Well, here I sit as miserable and depressed as all get-up, and trying to drag my arse forward.

On Tuesday I got home from work and spent a blissful hour faffing about planning what to pack for the school camp I was going on before the bloke walked in with a grey face and said he had some bad news.

“You’ve lost your job!”

“No…no. Nothing like that.”

I immediately thought that our 13 year old dog was dead but after a split second I realised she was dancing around at our feet so thought it safe to rule that out.

“Your mum called me at lunchtime. Your Pa has died.”

I was genuinelly speechless. Which is laughable, really, as he was 93 and had been pretty sick all year. Pneumonia in February didn’t kill him despite the medication not working, and just the Thursday before my mum has told me that she didn’t expect him to live. God, but, the shock of it. I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t believe it. I did not want him to be dead. That’s all I could say to myself over the next day or so. I do not want him to be dead.

I should have been grateful for having such a wonderful man in my life for 34 years. I spent a lot of time with him growing up, living in the same small town as him for years then only 40 minutes away until I left home for Uni. Before I went overseas in 2000 I visited him and my nan, and cried as I was leaving. He couldn’t work out why I was sad. Before I knew it, I blurted out “I don’t want you to die when I’m overseas!” He got tears in his eyes and said “I promise I wont’.” I believed him. Looking at my nan that day, with the shadow of dementia around her, I knew she would never recognise me again. But I knew Pa would be waiting for me when I got back. And I was right.

I can’t even speak about my nan, six years after her awful death, without crying. But my Pa’s death was a good one. He had told the nurses two days before “I’ve had a great life. But I’m sick of it now.” They had held his hands as he slipped away. The funeral was a true celebration of a lovely man with a wonderful sense of humour and duty. And my mum told me a “Pa story” that remarkably, I hadn’t heard.

Mum came home one day from work to find nan barely upright, holding herself up at the sink. Her face was green, and she looked close to passing out. “What’s wrong, mum?!” my mum asked her, but nan shook her head. She couldn’t even look at mum, she just focussed hard on the window in front of her, her knuckles white as she clung to the enamel sink. Eventually she murmered “A frog…your father…the frog”.

After much pressing, it emerged that Pa had been digging a hole with a pick out in the yard, and had accidently hit a green frog. The edge of the pick split the frog open from head to leg on one side, and with half it’s organs hanging out, Pa had rushed down to the house with it. He made nan hold it tight whilst he carefully sewed up the body with a needle and thread. Nan was not keen on animals. She wouldn’t even pat the family dog. She had the weakest stomach of anyone I knew, and mum said the thought of nan holding that slippery, fighting frog with her bare hands while Pa scolded her on her technique was too much – she sat at the kitchen table and laughed still she cried. She went out the back to see what he had done with the frog, and paused as she stepped off the porch to look at the sky and say “Thank God I wasn’t here!!” (mum was usually stuck with being the assistant – she used to have to go rabbit hunting with Pa and once had to hold the family dog down while Pa stitched up it’s leg and stomach with a darning needle after it got caught in a barbed wire fence)

She found Pa and asked what had happened to the frog. He said he had dug a hole the length of his arm and put the frog in it to recover, loosely filling the hole with dead leaves and hay, and putting a sheet of metal over the top. The theory was that the insects would fall down through the fill and the frog would have food and water from the condensation to drink.

A fortnight passed. Everyone – including Pa – forgot about the frog.

When mum suddenly remembered, she ran up to the veggie patch where Pa could be found about 6 hours of the day and yelled “THE FROG!” Pa said “Oh God, the poor little bugger” and threw the hose down. They both ran over to the hole, Pa lamenting his forgetfulness with great anguish. He threw off the sheet metal and frantically pulled out the leaves and hay. Eventually he lay down on the ground and lowered his arm – right down to the armpit – gingerly down the hole. There are a heap of dangerous spiders in Pa’s part of Australia. He regularly caught them and released them down at the creek. But still – bare armed – he felt around for the body of the unfortunate frog. His frown disappeared. His eyes lit up. A smile appeared. And slowly he knelt up and out of the hole came a very fat frog, twice the size of the one he had put down there. It was obvious that the insect trap had worked very well. He’s been gorging himself stupid. They turned over the frog on it’s side, and there was a solid – if uneven – seam right up his body. Pa sat the struggling frog on the ground and off he hopped without a backward glance.

I won’t say Rest in Peace, Pa, because you had too many questions that needed answering. How big was the universe? Where did it end? How did everything tick? I’m hoping God has some answers for you, because you are pretty persistant. And today I can look at the sky and thank God I ever knew you.

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