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Bonzer Words!: Overcoming Difficulties

...It’s certainly not an original observation that we don’t appreciate our parents until they’re not around any more. When we’re young, we’re much too busy with our own affairs to think too much about them as individuals. It’s only as we become the older generation ourselves, that we can begin to understand the lives they led or the difficulties they overcame...

Nick Ogbourne tells of his hard-working father.

Nick writes for Bonzer! magazine, Please visit www.bonzer.org.au

Even in my sixties I still miss my dad. Annoying old so-and-so that he was and not the easiest to live with, I am reminded of him every day, as I see myself taking over so many of his habits and mannerisms.

It’s certainly not an original observation that we don’t appreciate our parents until they’re not around any more. When we’re young, we’re much too busy with our own affairs to think too much about them as individuals. It’s only as we become the older generation ourselves, that we can begin to understand the lives they led or the difficulties they overcame.

My dad didn’t have an easy life. He was born in 1912. When quite young, he contracted polio, not uncommon in those days. For some years, he was not greatly incapacitated and set out on life as a painter and decorator. But as time passed, the limp in one leg got worse. Then he began to have tremors in his arms, and was finally told he had Parkinson’s disease—whether this was connected to the polio or not, we shall never know. He was excused from military service in the War on medical grounds. Finally, he was unable to continue his trade. But he refused to spend the rest of his life on a disability pension, and got a job as a storeman in a light engineering firm. He continued to work there for another 25 years, when he finally retired. He never stopped working hard and never thought of himself as an invalid. He and his wife brought up and educated three sons, who have all gone on to do well for themselves.

What are the things I remember about him? A man of few words, who found it hard to talk in company. He was not widely read, and found writing difficult, but if life had turned out differently for him, he could have been a writer. During a visit to us in Tasmania from his home in England, he kept a diary, which was later written up into a small book. It is still a great read—simple and full of pathos and humour. He could certainly be short-tempered and impatient, but who would not be, coping with the restrictions of the life he was forced to live?

He loved his soccer, and Match of the Day was sacrosanct in our home. That was about the only TV program he could watch without falling asleep in the middle and snoring loudly. He always ate heartily and enjoyed his pint of beer—English beer, of course. On the day we left England for Tasmania, I remember him in a hospital bed, where he had just had an operation to remove a third of his stomach due to an ulcer. Everyone told him he would only be able to eat small portions of minced food from then on. And no more beer! 'Bugger that', was his reply, though he was rarely heard to swear, and went straight back to his normal diet.

He was a large man—well built, though not obese. However, due to his disabilities, he had some difficulty getting in and out of an arm-chair. Once in the process of sitting down, there was no way he could stop. We were always petrified he would sit on one of our small children, without even noticing. He wore his hair short-back-and-sides, with Brylcreem, in the fashion of the day, and even when styles changed, could never be persuaded to let it all run free. I have a picture of him on our back lawn, with a very long-suffering expression, allowing his grand-daughter to face-paint him.

His boys were everything to him, and he was very proud of us all, though he would never say so. He probably never understood what any of us did, with qualifications and uni degrees beyond his comprehension. But the fact that we had 'got on' was enough. He made the most of the life he had, and was contented with his lot. He died peacefully at the age of 82. I still miss him.


© Nick Ogbourne

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