Last week I pulled out my dads last diary that he kept, the photos I keep in the bedside draw, his bible and his will that never got honoured. These few possessions and the Adelaide Crows premiership footy are all that I have of my fathers memories. Without going into too much detail I was not allowed to go to my dads house after he passed away to go through his stuff, I had one opportunity to get his record collection and his favourite record player…but I didn’t take it…and I will always regret that. I don’t know if I can go back to get it because I don’t know if it’s still there, I can’t get in contact with my step-mother and I’m too scared to rock up on the front door. Another man lives in my fathers house now and she still keeps his last name (I found her on Instagram) and when I saw it I instantly felt rage build up in my chest because she’s not a Cox. That’s my name, my brothers name and the rest of the Cox families name…not hers.
But, the anger passed and then I just felt sad, I miss my dad. And it still hurts just as bad as the day it was clear he wasn’t going to leave the hospital. My Uncle called me in the early hours of the morning to let me know he didn’t have long left and that the family was there to say goodbye…But I didn’t want to drive back in to see my dad laying on that hospital bed, covered in bandages and tubes hooked up to machines keeping him “alive”…that’s not how I wanted to remember him, so I didn’t go in to the hospital that one last time.
I believe in God. But I struggled to believe that dad was with Him now, we get taught about life after death at church but when it’s someone you love on the “other side” it’s hard to just trust in that alternate universe that’s out there somewhere. I didn’t feel that “families are forever” brought me any comfort either, I just couldn’t relate to it and I don’t know if dad believed in God. He read the magazines from the Jehovah’s Witnesses that came to his door every month, he read the bible my Lola gave him (it always sat on the kitchen table), he read the Book of Mormon, he visited a few different churches. I think he said once that God is out there and not in a building. He told me he thought my mum and all Mormons were brainwashed…but he never said that I was brainwashed. He always made sure I was back at my mums house in time for church on Sundays though, probably to avoid an argument. But I don’t know what dad believed, so I was scared he’d end up in some bad place. But as I write this..I don’t think he is. I don’t know if it’s all in my head but I feel his presence in my life a lot more than I expected to.
Kieren never met dad. I really wish they’d met, dad would have liked him. Kieren is the only guy I’ve been with that goes for the Crows…and think that’s all that dad really cared about (just kidding) but in all honesty dad never gave me advice about boys, probably because I never told him I was dating so he must have thought I wasn’t into it, I don’t know. He told me to never get married though…many times.
But Kieren reminds me of dad, and it’s so strange because they never met. Dad would sing all the time…like all the time. I never set an alarm when staying at his house because when the sun came up he’d start singing and bashing around in the kitchen. He would answer me in song, he’d quote lyrics mid conversation (or the name of a horse whichever applied) and he would crank his record player as high as the old thing would go and just sing. Slim Whitman, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra…I had the best exposure to music growing up, and I didn’t even know it until after he’d gone. And I realised not long after we got married that Kieren sings…all the time (I don’t know if anyone but me knows that). And Kieren makes me laugh,so much, just like dad use to.
Sometimes I’m scared I’m not going to remember enough of dad as the years go by. I was 19 when he died. And when I was going through photos to put together for the funeral I felt like there was still so much I didn’t know about him. And then I think about all the things I never got to do with him. I never got to take him to the footy (like shout him a ticket or something), or the cricket, he didn’t get to see me graduate at University, my future kids won’t know him, he didn’t walk me down the isle…and then there’s this one thing that always makes me sad. One day I walked down the road from where I go to Uni in the city and saw that dads old work place was being converted into a cafe, and then it hit me…dad was in the city almost every day (every morning at least), right around the corner from me, and I never dropped by to see him. I had no idea it was even that close to where I was. And I just felt so much regret. I could have surprised him with coffee or shouted him lunch or just dropped by to say hey…but I didn’t. There’s so much more I could have done. So every time I walk to the new Vietnamese place for lunch on Hindley Street, I walk pass the old laundromat that my dad was the courier for…and it never stops stinging.
But wherever dad is right now, I try to live my life as if he were still here…in some weird way. Thoughts cross my mind and I think “dad would have liked that” or I just try to do things that dad would approve of I guess. Playing piano makes me think of him, because he’s the reason I never gave it up, going to the footy, even chicken stock…he made so much bloody chicken stock in his lifetime and every time we had dinner he’d tell me to “drink the juice” because “that’s where all the good stuff is”. It sounds strange, but it keeps his memory alive. I was even pestering Kieren the other week to put coconut oil on a sore that he had because dad made me put coconut oil on my eczema or any scars I had, he was always searching for natural remedies and that one stuck with me because it works.
And then there’s the park where dad and I went on many walks together, which is where he had his heart attack that one Sunday afternoon. Which also happens to be the same park my parent-in-laws now live across the road from. Small world hey. So whenever we drive down that hill to visit Kieren’s parents (which is a lot 🙂 ) dad’s memory always creeps into my mind. I try not to remember that the park is the last place that he was alive, instead I remember racing against my fit as ever 60 something year old dad who often let me win. Yep, at one stage my old man was fitter than me!
Stuff like that makes me smile. And I’ve still got so many things just to smile about. But moments like this, where you just stop and think and you’re not doing anything to distract yourself from memories that are painful but also beautiful…bittersweet is the only word that comes to mind to describe it. I know I’m luckier than a lot of people out there who may not know their father or have had a good relationship with them, I’m lucky that I had my dad around for 19 years. Heck, dad often old me he didn’t have much to do with his father. But I’m never going to stop wishing I had five more minutes with my old man, just to say that I’m glad he was my dad and that I love him.
I know dad wouldn’t want me dwelling on the sad stuff, and for the most part I don’t. It just comes in waves and this time I let myself feel the full impact of those emotions. Dad was a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of bloke (he hated it when I said “guy” because it wasn’t very Australian) and I try and reflect that in my nature…although Kieren may not think I’m that easy going all the time. Losing him was such a defining moment in my life, and while at first I didn’t deal with it very well, I believe I appreciate things more than I ever did before. I’m not perfect, of course there are good days and bad days. But one thing I know I try to do is not take things for granted because you never know when someone or something, a job or school or anything really, won’t be there anymore. I hold my friends and family a lot closer now, and Kieren, even though he wasn’t around when it all happened…he was a huge part of me getting back to a good place in my life. And most importantly I learnt to forgive others quickly, holding onto grudges only hurts yourself. I didn’t visit my dad on Fathers Day (September 2013) because I was upset he didn’t remember my birthday in August, and then October he was gone. It was such a silly thing to be upset about. Dad didn’t really believe in Fathers Day anyways, but I still made sure I took the chance to see him, except that last one where I sent him a text instead.
It’s never going to stop hurting and I’m never going to stop missing him. But as dad often said, life goes on. So I, as do we all, have to just keep on going. And I mustn’t forget that I’m still so blessed, with a beautiful husband, family near by and friends that are like family also. Pain is unavoidable in life, but we wouldn’t know what pain felt like if we didn’t have happiness on the other end of the scales, so I’ve learnt to make the most of the good times and to persevere through the bad times. In the end, it’s all going to be OK.
Go the Crows ❤