30 years ago I met a man that quite frankly scared me.
This man was uncompromising, intimidating and had a wild multi-coloured bush-ranger beard which I am sure kept all potential suitors very nervous. This man worked extremely hard to keep food on the table and support his family, often having to work away from home. However, even when I first met this man it was immediately obvious that his primary focus was his family. While it does sound like a cliche, family truly was first.
When the kids joined clubs or wanted to become involved in different activities he was right there. Helping. Supporting. When they wanted to learn gymnastics, he built a springboard and box to help them learn. When they wanted to ride horses he learned how to break horses so they had suitable horses to ride. When they wanted to breed and show animals he was right there, joining the societies, helping, travelling, being involved. Whatever the activity or club he was there, interested and involved in his children’s lives and pursuits.
Over the years a number of things happened in the life of this man that chiseled off a number of those harsh traits and mannerisms. I’ve seen people go through life-altering circumstances and come out the other side bitter and twisted. This man mellowed, reinventing himself to be less authoritarian and more easy going and fun to be around.
This man was just as comfortable swinging a hammer helping with the latest house project for one of the kids, or sitting on the floor with a grandchild playing a game, or dressing up and acting the goose for a grandchild’s birthday party. The kids loved granddad. This man always had time for everyone.
With the family all grown up and moved out this man finally had some time to pursue some of those long held passions that he had long put off. One of those was cycling and like everything else he totally immersed himself in everything that was cycling. He had the gear, he participated in the clubs, he did the miles. Then in 2010 he had the chance to compete in the 50th running of a major cycling event that he hadn’t participated in since he was 19. This man spent a couple of years preparing for this race and in an unspoken gesture of support and thanks for all the time he had spent supporting them over the years, his family came from all over the country to be there to support him. To cheer him on. To be his fan club.
Then 12 months ago this man was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and with typical hard nosed, determined attitude he fought it on his terms. It is hard watching a big strong man full of life slowly deteriorate before your eyes. Today he lost that battle.
I am proud to say that that man is my father-in-law and more importantly my friend. He taught me many things about life.
We will miss you my friend.