My father. That’s who I want to spend this time with right now, my dear warm, loving father, old enough to be my grandfather, who yet came swimming with my little sister and me in the freezing cold, clear water of Whakamarino, the little man-made lake at Tuai. And who swam with us, when work permitted, in glorious Waikaremoana’s blue-green deep water. The big man who taught me to throw goals with the real leather basketball he would so lovingly oil for me. The man who growled when Gillian and I squabbled, who taught me some Hindustani: the words for ‘Be Quiet’ and ‘Shut the Door.’ Chupurow?
My father, the man, who wrote to my mother in hospital after their first baby’s birth death. ‘My darling, I can’t wait till I have you home safely.’ My dear father who taught me to whistle and for whom I waited, each early evening at the gate, to come striding along the road from work at the power station. My father who in his eighties went shopping for boot laces for his elegant Italian dress boots and was so wryly dismayed to discover they were no longer available.
My darling father who after he had been to his youngest sister’s funeral that bitterly cold June in 1969 announced to me, ‘I have seen the last member of my family into the grave and now it’s my turn.’ Who even in his hospital bed held my hand to warm it on that freezing Christchurch black frost morning, the day before he died. Thank you Dad.