Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today is my father's 70th birthday. He didn't want a party, or a family dinner, or indeed any celebration at all. This is pretty typical, he's fairly low-key. Except when he sings. His one concession to celebrating his birthday was to try a Thai laksa soup for the first time. He'll go to the football this week as usual, although he won't play golf on Sunday as it's Father's Day. Actually, he would have played golf as he always does (he even played golf on my 40th birthday), but being secretary of his club the rest of the members threatened mutiny if he scheduled a game on that day. So he'll garden instead or fix something or build something.

That won't be unusual. He's always gardening, fixing something or building something. I don't think he even noticed the ramp down from retirement - it just meant more time to work hard at home. I don't actually have many photos of him looking at the camera as he's always busy. He's a mercurial bundle of ideas and energy moving from project to project like a swarm of worker bees. We've learned to harness this energy, my mother and I, or it can get out of hand. She wanted a shadehouse in the garden. The shadehouse he built is beautiful but you need a cut lunch to traverse it and it's taller than the actual house. It even includes a series of fishponds. They took to keeping and breeding birds and needed an aviary so he built eight or nine. His suburban block has a show quality garden that changes constantly but flowers all year round under the sheer force of his will and must have elastic fences to contain all his plans.
His own house and garden doesn't exhaust him so he works on ours as well. I just mentioned the front steps of our house had crumbling mortar. He re-built the entire front veranda wall and repointed it. Mostly in the blazing sun. SO mumbled something about taking the wheelbarrow around the long way to get from the garden shed to the compost heap so Dad built a little stone bridge over the creek, complete with parapets. He used stones he collected from the paddocks by hand.
He's on call for us 24/7 when disaster strikes and never seems to complain. He turns up whenever help is needed and works like a navvy. He clears weeds like a locust, prunes shrubs like a hurricane and makes a good third person for working with sheep as his diverse life has given him many rural skills and all sorts of useful knowledge. He is a former dairy farmer, market gardener and abattoir manager among many other things. We got used to him meeting people he knows in all sorts of locations including mountain tops, fishing ports, tropical rainforests, various other states of Australia and running into an old mate on one occasion in a natural cave complex about 100 feet underground. He's still making new friends.

He doesn't have any human grandchildren so he calls himself Grandpaws and makes things for the pets instead. They all adore him. His current project is a wooden bed for Snowy the beagle but true to form we have to collect it with the ute as it won't fit in his car.

He is the salt of the earth, a force of nature and a cheerful, modest and friendly man. I have dozens of stories of his thoughtfulness and kindness. He's always turning up with presents for us, tools, plants or things that might come in useful. Our work here would not have progressed nearly as quickly or as well without his help and we are so grateful for it all. Happy Birthday Dad.