“We’re doing stories about our dads for Fathers’ Day, could you do something about yours”.
The brain had a slight crunching of the gears as I tried to crank out a reasonable sounding thought.
All I could think was that I hadn’t seen mine for 37 years, well, not in person.
And the fact is I can’t actually remember the last time I did.
It’s always bothered me.
Was it down at the Goondiwindi Tennis courts? Where he’d sit in the old weather-beaten grandstand and watch, silently. He wasn’t much for words my dad.
When it was hot, and the sun beat down and he’d forgotten an old beat-up, sweat-soiled Akubra he’d bought in the 1960s, he’d tie the corner of his hanky in knots and plonk it on top of his head.
I’d only seen Poms do that on the beach in BBC movies.
He had a rare dislike of the Poms though my dad, not for any particular reason apart from the fact John Snow bowled too fast and Derek Randall the pixie-like English batsman offended him. I can’t fathom why. He, dad, not Randall exploded into a purple-inducing tirade the day Derek scored a brave ton in the Centenary Test in Melbourne in 1977.
Lillee, my, and my old man’s idol, bowled a searing bouncer which almost decapitated the pommie pixie. Randall fell over backwards, somersaulted, came jumping to his feet with a wide grin and doffed his cap to Lillee.
I only heard Lloyd Dudley Jones swear twice. That day was one of them. It was a wondrous event to behold.
My tennis idol was Ken “Muscles” Rosewall – Imagine Luke Skywalker of the tennis court. And then imagine Ilie Nastase, the Romanian great or John McEnroe. They were the Darth Vaders of tennis in the 1970s, and I was somehow drawn to the darkside. I may have been 11, and I played, and was beaten but put on a performance to match McEnroe or “Nasty” Nastase.
The old fella didn’t say a word, and that embarrassed and shamed me as much as anything he could have said. Or so I thought. We walked out of the Goondiwindi Town Tennis courts, me in front, when he replaced my sphincter with a well-placed size 11 boot.
Not a word. I didn’t complain and I never acted like Nasty ever, ever again, not matter what sport I played.
I only saw him cry once.
At the Queensland State Athletic Titles in 1977 although he probably came close when Randall scored that ton. Goondiwindi Phys. Ed teacher and Emus legendary second-rower, Tom McIntosh and I had joined forces four months earlier to investigate the mysterious world of triple-jumping.
I mentioned I’d like to have a crack. He went out and bought a book on how to do it and then he dug a special pit because we didn’t have one at the High School back then. The final mystery of that story is that I did a “Bradbury” before Stephen Bradbury at the Winter Olympics and won.
I walked up the hill to where the small home-contingent stood. Mac was stoic and smiled a lot. Maybe his mo bristled a little more than usual. But the old bloke walked down the hill, threw his arms around me (He was, at 59, abristly ‘old’ bugger) and the tears came, no words, just tears..
I’d never seen that before.
Sadly I never saw it again. A little over 12 months later the phone rang late one night and I remember watching mum answer it, and somehow knowing, our world had changed. And that I’d never see him again.
But like most teenagers, I was wrong about lots of things. I may not have seen him in person for 37 years, but I see him everywhere. When I drive passed those tennis courts.
When my eldest son walks into a room, his trousers ballooning out at his hips, just like they did on his grandfather.
He walks, stiff shouldered, with only his forearms rocking slightly back and forth – just like Loyd Dudley.
I see it in my daughter’s smile, well, the ones she catches halfway to her lips and stops.
I hear it, or not hear it, in my middle son – who speaks – occasionally.
And of course there are the memories and the stories my own brothers and sister tell me, of a younger man, I didn’t know. Who lost and loved and tried and failed and won, sometimes. Like all of us.
They are stories which make me proud of Lloyd Dudley Jones, my father. A man I wish I’d gotten know better.
But I have that hug, and others, and those tears, and after all is said and done in this weird, magical world of ours, in this strange thing we call life and that we all go though in our own peculiar way, that’s, enough. That’s enough.