Every now and then an event occurs
that, while not necessarily changing your life, at least causes
you to re-evaluate it.
Such an event has just occurred
in my life, my father died.
I'll spare you the details for
the moment, suffice to say that I had a good look at what
we (that's Chris and I) are doing with our lives, and I'm
happy to say that our lifestyle passed the navel gazing with
flying colours. 99% actually.
In other words, for 99% of the
time we are doing both what we want to do, and what we reckon
we should be doing.
But what about the other 1%.
I've been spending a lot of time
lately tinkering with some programs on the computer, at the
expense of my photography. I do enjoy programming, but I love
taking photographs, so why should I spend time doing something
I like, when I could be doing something I love?
Good question, and thanks Dad for
helping me find the answer shortly before you left me.
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Thu 20 Oct 2005
Lately I've been carrying my mobile phone while on the job because
my watch has died and, if I don't know the time, I'm likely to be
late for lunch. And that will never do.
We've been working all morning in the 37-degree
heat, but taking regular water breaks, so it's not too bad.
During one of these breaks I get a phone call.
"Is that Robert Gray?...doctor something-or-other from the
Alfred hospital in Melbourne here."
So what can this have to do with me?. Why would
some Melbourne hospital be ringing? I don't know anyone in Melbourne,
not well enough to receive a call about their health anyway...uh
oh, my Dad has just flown down for a 2nd 12th Army reunion.
It seems that he is very sick, the doctor expressed
surprise that he even made it to hospital. "Most people with
this condition don't get this far" he said, "And those
that do only last 24 to 48 hours".
"24 to 48 hours" and he got the first
symptoms yesterday. Bloody hell, and here I am working up in far
They say they'll run some tests and get back to
By lunch time there are no results, but I do get
a call from my Dad. He sounds very weak, and it's obvious that he
doesn't expect to see me again.
Not if I can help it.
The job will get along just fine without me, but
how fast can I get to Melbourne? Pretty fast as it turns out. I
book a direct Cairns-Melbourne flight on the web, leaving first
thing tomorrow morning.
Chris packs me a bag and we hit the sack early,
we'll have to get up at around 3AM and drive down to Cairns.
Fri 21 Oct
Up at three, a quick breakfast, and we're on the road. The drive
is uneventful, and by six I'm sitting in seat 23C as a guest of
There's nothing to do now but pray for a tail
wind, and hope I get there in time.
On arrival I'm tempted to hire a car, I will need
one while I'm here, but I don't think it's a good idea right now.
It will take time to organise, and I'll probably get lost on the
way to the hospital.
I hail a cab.
Half an hour later I'm at my Dad's side. He looks
pretty good all things considered and, as it transpires, I am to
have several days with him.
Later in the evening I catch another cab, this
time to Margaret's. Margaret is a long-time friend of my Dad's,
and indeed much of the family. Dad was staying with her until he
got sick, and now she has offered to look after me while I'm in
Sat 22 Oct
I hire a car from a "rent a bomb" mob. It turns out to
be a very nice Mitsubishi Magna, automatic and electric everything.
It's a 1985 model, but that's OK with me, especially for about half
the cost of a new car, and anyway it will spend most of its time
in the hospital carpark.
Most of the day is spent at my Dad's side, usually
reading, or watching him as he sleeps.
His breathing is very shallow and erratic, he
often breaths out and doesn't inhale for 10 seconds or so. I watch
and watch as the seconds tick by, until finally his chest expands.
Under the circumstances it's very unnerving, each time I wonder
if he has taken his last breath.
Our family has never been big on displaying emotions,
there's always been a "next time" to tell someone how
you feel about them. As I watch my old man lying here though I realise
that this time there just may not be a next time.
I resolve to tell him I love him when he wakes.
Sun 23 Oct
My cousin Marian has flown down from Darwin to be with us. Her daughter
Jennifer, a fourth-year medical student studying near Melbourne,
has also taken time off work to be here. They are both particularly
fond of my old man, and he of them.
Between the three of us we are keeping a 24-hour
Tue 25 Oct
Dad wakes up, takes one look at me, smiles, and says "I'm still
alive then". Obviously I don't look angelic enough for there
to be any confusion.
Wed 26 Oct
For days now I've hardly left my Dad's side, sleeping in his room
overnight and only leaving to grab a meal or go for a walk when
someone can relieve me.
He is very cheerful and always smiling when awake.
The situation is of course quite distressing, but not to my Dad,
he constantly tells me not to worry, that he's "had a good
innings" and is ready to go, which of course just makes me
Yesterday he was pretty much out of it, but he
rallied today and so, at around five, I thought I'd duck home (to
Margaret's house) for a decent meal, much more of this hospital
food and I'll be joining my Dad. He seems OK, he's sleeping and
has Marian for company. And besides it's only about a ten-minute
drive if you sneak in before the rush hour.
It costs me $48 to get out of the car park, it's
actually more expensive to park the car than hire it. I rush through
the streets to Margaret's, she has been warned of my coming and
is preparing dinner for me so I won't be away too long.
On arrival I take the top off a beer, take a swig,
and sit down ready to eat.
The phone rings. My Dad is dead.
Marian assures me that he never woke, so I didn't
miss any last words, but damn it I should have been there.
I return to the hospital and everyone gives me
some time alone with him to say goodbye. It's a somewhat one-way
conversation of course, fortunately there's not much to say, we've
been lucky to have had so much time together over the past few days,
and in fact have said all that needed saying.
Thu 27 Oct
My Dad never wanted anyone to fuss over him in life, and so it will
be in death. He wanted to be left to the teaching hospital, to be
useful right to the end, but thanks to the bureaucrats and the red
tape that won't happen. We will have him cremated instead, and his
ashes will be spread somewhere nice.
There won't be a head stone, nor any inscriptions,
but if there was I'd borrow a phrase from one of his nurses, and
it would simply read...
20 Mar 21 - 26 Oct 05
"A lovely man"
Goodbye Dad, with luck I'll see you in about 30
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