Thursday 8 September 2016

My Dad

This article is very off topic for this blog.

My dad, Don Cameron, was born way back in the 1930s, in Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand. Dunedin was a small city at the far end of a small country distant from the rest of the world both geographically and temporally. South Islanders have the reputation of being no-nonsense sort of people, who are honest and - if they say anything at all - say what they mean. Dad was a bit chattier than yer average South Islander perhaps, but he was definitely a man of that time and place. He was the youngest of a batch of seven kids.

Later the Cameron family moved to Auckland, and Dad did a bit of his schooling in Auckland at St Peter's, and a bit of it back down in Oamaru in the South Island, at St Kevin's - a catholic boarding school. The family were fairly staunch (some might say austere) Scottish Catholics. I'm not the family historian so I'm gonna be light on dates here... I base my knowledge of Dad's past on his stories and anecdotes. My sister - who is the family historian - will be shaking her head in disappointment here.

Dad played rugby and cricket as all NZ lads do, and - from what I understand - was a pretty good cricketer in his time.

Returning to Auckland and at some stage after finishing school and wondering what to do next, Dad decided a job was in order. So he walked downtown and into the NZ Herald building (it used to be on Queen Street). The Herald was the main morning newspaper in Auckland and the top half of the North Island. Dad ended up heading in there for a job cos - I think - some friend or cousin or someone his mum or dad or aunty or someone knew put in a good word or something, as was the way of things in 1950. And shortly after that, he exited the building with a job. 48 years later he retired from that job.

I dunno what he did when he started, I think running copy around the place and proofreading and stuff, but Dad's career-proper got underway when he joined the sports department, basically in an intelligent sporting person's dream job: being paid to watch sport. Particularly the sports he loved the most, rugby and cricket. Although he also covered sailing and golf too. And probably anything else that needed reporting on at the time.

I am in awe of Dad that that's what he did for a living.

Along the way the job took him to the West Indies for cricket, all around Europe with the All Blacks for rugby,  and the UK for cricket, to the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka for cricket, and back and forth to Aussie for both sports almost like it was his second home. He even found himself in South Africa during the apartheid era for a rebel rugby tour.

Rolling back a bit, in the mid 50s Dad met Mum and they dated and got married in 1958, and me big brother came along in 1959 and me big sister in 1961.  There was a bit of a gap and they adopted me in 1970. I always liked holding over my bro and sis that M&D were just landed with them; they actively chose me. What a little shit ;-)

They also bought a house in 1958, and I'm sitting there right now as I type this. 2m away from the bed that was mine from 1970-1989 when I moved out. I'd be sitting on the same bed if it was still there, but the room's been moved around a bit. Other than that not much has changed in this house. Kids and dogs and cats (and goldfish and canaries and axolotls and so on and so forth) came and went, but Mum and Dad remained. Oh and there were a coupla grandchildren showing up along the way too.

Mum and Dad were a great continuity in all our lives. Things just didn't change. It's good that some things don't change. I liked being able to fly halfway around the world back to NZ, walk into their house, past them ("yeah g'day Mum; g'day Dad [keeps walking towards the kitchen]"), to the fridge and locate the same old block of cheese that was always in there, and make meself a snack. OK, it was a different block of cheese each time, but it amounts to the same thing. You know what I mean. Mmm... cheese. But I digress.

Things, unfortunately, don't stay the same forever. in 2016, Mum and Dad were both in their early 80s. Things get tougher as one gets old, and unfortuately Mum became ill and was too ill for Dad to look after by himself. So she's moved away from the family home and into a nearby care home. We kids started to wonder how well Dad would get on by himself, whilst also not being that comfortable with the idea of finally surrendering the house that had been all our family home for the entire time we existed as a family (even M&D at least owned this house before they moved into it when they got married).

To use a cliche that would annoy my father, fate intervened. He had a fall, and being old: that isn't as trivial as it sounds. He ended up in hospital, and they did some tests and poked and prodded him and tried to make him better, but as well as the fall they found a few other things wrong with him. And he wasn't ever gonna be leaving the hospital. Well... he left the hospital after a month or so and moved into the same care home Mum was at.

Things were going down hill, so last week I decided I better head back from the UK to NZ to... well... pretty much say my good-byes to me old man. I did not want the next time I was heading back to NZ to be his funeral, which sounded like was going to be taking place before the end of the year.

I got back to NZ last week, and saw Dad on Friday-last. I'm sad to say it was clear he was on his way out, and have been kicking myself that I did not get back sooner. But I got to see him, and more importantly he got to see me, and we spent some time together. We had a good Fathers' Day on Sunday: we got Mum up from her ward to sit with Dad for a while. She told him it might be time to go to sleep.

After that they had to up his meds so he was not aware of his surroundings any more. But we were there, my brother, myself; and mostly my sister who stayed by his side relentlessly each day.

But... and you could probably predict where this was going... at about 1pm this Wednesday gone, my father died. I was sitting here - right here - playing f***ing Skyrim at the time. WhyTF was I not there? Well... that's something that can't be undone. And in the bigger scheme of things: doesn't matter I guess.

I read a quip on Twitter the other day reminding us tech-industry people that next time our parents seem frustrating because we need to show them how to do the most mundane things on their computers, that they had to take the time to teach us how to even use a spoon.

My dad taught me how to use a spoon. He wiped my bum. He clothed me and he housed me. He saw to it I went to a good school. He praised me on the odd occasion I did something good; he softly admonished me when I got caught out not being so good. Occasionally I was chuffed cos I could tell he was proud of me. He tried (and for the most part failed) to teach me to bat and bowl, and to pass a rugby ball. And to play pool. My dad taught me how to play pool. How cool is that? He taught me to drive. He didn't get too f***ed off when I crashed his car. Again. And that other time. He bought me beer, and let me buy him beer.

Through all this I never really realised exactly how much my dad loved me until my own son came along, five-or-so years ago. One thing I think I did right is that I got on the phone to him straight away and told him I finally knew how much he loved me. As a father loves his children.

I love my dad so much. And I miss him so much. And I hadn't finished letting him buy me beers yet, and telling me yet another new story about his adventures in sports reporting, and his life in general as a bit of a scallywag.

This is the only photo of Dad, my boy Zachary, and meself:

Donald ("DJ") Cameron. 1933-02-20 - 2016-09-07. I hadn't finished buying you beer, Dad.

Donald Cameron jr.

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