I MET a bloke who said his father had been dead for 20 years and he still wasn’t over it.
My father had died the year before and I could still hear him telling me how to remove the ceiling fan in the bathroom.
I’d done it a couple of times and I was over 50 years old, but that didn’t make any difference.
As far as he was concerned I was still “bloody hopeless”.
His funeral was a classic country town affair.
The police stopped the traffic, locals lined the main street, and the hearse stalled.
When it stopped, about half-way through town, one of my brothers poked my ribs and said: “Look out, he’s got one more thing to tell you.”
When Stanley Roy Doust was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in September 2001, I was shocked and wept for days.
I had to get it over before I saw him.
He wouldn’t want any son of his blubbering in his face.
From September to December my brothers and our wives were with Dad and Mum every week, driving him to chemotherapy, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and caring for Mum.
Dad had been Mum’s full-time carer ever since she broke both hips.
She broke one at home, in Bridgetown and my brother Jamie said she did it as she turned to return to the kitchen for more food.
The hip collapsed and she fell to the floor.
He ran to her and she said: “I’m ok, dear, you finish your meal.”
Mum broke the other hip in a Bunbury hospital.
She tried to leave the bathroom without assistance, turned, and the other hip collapsed: “The staff are very busy in here and I didn’t want to bother them.”
That was how they were.
They kept saying: “We’ll go into a nursing home. We’ll get full-time care. You can’t keep doing this for us.”
He never complained.
And he never gave up.
One day we had a working bee at his house.
It was after a particularly heavy bout of chemo and he wasn’t feeling too posh.
There were about 10 of us, weeding, mowing the lawn, collecting garden refuse.
We were only five minutes into the job when the back door opened and there was dad in his work clobber, mouth open and issuing instructions:
“You can’t get a good cut like that. That hose should run straight. The rubbish goes on that side of the compost heap.”
We knew Christmas would be Dad’s last and we wanted to do something special.
The oldest brother came up with a winner: a fishing trip by houseboat, just Dad and his sons.
We did it.
Sadly, Dad had a stroke the night before and by the time we got him on the boat he was a bit ragged.
We did it again the following year, Stan’s four boys and his grandsons.
We talked a lot about Dad.
He was a leader and a legend in the South West, a stirrer with a great sense of humour, a kind and forgiving man, and no father could have been more generous.
There was only one thing missing.
All our lives Dad had never said he loved us, that he was proud of us, or that he respected us.
We knew he did, but he never said it.
Then a family friend called a day before the funeral and said, “I have a note for you. From your father.”
It’s a beautiful note. He tells us why he never said those things, that it was hard for men of his generation, and then he says them.
Who would want to get over a man like that?
He’s an inspiration.
In his darkest hours, he not only found the courage to break through a lifelong pattern of behaviour, but he left his sons with a wonderful gift: his love, his pride, and his respect.