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Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy 85th Birthday Dad

Today is my Dad's 85th birthday.

Growing up, my Dad always said that the best birthday gift he'd ever received was me. I was born just 9 days before Dad's 45th birthday. He was incredibly excited about my arrival. In fact, anything to do with his girls filled him with joy. 

Not long after I was born, my Mum got sick, and so it was up to Dad to care for me. He tells the story about the time he placed me on the couch cushions that he had placed on the floor whilst warming a bottle of milk for me. Suddenly, he heard an almighty, "WAAAAH!" and ran in to find that I'd rolled off the cushions on to the floor. 

Mum says that, being deaf in one ear (he lost his hearing at a fairly young age after he contracted the mumps) he hadn't heard my sisters during the night when they were born, but with me, he had gotten up without fail. (You know, I think Hubby has selective deafness when it comes to getting up to the kids during the night. ;) )

Dad didn't have the easiest childhood. He was born and grew up in Albany, south of Perth. His Mum never left hospital after his birth, and died just six weeks after he was born. Both Mum and Dad can't recall from what (their memory isn't what it used to be), but Mum thinks it was cancer. In any case, losing a Mum at such a young age couldn't have been easy.

At 14, Dad left school to work full time on a farm. It was hard, very physical work, but the intensity of the lifestyle would no doubt make my Dad the fit person he always was and remains today. (The family bought him a bike for his 70th because he was getting around on my old Indi 500 at the time, and then Hubby and I bought him another road bike for his 80th birthday. He used to ride 10klms every day, but has since given the bike riding up.) 

At 18, he joined the Royal Australian Air Force (the RAAF). He didn't fly planes (I don't think he could because of his deafness), but he worked on them instead. It was during World War II, on a visit to the mining town (now city) of Kalgoorlie that he met my mother. She was working in a milk bar at the time. He offered her some chewing gum and walked her home. When separated by distance, Dad wrote to my Mum every day. Except the one time he was ill, and had a friend write on his behalf instead. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

Some of the relationships Dad had with his siblings who were born after his father remarried have been close, and some have not. Pretty much, Mum, my sisters and I became his focus. He'd have done/ would do anything for us. Dad has always said how proud he was of his three girls, so you can imagine how devastating it must have been for him when my sister, Valda, died at age 17 (when I was still a baby). 

Yet, he and Mum supported one another through my sister's death and he has been a very loving husband and father. 

It was Dad who taught me how to ride my first bike, and then (much) later, a car. It was Dad who built me my gorgeous childhood cubby house. It was Dad who hung a tyre on a rope as a makeshift swing for me. It was Dad who taught me how to dance at my cousin's wedding. It was Dad who comforted me when Mum was in hospital when I was a child, and who didn't complain when I asked him to play - for the millionth time - 'the hungry crab' (he would use his fingers as a crab and try to grab mine, which I would pull away to avoid being 'snapped'). It was Dad who worked to ensure my Mum could stay home with me, and I could have what I needed. It was Dad who, after receiving my call at 2am in the morning one night when I was in my early 20s because my car wouldn't start, came without complaint and drove me home. 

I could go on and on and on...

But instead, I'll say...Happy Birthday Dad. I love you.



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