For those of you whom were unable to attend the funeral of my father, or whom did attend but would like to read this extended version of my own contribution to the family eulogy, I post this for you – also for those whom wish to understand where I came from and perhaps get a glimpse of how my father influenced my obsession with Ecological & Social Justice & Sustainability.
I don’t have anything written down because I know exactly what I want to say, as the very first thing I did when I got the news, was to isolate myself and write.
I want to thank my cousin Matthew for the interviews with my dad he uploaded to YouTube, partly because he asked questions I wouldn’t have thought of ( as my interests lay elsewhere ), and partly because it goes to the heart of what I want to say about my dad.
I used to go to my dad and ask him questions, but I can’t do that anymore, so I can only learn more about him through all of you whom also knew him from different perspectives, and that’s my gift to you today, to give you a quick perspective on my dad … I wish we had more time because I’d happily listen to everyone in this room talk, even if I had to set up a tent and campfire outside and stay here all week.
My first memories of dad were how strong he was, because I always saw myself as this size even when I was only very small, but he could walk with me attached to one leg and my sister Stephanie attached to the other, then when younger brother and sister Melanie and Ken came along, they’d be on his legs and Stephanie and I would be hanging off his back and shoulders.
He would take us out into the deep water at Lake Fyans in the Grampians national park, and he’d let us dive off his shoulders.
So we probably should have nicknamed him Jungle Jim.
He put a rope swing hanging from the ceiling with a kind of beanbag on the end at the house in Dimboola, so you could swing from where the kitchen was on one side of the room, to the other side which I think was a kind of dining area or something.
He or one of the other adults in the town had put a rope swing in a tree by the Wimmera river, so we could swing out and let go into the water.
He had a small row boat, and he’d take us out on various lakes and rivers, but when we hassled him to get a motor he declined, saying that he was ok just rowing … and I remember one time we were downstream from the weir on the Wimmera, where the water was crystal clear, and I swam under the boat and opened my eyes to see tiny fish swimming right in front of me … I’d never have seen that beauty of nature had my dad not been the way he was about things.
He would also get us to line up in an “emu parade” to bend down and pick up other people’s rubbish left behind … it was probably his idea of trying to make it fun, but perhaps the wrong approach, though I appreciate his intention today.
Dad put an engine block from a car, truck, or bus in the car port when I was only 5 or 6 and gave me tools saying “if you’re going to keep taking things apart, take that apart”
He taught my brother Ken and I to wee into the bowl by standing there with us and having pissing games … kind of like being a ghostbuster ( decades before that movie came out ), except we always crossed the streams.
Dad would take a single random word from something you said, turn it into a silly song, and sing it over and over again to annoy you, usually in front of your friends.
He loved The Goons ( Harry Seacomb, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers & the rest ), and you’d always hear dad’s silly “hee hee hee” laugh, or his big booming bellowing laugh ( usually laughing at nothing in particular ).
He was at one stage in my mind defined by brown leather sandals, speckled egg coloured long woollen socks folded over at the knee, navy blue shorts, pale check shirt, hair combed over the bald bit, and thick 1970s Rolf Harris style glasses … plus listening to Nana Mouskouri – ie: everything a child thought was boring and conservative … it took us many years of effort to get him to wear jeans and sneakers.
I found a map he had hand drawn and made of his wanderings around Dimboola, in which he had marked farmers paddocks, animal trails, and significant trees around the township and river.
He had a great way of teaching by letting us do things ourselves, including driving the car sitting on his lap when we were too small to reach or understand the pedals, so we’d just steer … but you’d always learn just by watching him as well … and then once we were big enough, he’d let us drive the car on our own with him in the passenger seat ( very illegal, but it was a small country town in the 70s, and you don’t arrest your only doctor in a remote location ).
Many years later when I was in my 20s, he called me while I was at work, giggling his head off, and when I asked what was up he said he’d just been smoking a joint … so he was certainly capable of surprising me
He was a brilliant caring GP as you all know: one of my high school colleagues said to me that his whole family are devastated, because dad was their GP, and they really loved and admired him … and another time a few years ago, when I drove to ballarat to see dad … I stopped in the service station to fill up the car, the guy saw my surname on my card when I went to pay he asked “you’re not a relation of doctor jim are you?”, and I replied “yeah he’s my dad” – then suddenly this guy starts raving “your dad’s amazing, he fixed my back! I was in pain and he fixed it!” … He was so happy that his pain had gone, and I was so proud.
So I’ve learned through others just how much he cared about people, but I also learned this through watching hi
I was staying at his house in Alfredton at one stage, and I went with him on a bunch of home calls at 3am on a cold rainy Sunday morning … and as he came out of one block of flats, where he’d just given an old lady an injection, and I asked him “do you actually enjoy getting up in the middle of the night to go do this kind of thing?”, and to my surprise he said “yes I really do, I enjoy helping people” ( or something to that effect ) … he was the kind of person who would ( if he believed it ) stand up for a principle … and helping people was one of his principles
I love kids and dogs, and I say the reason I’m good with kids is because it’s nice to have someone my own mental age to play with … and I got that playfulness from dad
Dad was a brilliant caring idiot with pain just like every single one of us here today … but he also had his joy: his carefree, make a mess, go on an adventure, get lost, get found again, sing a silly song side … the side we all loved … he was a silly man, a good man, and he is loved now and forever, just as I love every single one of you here today.
I want to end by thanking again my mum Irene, sister Stephanie, second mum Ellen, her daughter and my step-sister Natasha, for all their efforts in organising and communicating to let people like me know what was going on around the funeral.
Lastly and most importantly I want to thank Evie McColl whom was secretary at the surgery since a time when she was actually taller than me – she was more often than not my first port of call whenever I needed my dad, and I need her to know that she is family to me.