I don’t often speak about my Dad. We had a slightly tumultuous relationship while he was alive. He was 41 when I was born and frankly, was over kids I think. I was exceptionally close to my Mum, but Dad was the grumpy person who slept all day and worked all night. I liked the fact that he worked at night. It meant I could climb into bed and snuggle up to my soft, squishy Mum. We could never make much noise during the day as he had to sleep. I resented him for that and for his grumpy demeanour.
It is only now, as an adult that I understand him a lot more. Unfortunately, I didn’t really try to understand him until after he’d died. I was too young to look at life through his eyes, so I have no real regrets though. The slightly detached relationship we had was the fault of both of us and while we weren’t overly close, we did love each other. He and Mum built a granny flat in our yard when I was married and lived with us. I helped Mum nurse him when he was dying of Cryptogenic Fibrosing Alveolitis.
Dad was born the youngest of two children in 1921. His parents were probably two of the most self centred and awful people that ever procreated. I didn’t know my grandfather and from all I have heard about him, I am glad. My grandmother was so completely wrapped up in herself that she had no time for her children or eventually her grandchildren. Not only did she not have time, she was spiteful and manipulative. As you may have now guessed, I had no time for my paternal grandmother. Thankfully my maternal grandmother had enough love to make up for 100 grandmothers.
His parents would go out and leave the two boys for days on end and tell them they could have only one biscuit. Hungry and scared, they were too terrified of the consequences to take more than the one biscuit. My grandparents finally divorced and when Dad was about 12 he was placed in an orphanage while his brother, my Uncle Fred, was placed out on a working farm. Sadly, both boys were told that the other one was with their mother which caused resentment between these brothers that lasted throughout the years. They adored each other but they didn’t find out the truth until they were grown men by which time, the feelings were deeply entrenched and much harder to shake.
I could talk for ages about the dreadful way in which these two men were treated and how, regardless of what she’d done, they did everything they could for their mother, still trying to win her love, well into their 60’s. To be honest, to really tell their story gives my grandmother too much air time which I don’t think she deserves. I still get upset to think of what Dad and Uncle Fred went through all their lives due to her narcissistic personality.
Dad was a great singer with a strong crooner type voice. He also played the euphonium in a marching band. He loved music with all his heart. It was definitely his passion. It was something we had in common. He served in the RAAF in World War 2 and as was often the case in men of that age, he was a heavy smoker.
Over the years, his health declined and after he retired he was diagnosed with Cryptogenic Fibrosing Alveolitis. This took so much from him. As a singer, I take for granted my lung capacity. I take it for granted that I can reach and hold a note for a sustained time. When he was sick, I realised how scary it must have been for him to have to fight for each breath. How sad he must have felt to no longer have the gift of song that was so important to him. I now try to always give thanks for the things I used to take for granted.
Lung Foundation Australia is running a campaign at the moment to raise awareness for how important Just One Breath can be. I have created a video for the campaign. To have the capacity to laugh, cry, sing, shout, talk, run, walk, jump and blow bubbles is something we need to celebrate. We can never know the importance of just one breath until you’ve seen someone you love struggling for their next one.