Great Fathers {Sunshine Sundays}

Good morning. It’s Father’s Day in Australia. If you need to whizz to the shops and buy roses for your special father, then do it NOW before they are up. You may even have time to make a coffee for him, before he’s out of bed…

I think I will do the coffee thing for my husband. He’ll like that.

I would like to say that as far as fathers go, my girls are pretty lucky. When I quizzed my daughter what she would like to write in her mini book about her dad, her poem went something like…

All The Ways I Love My Dad

I love my dad because he’s special.

I love my dad because he’s so kind.

I love my dad because he’s beautiful.

I love my dad because he sings lovely songs. 

I love my dad as big as a big watermelon. That’s how big I love my daddy.

As big as her four-year-old frustrations and her temper tantrums can be, they are no match for the biggness of her love for her dad. She tells me, when she is feeling particularly warm and generous towards me, that she loves me as much as she loves Dad, and that is an incredible lot. She reaches her hands as wide as they can possibly go to show how big the love is.

At night, my daughter has a game she invented before bed. It’s called the ‘clappy game’. Basically, the clappy hands have to decide who’s taking her to bed. She positions Gregor and me at either end of the living room, and proceeds to clap. The little clappers head towards the parent of choice, and the decision is made.

Mostly, the clappies head towards their dad. If they head my way, it’s usually because she feels bad the clappies usually choose Gregor. And often, once I am lying down with her, she’ll whisper, ‘Actually, I really feel like having Dad.’ She doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, but then I can’t deny they have a special connection.

‘It’s ok, sweetie,’ I whisper back.

The fact is, he loves his girls so purely and so simply. He oozes love for them from every pore of his body. She knows this.

Maybe it’s a learnt thing. Maybe it’s hereditary, his way of loving.

His grandfather, Opa, loved him like that. Pure. Simple.

Gregor talked about his early memories of feeling loved by his grandfather, and I am sure that affection is at the root of Gregor’s self-esteem and self-love.

When we visited Opa in Austria a couple of years ago, I watched Gregor sit with his grandfather. ‘Ja, Ochi,’ he would say softly, tenderly, as his grandfather recounted tales of his youth. He held his grandfather’s hand in his.

When we said goodbye, my husband’s eyes welled with tears. Opa sang – an Austrian mountain song. We all cried.

Opa passed away in July. The news wasn’t a shock – he’d been sick. But it never makes sense when someone leaves the world, no matter how old or sick they are.

How can he not be here anymore?

I only met him a couple of times. He didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak German. But his presence in our sunshine lives was so strongly felt. Most mornings, he came up in conversation during breakfast. ‘This is Opa cheese,’ my four-year-old would say, referring to the blue vein.

She frequently drew pictures for Opa.

I’d print off photos of the girls to send to him, or make him albums or videos of things we had been doing. He’d ask for one of me too, and tell Gregor how lucky he was to have found me.

Now he’s not there to send them to.

It’s not just talk of Opa that fills our house, though. It’s his love.

It seeped into Gregor, from when he was a little boy living in Austria, through to the last conversation he ever had with his grandfather a few days before he passed away.

Opa was generous in a way I’ve known few people to be. Maybe it was living through horrific times, war, famine etc.

Maybe he was just wired like that. But he kept giving.

Thankfully, generosity, like love, is hereditary.

The happiest people I know are the most generous

And through Gregor, Opa has taught me too to be generous. It’s not my default position, but surrounding myself with the likes of Gregor and the presence of his grandfather has made me not even question the biggest selfless act.

Maybe because there is a simple equation. Being generous makes you happy. Or maybe you need to be happy to be generous. Maybe both.

Opa’s physical presence has left the world. On the day he died, my daughter told me Opa’s very flat now, and living on a star. But his kindness and generosity are in Gregor, in me, in the girls.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get so sentimental. Father’s Day does funny things to the brain.

Please, link up your ‘father’ post, or share anything you would like to on the topic, either in the linky, in the comments or on social media at #sunshinesunday.

Happy Father’s Day. Love and be generous today. xx

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Sunshine Sunday ~ Grandparents

Despite my little family moving into my Grandma Joyce’s house the week after she died, I have not spent a lot of time thinking or missing old Joyce. It sounds harsh, but it’s my nature. I do what I do in the present moment, and find it hard to reflect on what’s not immediately present – like my old gran, with the booming voice and the penchant for saying “B-rrrr-own”, like a proper English Lady.

