Dear Dad

When I think of you Dad, I’m overwhelmed with love, but not just any kind of love. A pure love that is forgiving, limitless, unconditional and shared with no expectation of return or exchange, because simply put, you loved us and you loved life like no other.

As a little girl, people would remark that I had inherited my Daddy’s genes. Your dark hair and eyes, your infectious smile and your hilarious laugh, and even then as a 4-5 year old, I would beam back with pride.

I would hang onto your every word as you spoke about different cultures, places and ways of life, how the configuration of the beach would change with each season, the names of trees and bush life as we explored rainforest floors, how food always tasted better with a bit of spice, and what quality music truly sounded like amongst a sea of rubbish.

33 years later, and nothing has changed.

Every decision I ever made, I turned to you for advice. When I decided to return to university, to step into the world of international development, to travel and then travel some more, to freelance write, to take over a yoga studio, to get married, to start a family – I turned to you.

Your words kept me grounded and reminded me of who I truly am whenever I got lost. And in all honestly Dad, everything I’ve ever done and achieved comes back to you – your inspiration, your guidance, your lead.

It’s probably no surprise to the people who knew you well that you hated wasting time. You always wanted to do, see and experience life for all it had to offer, and that’s what makes you the ultimate teacher.

The classroom was your playground for encouraging your students to never leave a question unturned. To never shy away from a challenge. To be driven by curiosity. Till the very day of your passing, students stopped you in the street, at shopping centres, on hospital wards and even train trips to say how you impacted their life. How your passion, enthusiasm and dedication inspired them to live out their dreams and how they wished there were more teachers like you on this planet.

People would often say to me, “What’s it like being a teacher’s daughter at the same school?”

I would reply “proud”, because I wasn’t just any teacher’s daughter – I was Mr Davies’ daughter. We would drive to a from school each day, talking, dreaming and scheming, and the first thing you, Jodie and I would do when we got home, was change into our swimmers and head straight to the beach for a dip before the sun went down for the day followed by a juicy mango before dinner.

Even as you tried to retire, the education department wouldn’t let you. The University of Newcastle wanted you to continue your work supporting and mentoring students in their final years of teaching on their school pracs and this you truly enjoyed.

But again, the ultimate teacher that you are, you taught us that travel was by far the best kind of education that no school or university could attempt to gift us. And my god did you love to travel.

At the ripe age of 23, you had never set foot out of Australia, and when you had saved up enough money, you took mum straight to Nepal. You were transformed by the mysticism and richness of a land so foreign to what you knew, and just like that, you were transfixed.

I remember Jodie and I sitting on the floor in our lounge room, listening to you tell stories of your many adventures from your corner chair. There was the time you and mum caught a public bus from Nepal to Varanasi in India for 16 hours as locals boarded with their sheep, goats and roosters, to exploring India and temple floors covered in black snakes, to stories of befriended rickshaw drivers who saved your life more than once. You described Ella in Sri Lanka as heaven on a hilltop. Srinagar in Kashmir stole your heart. Hoi An in Vietnam was the perfect sanctuary. Dhulikhel in Nepal was beyond the tourist trail, just the way you liked it. Chang Mai in Thailand was rich is culture. Angkor Wat in Cambodia (especially the pink temple) was ornate and striking.

Even from your hospital bed the last few weeks, you would ask your nurses and doctors about their background and heritage, and before long, would be telling them the tales of where you had been, recounting historical events and cultural intricacies, educating them along the way.

Something significantly shifted in your world though when you discovered Bali some 35 years ago. You always said it was your second home – somewhere you felt truly yourself. It didn’t take you long before I was swung over your shoulders at 6 months old, walking the early morning markets of Ubud, watching on as men and women prepared their trinkets and produce for the day ahead. We played among the ducks in the rice fields, swam in the ocean, meet new and fascinating people… You always loved having a chat.

Then five years ago, the tables turned. I had the pleasure of showing you and mum, mine and Jason’s new home in London, somewhere you had never been before. The continent of Europe had opened up to you and you were enthralled. We enjoyed ciders in the park, market life, music and food on busy Sundays, pub dinners with our friends, cheese and wine in small Italian villages, afternoons roaming book stores, cafes, and museums in Pairs, getting lost in old medieval towns, and eating gelato, after gelato, after gelato.

I listened on to the new stories you accrued… Florence in Italy had a certain history that lured you in. Leon in France was some kind a fairytale land. Seville in Spain was the ideal Spanish hideaway. Lisbon in Portugal had a quirk that matched your sense of humour and sensibility.

One memory though that has been replaying in my mind the last week is a non-spectacular Wednesday afternoon 6 or more months ago from right here at home. I decided to walk from my house in North Avoca to the pines at Avoca Beach to sit, breathe, and meditate to settle my busy mind. With my eyes closed and the sound of the waves in the near distance, I could start to sense someone was walking towards me and then they paused. I kept my eyes closed some time longer before I opened them to be greeted with your gleaming face. You were on your afternoon walk and coincidentally found me. We sat watching the waves roll in and surfers dance across the water, chatting the afternoon away before walking back home to our respective ends of the beach. You were and still are, my best friend Dad.

I know while this world is devastated by your departure, the heavens are laughing and singing… Lucky bastards.

When I close my eyes now, I hear your voice. I see your face, your hands, your feet. I feel you hold my shoulders and squeeze me, staring deeply into my soul, the way you do, saying so much more than any words could attempt to convey.

You and I shared a profound love. A unique and beautiful relationship between father and daughter that not many people are privileged to experience in a lifetime. The last three years of fighting Myelo-Dysplasia Syndrome (MDS) – a blood cancer – only fortified the bond we shared. You didn’t always see your own strength and bravery, but I’ve never known someone so bold and determined to rewrite the cards you were drawn, not for you, but for us.

You were a man of integrity, justice and strong ethical values. You were stubborn at times, a perfectionist by nature, and a freedom seeker to your very core. Family was everything to you. Everything you did, you did for us.

Whether you were going out for dinner, or taking a trip somewhere, you would still after 41 years of marriage refer to mum as your girlfriend to us. You were high school sweethearts and you navigated life obstacles hand in hand.

I know Jason and I was gifted this baby, your second grandchild, at this time to help me through your loss. I know you will be guiding, supporting and watching over me as I attempt to be the very best mother I can be, just like you were the very best father to me. You told me all the time what a wonderful mother I would be, and how much you loved Jason and the way he cared for me. I’ll always hold those words close as we journey forward.

We tried our best to coordinate our wedding day in between your treatments, but sadly, we didn’t quite make it. When we do decide to tie the knot, I’ll take comfort in knowing that a part of you will be there in your grandchild.

Dad, I vow to live out the rest of my life with you in my heart. I’ll see the world, I’ll create landmark change, I’ll teach, guide, mentor, I’ll love my family inside out, I’ll take stock of the simple things, I’ll swim in the ocean, snorkel our reefs, and walk the sand with you in my heart.

Our love is so deep and so real, which makes this pain all the more palpable. But I’m honoured. I’m honoured that I get to share in the journey of this life with you, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So in this unguarded moment (and you know exactly what I mean Dad), I’m afraid I love you more.

And one day, not right now, I’ll be able to smile infectiously again and laugh with hilarity for the two of us.

I’ll forever be your sweetie pop …


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