Dad didn't have an easy life. But then, perhaps none of the people I know well have had truly easy lives. He and I possessed a closeness of experience, of lives tempered in the same fire. We shared so many times together, both good and bad, that we barely needed to speak to know how the other was feeling. Sometimes he would just look at me, and I at him, and we would understand each other. There are emotions and reactions that Dad and I shared that nobody else could possibly comprehend completely, and I will miss knowing that there is someone else on the planet who went through all those years with me.
Dad wasn't an intellectual man, but he had an enormous influence on my intellectual tastes. He was the first person to introduce me to crosswords. I remember how happy I was to tell him the first time I solved a clue in the Courier Mail at the age of seven. Years later, crosswords are still my puzzle of choice. Dad didn't read books, but he inspired and nurtured my lifelong love for detective mysteries, British comedies, and foreign films, from which I can extrapolate most of my other tastes - everything from my fashion to the music I listen to. Like my dad, I love to travel as much as I can. I must have inherited that from him, because there's nobody else in my family who enjoys venturing far from home. When he made his journey to Europe in August, I admired him for it, and I couldn't help thinking that, if I were in his situation, I'd want to do exactly the same thing with the last months of my life.
I enjoyed watching my friends' faces whenever they heard my dad speak for the first time. There was always a look of confusion as they heard a pure Queensland outback accent, complete with Australianisms like 'struth', pouring from the mouth of a short, unassuming Chinese man. He used to tell me proudly of the shock on the faces of work colleagues he'd met in person for the first time after speaking to them only on the phone. They couldn't reconcile the way he looked with the way he sounded. I loved how he broke down that stereotype. Dad made me proud to be an Australian-born Chinese, and in the same way he did, I find myself revelling in breaking down stereotypes, both as an Australian and as a Chinese woman.
He could have a temper sometimes, but he had a sense of fun, too. Dad was the first person in my family who talked to me as an adult when I was a teenager, but in some ways, he saw the world through the eyes of a child. Sometimes, when Mum wasn't watching, he and I would indulge ourselves in luxuries like pizza and movies from the video store. We travelled together to Disneyland when I was nine, and I still remember that holiday as one of the most wonderful of my childhood. He had simple tastes and was easy to please. I never heard him complain at birthdays or Christmas as long as there was enough chocolate, cake, and sweets for him to eat, and I wonder how much of my own sweet tooth can be attributed to him.
Family meant a lot to Dad. Even when we were at our most chaotic, Dad fought to keep us together. Sometimes I don't know if that was the right thing to do, but it shows how much he loved and needed us.
I know that he was very sick towards the end. Part of me hurts that I wasn't able to be there to comfort him, but another part of me is glad that one of my last memories of Dad is of a man whose face lit up with a father's love when he saw me appear suddenly in the doorway of a hotel in London. In my memory, he will always have his dignity, and I think he would appreciate that.
I can't be at his funeral today, but time and place are meaningless to Dad now. I thank Mum and Trevor for looking after him in a way that I don't know if I would be brave or strong enough to do. Mum, you are an amazing woman, and you can live the rest of your life knowing that you willingly did more than anyone is called upon to do, and that I love you for it. Trevor, thank you for being there for Mum. She wouldn't have been able to do it without you.
And Dad, wherever you are, I hope you are at peace. I love you.
Lucy sent me the most wonderful e-mail describing the funeral. It was raining, and there were giant crows everywhere (I even heard one of them cawing while I was on the phone to Jason before the ceremony).
Lucy and Jason are the best gallows humorists in the entire world. They get it. They get everything. I love them so much.