Joyce4

In her last years, she sat in her cane chair in what is now my little sunshine home, but was then her little cottage. Morning until night, she barely moved, except to toddle to the kitchen to get a black tea, or later in the day a scotch. She sat, cradling her tea by day/scotch by night while Kimba, her Golden Retriever, lay faithfully at her feet. She entertained herself with cooking shows, and her dirty little midday secret, Days of Our Lives (which was promptly shut off as soon as someone walked through the door.)

Her fridge was stocked with five packets of butter, several litres of milk and a whole corned beef roast in case Dylan dropped in for lunch. The pantry was full of several packets of breadcrumbs, and bottles of fish sauce and soy sauce, some of which dated back to 1989. A friend once suggested that perhaps Joyce’s hoarding and tendency to buy five of everything was a lay-over from the Great Depression. But reflecting back herself, Joyce assured me that the Great Depression didn’t affect her in the slightest. She always had plenty.

joyce 2

Sorting out things from her loft after she died, it appeared that butter and breadcrumbs weren’t the only things she bought in excess. Joyce had seven of the same spotless white canvas shoes, and several ‘uniforms’ from each decade of her later life. The slacks from the 70s, the straight linen dresses of the 80s, and the box linen skirt with matching cotton shirts of the 90s and naughties. All sets were made expertly by a local seamstress, in only the finest materials.

The daughter of business man who drove one of the first cars on the north coast, as she aged, Joyce continued  to choose quality regardless of the price, despite living on a pension.

JOyce

She was proud, and known for her ability to talk – about nonsense mostly, or at least something you had heard twenty times before. But people loved her. The butcher brought her cuts of meat and eggs. The woodman came and sat with her and smoked a cigarette inside, because she said it was fine. Lance – I think he’s an electrician – just dropped in for a chat, even when her fridge was working.

She befriended most of the local kids. They’d drop by too. Mr Clifford, the gardener visited most weeks until he died, and fed Kimba under the table. Her great friend, Velma, lived within walking distance, and the two would nag at each other and about each other, but loved each other dearly.

Joyce was loud – proud – looming and sometimes frightening (if you happened to marry one of her children). But she was funny, and warm. When I brought Gregor over to meet her for the first time, she was in her bra and undies, trying to put on her stockings. She didn’t stop talking for a moment, even to put on her clothes.

joyce3

Beneath the large glasses were vulnerable watery blue eyes, that welled up with any mention of her children or grandchildren. She couldn’t talk about her late husband Charles without choking up.

In the last year of her life, I visited her with Elfie. I had to put Elfie in a clothes basket before she could sit up, because there was nowhere for her to lay which wasn’t covered in dog hair. I put the first great grandchild – the only one she got to know – at Joyce’s feet, and Joyce taught her to clap hands.

I asked Joyce a few questions about her youth in Mallanganee, and about going to boarding school in Armidale. Her stories were broken, and wandering. They meandered like a dream sequence, and she told me things that made me realise how vulnerable, and how scared she was, despite the occasional haughty English pronunciation of “brown” and “cow”.

Joyce had the best legs on the north coast, according to her doting husband. I read their love letters in their engagement period and could see why she loved him so dearly.

In her last few days, she was half-conscious, not eating and not medicated in hospital. She drifted in and out. When her oldest son sang her The Way You Look Tonight, and whispered that she could leave now and join Charles, she finally let go.

So although I am all stuck in the moment and all that, lately I have been really missing old Joycey. I miss how she drew people together. She was the linchpin of every family occasion. I miss that she rang me and everyone else if there was an event in the family, like a birthday, or someone winning an award. I miss that love I felt emanating from her. Big squishy love. Even in those quiet, lonely hours, someone – Joyce – was in her cane chair, talking about me to her neighbour or an old friend, and I was remembered, and loved.

Tell me about your grandparents, or your children’s grandparents. Do grandparents play a big role in your life? 

Link your stories here for Sunshine Sunday, and drop in to comment on some of the other posts. Next week’s theme is “Ritual”. And if you aren’t already linked up to my FACEBOOK page, I would love to welcome you there.

Sunshine Sundays

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