On the 31st March 2017, my father passed.
I became an ‘orphan’.
It’s been a long tough year and a bit.
We had been at peace with him closing his eyes for a wee while as the quality of his life had degenerated to being bed ridden most days or on a good day, propped up-right in a lounger with head hung down toward his chest, asleep. Sadly, dementia is a terrible existence to have to bare witness to.
The heartfelt gratefulness toward the nurses, doctors and more so my Step-Mum Margaret whom provided for my Dad in the most exemplary manner right up till the shut eye is solace to know that they would have helped with his happily ever after, where ever that may be.
Actually, I do know. It’s on a hillside overlooking the Koukourarata (Port Levy) harbour on Banks Peninsula. I helped dig the grave. I also helped my older brother David with getting out when he couldn’t from the depths after his turn at digging! Hah, I had his back. Or more like a foot hold!
The spot is tranquil, serene and my Dad’s Tūrangawaewae – his place to stand. Or now, his place to rest.
The beauty of such an event was the coming together of family to celebrate his life. Especially those young nephew and niece family members that were just face book relationships and whom I never knew personally. A dysfunctional family does that. So too a sibling with issues who carries a pet rock, unfortunately.
Nonetheless, stories of yesteryear flowed. Bad and good. Whether a tear of sadness or a tear of laughter. Reflective and re-framing. Noses rubbed. Some rubbed off! Certainly, a transitional experience.
My extraordinary memory will forever be the fortunate experience of sharing a tandem with my Dad. Watching him hobble (he had had five hip replacements so was lop-sided) down to the ebbing waves on the shores of Sumner Beach on the east coast of the South Island; to then rotate the pedals across the flatlands of the Canterbury Plains; to free wheel the down-hill sections of the South Island Alps backbone to the shores of Greymouth with the might of the Tasman Sea on the West Coast.
Made priceless with him telling one and all that he had cycled the ‘Coast to Coast’ when in fact, he rode what he pushed himself to do and then we threw the bike on the back of the van to drive some way’s up the road to then have another session of staying upright. Probably only 30 kms all up!
My Dad once gave me a ‘pounamu’ pennant that had an imprint of an Owl inscribed into the greenstone. In Maori our name ‘Ruru’ means Morepork which is a native New Zealand Owl. Before I gave the same pennant to my daughter Claire on her 21st birthday, I had the exact imprint tattooed on my right arm.
Being a minimalist, the tattoo has more personal depth to remember him by as our adventures to explore the planet will continue, eventually. Better than anything materialistic such as a medal or a wooden stick.
And, made extra significant when my son Cameron, daughter Claire, older brother David and his wife Janice, nephew Morgan Moa and niece Rebecca Moa too followed suit and had a similar tattoo inked on their person. Dad was so proud of them.
My half-brother John once gave me a piece of wisdom that become a mantra I’ve carried with me and lived by since all those summers ago. “Once your Dad is gone, it doesn’t matter what you want to say or what you don’t say, it’s too late.” Sure, I banged heads with me ole man, who doesn’t? But at the end of his days, we had a close relationship as any true son would have with his Dad. I just didn’t need to keep feathering an ego every day with face book postings that was more about ‘look at me with Dad, I’m the favourite’ to solicit ‘likes’ or smiley face images.
Everything that needed to be said to him, was said. Everything that was said by him to me, was said.
That’s the lesson I want to share with you. Own what you want to say; own what you don’t want to say. Do both before you become an orphan. And when you do become an orphan, let go and move on to leave the departed at peace versus continuing to use their name for further vanity purposes.
Except for when brother David returns to New Zealand of course and we play our golf game like we used to do as father and sons. Dad will no doubt be listening for the bullshit banter and get mentioned in there amongst it!
I’ll miss my Dad but don’t stress. The step-side of the family have adopted me. Yay! Something lost was something gained.
Let the arguments begin as to who the favourite step-sister is. Will come down to the best present on Christmas Day. As family.
Cheers Dad, you tough old bugger. Now may you R.I.P.