still on a school trip of a lifetime to Italy while Dani and I were managing the simple stuff at home. Their mother had convinced us that she was feeling a bit ‘sad about life’ and wanted to be with her best friend and cousin in Europe, we were worried but also very supportive of her needs. It seemed a great opportunity to have some ‘dad and Dani’ time which included her big love for her horse and all things that go with that. After being a very active ‘dad’ with both my girls I had spent the last few years recovering from multiple leg surgeries after being hit by a car while out cycling. I was moving pretty well these days, back at work, back on the bike and back helping out with all things Horsey, ‘Dani and dad time’ was going to be a good for me.
Watching Moto GP and F1 with my girls is great fun but when we sit around the dinner table and they offer me ‘girlfriend’ advice I realise the sometimes enviable position I find myself in as a dad living with his daughters…… It took a while for me though.