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People who have known or know my father, often tell me that I’m a dead spit. In some ways that really scares me. But really, it humbles me.
My old man was never the perfect role model. He drank too much, he smoked too much and let’s face it, he probably gambled too much. But he has always been my hero.
My childhood was nothing scary, but it wasn’t sugar coated either. My mother took my sister and I away from my father when I was just five. She had good reason to and even then I knew it. But I never held it against him. Or her for that matter.
He instantly and painfully became an every-second-weekend-dad.
Every second weekend. That became the only time I could spend with my father. It doesn’t sound like much, but we made the most of it.
Football was a passion that my father passed on to me at a very young age. I could tell story after story about me and dad at the footy. Like my first sip of beer. Drank from Maryborough’s 1998 premiership cup. “Looking great in ‘98” Dads T-shirt read. Or the time he threw me onto the MCG in front of 80,000 fans to get Andrew Dunkley’s autograph. No autograph and a $6000 dollar fine later, I was in tears. Or the time our beloved Swans won the ’96 preliminary final with a kick after the siren, and we spent 15 minutes dancing on the kitchen table. Some of my favourites. Some that I will never forget. I know what you’re probably thinking. But I wouldn’t change a second of it.
That passion was carried on to every aspect of my life. If I am to doing something, I will do it with all the passion in my body.
You should of seen his face when I told him I was playing soccer. You should of seen my face. “You’re just too little to play Aussie rules”. Mums words rang in my ears. Dad showed up to every single game I would ever play. Every club game, every squad game, every practice match. He might have driven my coaches crazy with his Aussie rules style of barracking and encouragement, but every person I ever played with loved him. And when I see them now, will always ask how he is going.
Every waking minute of every second weekend was spent kicking the footy, or hitting the cricket ball, or shooting penalties.
Dad had realised when he stuffed up. And he spent the rest of my life, devoting his own to his family. He would have given his last dollar to us kids and gone without food for the week if he had to. He loved us and he made us know it.
A couple of years ago dad had an incident that resulted in a major change in both of our lives. I remember it like it was yesterday. He called me on my birthday and told me he had won a large amount of money on the horses and was giving me a big chunk of it. It seemed far too good to be true.
It took a number of doctors and what seemed like an eternity in a hospital bed to diagnose dad with a rare form of epilepsy. For a period of time he couldn’t even remember who I was. And when he would finally begin to recognise my face, he would have a fit. And the lights would go off.
It was as if his brain was hitting the reset button. Every 10 minutes. Like clockwork. My heart was in a trillion pieces. My hero, my dad, my mate had no idea who I was.
After a while the doctors learned to control the fits and dads memory slowly came back. But he wasn’t the same. Everything was just a little off. Funny jokes we used to share were no longer funny. Places we used to love were no longer there. Music that had once had meaning made no sound.
For a very long time I felt like I had lost my father all-together. Until, as if by fate, Dad’s all time favourite footy player walked into work. I knew I had to get it. I didn’t know any different. I was a blubbering mess. “My dad...he loves you...I love you...oh Mate you’re our hero...could you make it out to John?..your a legend!” I jittered boyishly. When I called dad, we hadn’t talked in a while. That was strange. We used to talk every day. I told him what I had for him. He didn’t really care. I hung up in tears.
About a week later he returned the call. He was at a gig. One of my favourites. He had a signed CD and T-shirt for me. Too bad he had been drinking and the shirt was in a girls size, made out to Jackie. It didn’t matter. This time we were both in tears. He told me that he loved me and that he always would. I told him back.
I’m not going to lie. Our relationship isn’t the same. It never will be. But he showed me that night that he is the same old man in his heart. That even though some things may have changed, some things will always be the same.
My old man will always be my best mate.—Jack