When I started blogging, it didn’t occur to me that one of my finest sources of material would be my Dad, but here it is, #3 in the Ron chronicles.
A couple of weeks after Dad’s 70th birthday, and my gift of rock cakes to him, I speak to him on the phone, and he mentions “I put those rock cakes in the freezer the other day. I’m eating them but they’re a bit hard…”. I wonder how long it was until they went into the freezer.
Also for his birthday at the beginning of February, I’d chosen and written a message in a lovely card and enclosed details of the show we were going to, which was Dad’s actual birthday gift. When we meet them at the end of March to go to the show, my stepmother produces the card from her bag, unopened. It’d been assigned to her for reasons I can’t fathom, so don’t bother going into.
We had dinner before the show at the theatre’s brasserie. Fail #1 – no oysters on the menu. In fact there are no entrees at all. We try to make it up to Dad by requesting an extra bread roll, and pointing out the dessert menu.
Fail #2 – the roast beef fillet served on potato gratin, green beans, mushroom ragout and café de paris butter comes out as an elegant rather than generous portion size. “I should’ve ordered two”. He’s puzzled by the café de paris butter, pokes it with his knife and qualifies it with “What’s this? I ‘spose I can eat it”. The G.O. echoes Dad’s sentiments, but by the end, their eyes bigger than their bellies, Dad offers the placatory bread roll, the G.O. declines, and Dad manages to eat it to make a point.
Persuaded to accept dessert is the only other course on offer and not wanting to miss something the rest of us are having, Dad chooses a chocolate brownie with espresso ice cream and roast coffee crumble, which he seems to enjoy as it disappears rapidly, even though he hasn’t got a clue what he’s eating.
We all enjoy the show: barbershop quartet Benchmark and AO rated clever Rod Gregory, The Old Fella, who is about Dad’s age and after a back injury recreated his life from farmer to comedian. Even though Dad’s taken up strumming a guitar, he’s not about to hit the stage but I was hoping he might assimilate some of Rod’s post-retirement zest for life.
We spend the night at their house. Upon leaving the next day Dad encourages us to take with us a weedy pot with a tree growing in it, telling us he’s not sure what it is, it grew up the back from a seed they chucked in the compost, a mango or an avocado or…
I often give Dad a call during the day from my office desk, when my stepmother is at work and he’s home on his own. The dull noise my co-workers hear during these calls is either laughter or me pounding my head on the desk.
Asking Dad if he’s heard from my sister who’s recently moved interstate, I get. “No. Yes. But I can’t understand her”. I respond “Yeah, her phone always sounds like she’s down a well”. He clarifies “I can never hear her… I should put my hearing aid in”.
He mentions his chatty active retired cousin has invited him to go with her and her travelling companion to Queensland to visit her brother who is ailing, likely dying. When I ask what the matter is, Dad pauses, grasps for words “… in his fork”.
He tells me he’d been in trouble on his 7oth birthday weekend for jokingly suggesting the same busy cousin’s “appetites” were the cause of her late husband’s demise. This I know him to be innocent of, he’s far too bashful to make baudy innuendo. I console Dad by suggesting he’s been misinterpreted, and it would be more likely the talkative cousin’s late husband is now enjoying a bit of quiet.
I advise Dad that his tree which we think is a mango, is doing well transplanted at Taylors Arm. He counters with “there’s more, one of each, I think, or it might be 2 avocados.”
I compliment him on the home grown pumpkin he gave us also, and what a great soup it made. The G.O.’s favourite. He responds “Bloody pumpkins. Your grandfather used to feed them to the cows.” “Did he really? Didn’t you eat them?” “Oh I don’t know… you know I don’t like pumpkin”.
Dad’s official occupation is retiree but he moonlights as a relief school and community bus driver. This means he has to report any income he earns. Dad has one last item of news… the bane of his existence… Centrelink. The necessary web link’s not working so he’s off to their office but he’s persona non grata at the local branch… For a moment I wonder how he accomplished this but as previous conversations play out in my head, I remember a song he sang to me a kid “there was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead, when she was good, she was very very good, when she was bad she was horrid”… I’ve had my moments too.
Dad calls me late on Mother’s Day. A tough day for him. He misses his mum, my mum, and being the centre of attention… as all the calls, visits and gifts on this day are for my stepmother. He’s also subtly checking how I am. He reports there are now 3 treelings waiting for us. Towards the end of the call, his attentions waivers, he’s got to go. His parting words are… “I need more rock cakes”.
Postscript: I was telling my aunt, Dad’s sister, via email about the rock cakes. Her response “It’s funny you say about the rock cakes, your Mum used to make them!!!”. Cue Aha Moment.
Other Ron posts are: