Don’t Mention the Keg.

One of my favourite photos is a shot of G and my father. It was taken on our wedding day. The picture is more of a candid shot, one of those precious captured moments where people aren’t standing square to the camera with frozen smiles on their faces.

There were over one hundred people assembled on my parents front lawn enjoying pre dinner drinks while complaining about the heat that day, but the picture is focussed on the two of them. My father is in black tie, something you don’t see often, and is offering a plate of hors d’oeuvres in G’s direction. G has a bulging cheek full of food, and he’s grinning at what my Dad’s saying. I have no idea what that is, but I know it would be cheeky. They both look cheeky.

My father looks like a million bucks in the photo, I love a bloke in black tie. And even though it’s been a long day of soaring temperatures, last minute jobs, wilting flower deliveries and lawn maintenance – my father’s beaming in the photo.

There had been a moment earlier in the day where it appeared that everything was working against my father. A moment that happened in slow motion, where he watched Keith from the Renmark pub take a sharp turn at our corner, which resulted in the keg falling off the back of the ute. My father could have coped with the 46 degree heat, he could have coped with the wilting flowers, the insanely hot church and my mother who was freaking out about food preparation and portable toilets. He probably would have even been fine at that stage if the hells angels had decided to attend the event, but there was no way he was going to deal with warm beer.

The keg incident is fondly remembered by my sister and I as the second time we heard our father seriously swear. We’d never heard Dad use the F word, but Keith from the pub copped it as as a noun, adjective and verb. The first time we heard my father swear? My sister’s wedding twelve years earlier.

Someone asked me earlier today on twitter if I would write about my children and the physical features that we share. “I like seeing pictures of your children and recognizing your features. Could that be a blog post?”

It immediately made me think of my Dad and how I can’t write about my features without considering his. I’ve spent my entire life being told how much I look like my Dad and it still makes me smile when people do it. Why is that? Why as an eight year old girl did I love people telling me I looked like a thirty two year old bloke?

We have the same eyes, the same cheek bones, the same ears, the same cruelty that is a slight widows peak with a matching cowlick. We had the same teeth, until I was lucky enough to gain the assistance of an orthodontist. With age I now see the same wrinkles, the same crows feet, the same sun spots. And mercifully, (well, I had to get something good, right?) he passed on the same generous helping of dark, thick brown hair.

It moves past the physical, we share the same stubbornness, the same love of a drink, the same propensity to stay too long at the bar, and we giggle at the same humor. We will argue passionately about a subject long after we’ve realized that we were wrong. We will cry when we remember an old story about a time long ago, about people who are now gone, who lived on a street which no longer looks the same.

We are a dangerous combination. Enablers. One for the road? One quick one? We’ll just grab one and then we’ll go.

We walked home from my 18th birthday party after sharing breakfast at the same place we’d began the previous evening for dinner. Don’t ever tell my Dad he’s too old to pull an all nighter. Although I can’t help but think that this was not only a result of our love of drinking, but also his way of making sure  the boys from the city who’d arrived to join us for dinner would be going home alone. Outwit, outlast, outdrink. See you next time fellas.

His advice to G on the evening of our wedding came in the form of a speech, Dad’s jokes that many young women would recognize “I hope you like washing cars mate, and make sure you’ve got a drawer full of spare socks.” And then his voice changed.

It was a reference to Dorothea Mackellor’s iconic Australian poem. Sunburnt Country.

I love a sunburnt country.
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

G was taking me away, literally. Within weeks we would move to the other side of Australia.

“Dorothea said we were a land of sweeping plains, and there’s going to be a lot of brown land between us love, but there will always be a home here for you both”. His voiced cracked and I looked down at the table. Neither of us were all that happy about the wide brown land that was about to come between us.

Before the little travellers came along, I used to look at the photo of G and my father and see it as a wedding photo. A snap. Over the years it has become something completely different. It was a time when my Dad was all mine, not only was he still just Dad and not Gramps, but he had a defined role, one that went much further than washing cars and supplying socks. He was my main man, my phone call, my emergency contact. Once I married and produced four grandchildren, I had to learn how to share him.

I look at my girls and I see them beam when they get told how much they look like me. I remember exactly the same beam on my face as a child when people stopped me in the street to remind me (incase I’d forgotten) “you’re definitely your father’s daughter aren’t you!”.

I was happy to look like him, because I was happy to be just like him.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. xx

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