• Tatiana Collier

This one's for you Dad

My dad was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in March 2019. He passed away February this year. It was one of those moments in my life that I knew was coming, but I was a fool to think I could prepare for it.

His memorial, just one week later, was another overwhelming experience. Close to 300 people came. As Dad's only living relative, I had not expected a massive gathering. But I quickly learned in that week after Dad's passing, just how many lives he had touched.

For the past six years, Dad was the Crossing Supervisor (lollipop man) for the local primary school in the small coastal town he lived. In those six years, the last of his life, he made an incredible impact on the people around him.

Seeing so many at his funeral filled me with such pride. I’m quite certain he had no clue of the mark he’d made.

As most people knew Dad through his role as Crossing Supervisor, at his memorial, to celebrate his life, I shared some of the lesser known facts about my Dad, Ted...

- As a kid, Dad was responsible for nearly burning down his school. A fun little grass fire he started quickly got out of hand and headed straight for the school buildings. Thankfully the fire brigade got it under control, and Essendon Grammar still stands to this day.

- This rather scary incident didn’t make him straighten up and change his ways. On his final day of school, at the end of year 9, his mother thanked the principal for watching over her son. The principal replied: “Mrs Lithgow, this school will be a better place without him.”

- Dad had many different jobs in his life, but his formal qualification is in upholstery and trade teaching. Yet every time I asked him to reupholster an item for me he’d remark: “Why bother? Just buy a new one.”

- Dad always loved a party. Especially if he was the host. There was an open invitation to join Ted at his place for a beer. If you brought your own six pack, you were welcome back. If you arrived with a slab, you were friends for life.

- Dad was a great card player, a skill he passed on to me. He taught me poker at the age of 7, under the guise is would make me a maths genius. He also made sure I was skilled at pool, canasta, 500, black jack and gin rummy.

- He was a sucker for TV informercial shopping bargains. Steve (my husband) and I would often try to guess what new gadget he’d have next time we visited. If it was a two-for-one deal, we knew what we’d be getting for Christmas.

- He was a great home cook. Although this is a skill that developed later in life. For a while there he prided himself on meals that came from a can. Over the years though we were treated to many gourmet feasts such as rib eye roasts and seafood platters.

- He loved old western movies, especially if they starred John Wayne.

- Although he threatened to harm any man I brought home, he adored Steve right from the start. I know this because within three hours of meeting Steve, he gave his blessing. While this sounds incredibly sweet, I think Dad’s actual words to Steve were: “Do you want to marry her? Cos you can have her.”

- He never expected to be a Dad. He was 36 when I came along, and had previously thought he’d missed his chance. Lucky for me, he was a devoted Dad.

- Further more he was completely shocked to learn he was going to be a grandfather, claiming 69 was too young. But all it took was one look at Blake and he was a goner. The fact that Blake is practically a clone of Ted probably helped.

- When I told Dad I was pregnant with my second child, he wasn’t sure he could handle it. He confessed he suffered morning sickness throughout my first pregnancy and he didn’t know if he could go through that again.

- During both pregnancies, Dad would come to me with suggestions for names. His inspiration for the names came from his work on the crossing. He’d tell me the names of all the kids he’d met, and put them forward as options.

- After I moved to Ballarat and had my second son, Darcy, Dad came to visit every second Sunday without fail – to do the ironing. These visits continued right up until Christmas 2019, although the ironing was phased out for game time with the boys.

- Like all grandparents, Dad believed my boys were perfect. He could be standing there, watching them act like lunatics, me tearing my hair out, and still remark, “Gee they’re great boys.”

- Dad always had the most positive outlook on life. No matter what was happening, he’d always tell me the same thing, “Don’t worry love; it’ll be fine.”

- Dad was an only child. And he admitted that growing up, he always got his own way. This character trait held true right to the end. He lived life on his terms.

But really, the thing to know about Dad was that he loved life. He always did. He was never one to dwell. He never saw himself as old, or aging. And he refused to ever see himself as sick. He could be positive about anything, from a thunderstorm to a cancer diagnosis.

Life was living and enjoying. Most importantly, life was for celebrating.

I struggled to work out how to convey what Dad meant to me. And finally, I came to this:

I can’t.

There aren’t enough words, and there will never be enough time.

I love you Dad. I miss you so much. But don’t worry; I know it will be fine.

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