Thursday, 28 February 2013
MY DAD . . . . WAS AN OLD SCHOOL SEADOG IN THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY . . . . HE JOINED UP IN 1939 AS AN ORDINARY SEAMAN AND WORKED UP THE HARD WAY TO COMMANDER, RETIRING IN 1976 . . . . HE COULD DO EVERYTHING HIMSELF, MAKE FINE FURNITURE, INSANE CALLIGRAPHY, FIX OLD CLOCKS, REBUILD ENGINES, DESIGN HOUSES, INCLUDING THE ONE I LIVE IN, FREAKSHOW MATHS, A MASTER OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE . . . . A TRUE SELF MADE MAN.
His life of seriously hard yakka afforded me the 'ability' to do what many accidentally ungrateful kids do and choose to be a lazy little fucker early on in life, if it involved hard work, I wasn't interested, if it required dedication, it was too hard, if perseverance was part of the equation I didn't have the 'gumption' as he would call it . . . . no wonder he was always on my case, "you're as good as ten men short !!" he'd yell at me while I was drifting off into dreamland while holding a spanner or a piece of wood, or "if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand bloody times !!" if my shoddy, half-arsed attempt at doing something ended in a shoddy, half-arsed result . . . . like a lot of blokes from working class backgrounds growing up in the Depression, fucking about wasn't anything they could tolerate, his old man had dropped him off at school one morning in the early thirties and just fucking split, never seen again, leaving dad and his two brothers to look after his mum and gran . . . . what a cunt !!! The thing I regret so much now is not paying attention, always thinking of how soon I could 'escape' Stalag Williams and piss off and ride my bike or go and skate with my friends, make my military models, anything other than having to "apply myself to the job at hand", one seriously lazy little bastard for sure . . . . I knew it too, but it didn't make no nevermind.
Anyways . . . . dad was pretty much the all-round genius, drawing, painting, whatever, and it was always brilliant, it was pretty damned intimidating for an only child of the male persuasion, my sister, who I never knew, was killed in a car wreck four years before my year of manufacture, lucky for me, my mum survived, dad was at sea. I knew by age seven that I wanted nothing to do with discipline, uniforms, application, dedication, any of it, maths, science, engines, all the shit I grew to love required hard work and concentration, fuck that . . . . how I wish all the things he said had actually stuck in my tiny, self absorbed mind, I might be able to do so much more with all the things I love than I can now, but, you live and you learn, sometimes though it's all too late.
When the President of the good ole U.S of A, Lyndon Baines Johnson, visited Australia in 1966, my father, who by this stage had become the Fleet Communicator and heavily involved in ultra secret spying shit at the very pointy end of Naval Intelligence and Communications, was given the task of organising and co-ordinating all of LBJ's links back to the U.S via satellite and land line hook-ups for his entire trip . . . . Vietnam was becoming enormous and our Prime Minister had made his arse sucking 'all the way with LBJ' speech, so that's how the country rolled, even after Harold Holt went missing having a dip in the ocean . . . .
I guess the old man musta done his usual brilliant job with it all because at the end of his southern sojourn to the land of Oz, the man who succeeded JFK personally presented my dad with this Zippo engraved with his signature and the Presidential Seal, along with a bottle of Johnnie Blue [dad gave it to his best friend because he hardly ever drank] before he got on board his seven ought seven and flew back to plan sending more young men to their deaths . . . . he probably had hundreds of em he used to flick to anyone who did the man from Texas a favour . . . . but this one he gave to my father.
I used to use it after I lost my old 'Camel' brass model until I thought one night when smash drunk after a dinner, "what if I lose this one ?", when I got home I put it up on my bookshelf and that's where it's been for the last three years . . . . funny really, because of all dad's stuff he left behind when he died in 1995, his officers cap, his 'Wilkinson' ceremonial sword, his medals, the signed parchment from Queen Liz bestowing upon him the last Miltary O.B.E awarded to an Aussie serviceman, all his tools . . . . it's the lighter that I cherish the most, he never used it because he smoked a pipe mostly and Zippos suck at lighting pipes, but I can hold it whenever I feel like it and that feels really good, it reminds me of the wonderful father he was to me and also the lazy, stupid kid I was and how I should've listened a bit more when I had the chance.