On this day 3 years ago my father passed. Hugely unfair, far too early and incredibly
painful were his final weeks of passage through this life, diagnosed with a
terribly aggressive form of cancer that began in the bladder and spine, and
quickly destroyed his liver and lungs, eating red blood cells and immensely
decreasing his oxygen and immune system; debilitating him with the putrefaction
of his organs whilst he was still alive. From diagnosis to finality, he was
placed in palliative care. He never left, he never complained, and he never
burdened us with the consequences of his passing. He refused pity, embraced
closure and said all he needed to, which was not so much; because my father had
never held back his mind or heart.
In how he lived his life I found a role model, in how he faced his death I
found a hero.
Today on the anniversary of his death, the bowl of the sky is an impiously
lacquered blue, lustrous in its deep and viscous shellacking, unmarred by
florets of docile clouds amenable to any and all imagined possibilities of
form. The breeze lifts the scent of mown laws and family gatherings, redolent
to my own past endless weekends of youth. I feel the sting of life continuing beyond
him, of the mutability of time, fast and slow, subjective and objective. I
contain his belief within me, ashamed at its unbreakable nature, its forged
certainty that my potential was glorious and vast. It remains unrealised and
held down; my fear of loss dulls its sheen. I truly ache for the days I could
call my father and talk, to feel comforted by his staid and reliable
consistency of support; our genuine friendship and similar personalities that
made us so comfortable and readily agreeable to each other.
I owe it to him to not grieve his absence, but to remember his presence. I
will always struggle with one, but effortlessly maintain the other.
My father was generous without being wasteful. Kind without being weak.
Forceful in attaining his goals, but mindful to his actions in regards to
others. Obedient to morals, values and social laws, but individualistically
protective of his own ideas and beliefs. My father taught me to be my own man.
He had 2 hats, 3 pairs of boots, and a selection of shirts, slacks and
shorts almost identical, only separated by their particular use and degree of
wear. You could find him working outside with the same accoutrement of an Akubra
hat, Blundstones boots, ex work shirts and Rugger’s shorts; and at the end of
the day he would remove those soiled items, shower, and replace them with clean
and new versions of this tried and tested wardrobe. (He had his own style
manufactured over decades clear of the 70’s where he attempted dangerously
He used Brylcream. Not the new gels but the original slick hair oil, that
reeked to me of some poorly perfumed petrochemical. He called his copious combs
‘Flea rakes’ and never used a brush, but whisked his hair into a low crest at
the front in a style unchanged since boyhood.
He never grew a beard. Apart from a truly heinous period where he sported a
moustache reserved almost exclusively for porn stars, or if you are Australian,
the Solo man, he was always clean shaven, never allowing his stubble to reach
an unmanageable or obscuring level.
He was unassumingly physically capable. Not only did he always have
something happening (projects of which the unfinished carcasses are lost to us in
understanding their incomplete design and use) he was also able to achieve it
without relying on people to help him. He was possessed of a sort of functional
athleticism; he was simply useful enough to get the job done if indeed it
needed to be done.
He was able to quote the entire line of Roman Caesars from the Rubicon crossing
senate unassisted permanence of Julius Caesar, to the final stand of
Constantine XI. He was not happy with the Franks King Charlemagne’s coronation
as Roman Emperor by the Pope on Christmas Day 800, and agreed this contributed to
and defined the fall of the title as a general rule of thumb. Conversely, he
was able to drink through a beer soaked night of sheep shearing, horse gelding,
crop dusting farming talk, with a sozzled smile and flawless slang dialect that
never slipped up.
He was constantly focusing his world view through a camera lens, a camera
that captured lightning strikes, bushfires, dust storms, gatherings and events
without fail. Richard could always be counted on as the designated photographer
and no matter how blurred his vision became, the pictures remained crisp. He even
won a few competitions.
He drank tea strong without milk. When I say strong; he would often put 4-5
teabags into the one cup. In his cupboard were all manner of teas and he knew
exactly what he wanted before opening it, no perusal for possible flavours,
just immediate retrieval.
He quoted poetry. I adored this simply because I never knew who the poets were
until I began to read them at a later age. He infused explanations, arguments
and coercions with a quote, but never divulged the source. His favourites were William
Blake and most especially Rudyard Kipling. (‘If’ and ‘Gunga Din’ were oft
dropped into sentences.)
I loved my father during life and beyond death. I still on occasion find
myself thinking that I should call him. I have his dates tattooed into my flesh;
below my heart. I know that I should be honouring him by my own life, but have
yet to make good upon the promise he saw in me. I will never quit trying to
make him proud.
Richard Gorlo. Long lived in a short life.
All my love remains.