I WANT to talk about fathers – three in particular. They have all inspired me, provided me with life lessons, and have all contributed to my upbringing. But in entirely different ways.
The first is my mother’s father – Grandpa. He was a tall, strong man with hands like dinner plates.
Despite his vice-like handshake, his skin was soft.
He used to hand feed a peewee bird from the backdoor every day, and he missed it when the bird eventually didn’t return.
Grandpa was gentle, and stubborn and emotional, particularly in his later years.
Although he died almost six years ago, some traits remain vivid in my memory – his shuffling walk – the way he pushed his glasses up his nose – and that Ukrainian accent saying “Ohh!” and “What they call?”
Even just the high-pitched laugh which always sounded like he was surprised, is another.
Somehow, this tremendous man taught me not only how to enjoy those rare and unique quirks of life, but how to be patient enough to see them – be it the flower bud in the fence, the familiarity of socks and sandals, or the bird at the backdoor.
Grandpa was also Catholic. So it was because of him that my mother was raised Catholic, which in turn led to me being raised Catholic. And with that he truly blessed me.
The second father, is a father to us all – the Holy Father.
Sure, in recent years his face has changed, but what he stands for has not.
The Pope’s presence is both personally welcoming and universally shared. On those celebrated and prayerful occasions I have seen the pope (in my case, Pope Benedict XVI) I have felt both one in a million and one of a million at the same time.
It’s a similar sensation at Communion. During Communion, you are acknowledging Christ offering up His body for you, as a loved individual, worthy of saving.
You are also acknowledging that Christ is giving up His body for all people, and by accepting the bread you enter into Communion not only with Christ, but with the congregation and with all who have accepted the body before you.
You are one in a million, and one of a million at the same time. And the Holy Father is a part of this communion too.
The final father is of course my dad, Arch. Throughout my life, Dad has successfully fulfilled his role as the patriarch of my immediate family.
He taught both his daughters how to pitch tents, change tyres, use a hammer and drive, while still allowing us to play with Barbies and doing our hair.
To outsiders, my father is a quiet man.
In contrast I grew up with Mum exclaiming “Geez, your father’s noisy!” whenever he retired to his sanctuary, The Shed.
My dad would know the time to remain silent, the time to offer a joke (yes, a “Dad Joke”), and the time to let me in on the game.
And there are some things for which Dad has always been reliable – to fix things, to remove bugs, and a shoulder to rest my head on at the dinner table.
I have seen my father laugh, cry, curse and smile, and when he does those things I feel the urge to do it myself.
We recently visited Darwin for my cousin’s wedding. Having lived there for 20 years and raising both their daughters, the return was particularly special for my parents.
On our first night, we had dinner with longtime friends of Mum and Dad.
One of the them was Dad’s best man at his wedding, Skippy. As the night – and reminiscing – progressed, Skip began telling my sister and I stories of when he and Dad would go rally car driving together – Skippy the driver, Dad the navigator.
I was enthralled. These were stories of my father before he was a father – of Arch the Mate, not Arch the Dad.
I felt like I was learning about an entirely new person, when really I was learning about what makes this man the person he is now – the person I know and love.
While there are many things I can say my Dad has taught me, there are a thousand more things I could thank him for; and top of the list is how he has always let me be me.
Although seemingly quiet, he’s nurtured me in being loud.
Although not religious, he’s never prevented me from celebrating my faith.
Although he’s possibly learnt things the hard way, he’s never bubble-wrapped me so I can’t learn for myself.
He simply sits in the passenger seat and suggests ways to go; the navigator.
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