The man with many hats

So these past three weeks (indeed this whole year) have been life-changing, defining, difficult, enriching, surprising, sad, busy, purposeful, supportive and a privilege – for me.

We left our jobs. We sold our house and most of our stuff. And we moved into my father’s house to be with him as he battled Mesothelioma. My transition was from a full-time, employed, busy, professional, to a full-time carer giving medication around-the-clock and worrying as my father got weaker with each passing day.

Stanley Frederick Smith passed away this morning at about 5am in hospital. I had seen him yesterday, and he gave me a huge smile when he opened his eyes and saw me – a gift. But I felt his time was limited. It was so sad to see such a clever mind be limited by illness and drugs: so sad to witness your own father grow weak.

Of course I knew him as my father, but as I sorted through his files I got to see more of the person. He was a funny bloke who loved a joke. He loved to stir, rile and rouse others. His wit, puns, and jokes were a constant source of entertainment for others. But he was not a clown.

He cannot be defined by one label. He wore many hats. He was: a professional; a manager; a boss; a methods engineer; a car lover; an artist; a friend to many; a president; an organizer; a leader; a committee man; an active member; a foodie; a cook; a HAM radio nut; a Morse code practitioner; a photographer; a joke teller; a conversationalist; a talker; a geek; an intellectual; interested in physics and astronomy and mathematics; a life long learner; a language learner; a family man; constant companion to Margaret; a life participant; an independent thinker; and a kind person.

18 Stan xmas no mo 90s copy

His files were full of jokes, photos of classic cars, caravans and caravan trips, people gathered in groups eating together, and people enjoying each others company. He was a people person.

While his time has ended and he is probably reunited with my mother, my own life journey pauses between life chapters. We will mourn, pay tribute, share stories, then sort out the accumulated possessions and legalities. Then begin the next phase….I have some ideas.

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Sitting in my mother’s garden

My mother’s garden is sustaining me at the moment while staying over to keep my father company and help him as he fights his own battle with cancer. For four years he cared for my mother while she was in and out of chemotherapy, hospitals and various other treatments. He was at her side the whole time. Now he is burdened with the same demands: chemotherapy, doctor’s visits, and other treatments.

While I take my turn in the family care roster, I spend a lot of time in the garden. And it is a beautiful little garden. There is a pond with a fountain in the centre, and two gold fish live on despite neglect. A shady fernery. Another small bird bath lower in the garden. Roses, a lemon tree, various Australian native shrubs, and other small flowering shrubs. The veranda is sheltered from the weather and is a lovely spot to sit and watch the birds as they flit about. In the afternoons they plunge into the fountain, then alight on the rose arbour to shake themselves vigorously, before another plunge, shake and happy chirp.

I pick flowers and put them in a vase on the kitchen table as Mum would have done. She collected small ornamental elephants and also blue and white patterned crockery, so I place the little blue and white elephant beside the vase of flowers as a memento to her. And I sit in her house surrounded by her treasured things, while Dad sits in fortitude against the ensuing internal war.

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