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  • jdettmann

Old Man, Look At My Life

H’s beloved dad died on Saturday. It was expected, and a relief in that he was released from his suffering after a year of illness. It is also completely fucking devastating. ‘Silly Old Man’ is how he used to sign his letters and emails to his two boys, but of those words only the last described him. He wasn’t old enough to die. Whatever that means.

He got to see his little boy become a dad though, and May Blossom was seriously the apple of her Pappy’s eye. He held her the day she was born and for the next fifteen months made the best possible use of the time they shared on the earth.

As he was losing his speech and mobility during the first year of her life, she was gaining hers. But there were several months there when they communicated without words and both had to be pushed around in wheeled chairs. She loved it that there was a grown-up who was limited in similar ways to her. We raced her stroller against his wheelchair in the park, and they talked using their eyes and the word ‘Wow!’

Since he lived on the other side of the country, she saw him only every month or two, but she always recognised and warmed to him the quickest of any of her Western Australian relatives. They just clicked. As soon as she would see him she would poke him on the nose and say ‘Bup!’.

He decided, when she was very little, that he wanted to be called Poppy, but when May Blossom was eight months old she looked at him as he was leaving to fly home from Sydney for what turned out to be the last time and said ‘Pappy’, so Pappy it was. Pappy was a fan of westerns and short stories by Annie Proulx, so the name, with its hint of Americana, fit him well.

I wish he were going to see May Blossom grow up. She, like her dad, would have made him proud.

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