The Kids & David Portrait

Our Dad David has nine children and funnily enough all to the same woman. You’d be surprised how many people ask me that question when they find out how many brothers and sisters I have. I’m Hayley, the eldest with six brothers…Oliver, Kristofor, Roscoe, Reuben, Marlow, Owen and two sisters…Shelley and Annabelle. And no, we’re not Catholic, and yes, we had a TV in our house growing up!

Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. That alone wasn’t too much of a shock as Dad’s mum also had the disease; it’s the fact that none of us were prepared for its cruel and rapid onset which has robbed us of Dad as we knew him. He’s only 65. Yep, Alzheimer's fucking sucks.

Dad remarried in 2017. He met Sarah, a beautiful, kind and caring woman. She’s also an animal lover which is a bonus for Dad. My siblings and I are grateful he found love again as he is so deserving of it and we’re also glad he is loved unconditionally in these last years of his life.

Recently they bought and renovated a gorgeous church in Pianagal, Northern Victoria. His later years were set to be everything he had dreamed of, with his wife, surrounded by native bushland and visits from his children and grandkids. Sadly this is no longer what the future holds for Dad. Below I share his kid’s favourite memories and what we love most about him.

Dad introduced me to coffee at age five. Getting up at sparrow’s fart to enjoy a Nescafe Blend 43 with two sugars was the ultimate way to start the day with him. Nowadays I find it hard to stomach instant coffee but enjoying a Blend 43 with Dad is a simple pleasure.

I respect Dad’s loyalty to his first wife and his enthusiasm for all things awesome. He has such a creative mind and selfless attitude towards his family. Dad is a beautiful man with such a kind nature and no ego.

“Walk the walk, don’t talk the talk”. This is what Dad would tell me as I told him my grand plans of becoming a marine biologist, environmental lawyer, publicist and yeah, the list goes on. Although I never achieved career success in any of these fields, Dad’s words of wisdom laid the foundations of how I set to achieve my goals today.

I remember Dad waking me up every morning at 3:45am to drive me to swimming training. He’d nudge me and whisper in my ear “Risky get up it’s time to go!”. We’d drive to Brighton freezing, waiting for the heater to come on. I’d train for two hours then Dad would go to the bakery and grab me and Kristofor blueberry muffins and an OJ. I appreciate everything Dad did for me that I took for granted.

Dad was always giving me wet kisses when he said good night. He’d get me all excited about waking up for the next morning, telling me there would be someone in the kitchen cupboard. It would always be pooh bear and he would rattle the cups and do a little voice and pretend pooh bear was in the cupboard!

My proudest moment is when I won the best and fairest in under 13’s footy. Dad always told me I could be an AFL superstar. The umpire cried saying I was the best footy player he’d ever seen and when I looked over at Dad he was so proud he had tears in his eyes. I will never forget this.

But the happiest I’ve ever seen Dad is when Annabelle and I brought home a puppy. We called him Simba. I can honestly say this dog was Dad’s best friend. Simba gave Dad the unconditional love that he was so desperately in search of. He was devastated when Mum told him he had to get rid of Simba.

Dad taught me how to see the beauty in everything. He has such incredible attention to detail. I continue to criticise every add on television to this day because of him. I love that he’d take us on drives over the weekend to appreciate our beautiful surroundings. His kind and gentle soul is so rare. As kids Dad made everything we did fun and way better than it could have been, just by him being there. His enthusiasm and passion will live on in all of us.

Dad always wanted to put a smile on our faces. He loved being silly and even just a drive to the shops would be the highlight of my day. He also gave me a passion for animals from beetles to lions. I’ll never forget when he took me to the museum for the first time. Dad is my greatest inspiration.

When I think back I smile because of all the great memories I have of Dad. After swimming lessons he would offer us anything we wanted from McDonald’s. As soon as it was time to pay he would simply say “sorry, wrong person” to the cashier and keep driving. At the time I thought he was the worst person ever but looking back I can see how funny this would have been for him and I have to admit I have now done that to my own family!

Dad was one not just for practical jokes but also storytelling. I would tell all my friends that Dad was not only an Australian Native Indian but also an astronaut, cowboy and many other characters. Dad was also a retired pirate. He hung a big black skull and crossbones flag at the top of the house; he was very believable. One day he took us to the beach for discovery of lost and buried treasure. And when we found that buried treasure I couldn’t bloody believe it. He went to so much effort to create something really special and wonderful for us kids. I will pass on these traditions to my children.

Dad showed me the importance of bringing humour, creativity and imagination to my parenting. He managed to make the dullest of moments around the house happy and fun. He never took himself seriously and with his Alzheimer's disease this is now very apparent! He also loved giving our friends nicknames and taking the piss out of each of them.

On a serious note though he is the most selfless person I have ever known. He sacrificed everything for his family. He never put himself first, ever. He gave us all that he had and for that I am eternally grateful.

We’ve all shared special moments with Dad but there seems to be one common theme that runs true throughout all our memories; our Dad is a kind, gentle, thoughtful, funny, creative, imaginative and passionate human.

In essence he is the boy who never grew up. We all love you Dad. Always have and always will.

Fuck. You. Alzheimer's.

—The Stephens Kids 
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