The Living Years (Rutherford/Robertson)
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door
I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years
Alex Kath and 3 week old Tony
On this day in 1992 my father, Alex, died. It was the end of a long period of loss in my life that haunts me still. I really “lost” my father when I was a young teenager. We just stopped talking and I began to learn to live alone without an adult mentor. In August 2012 my mother also passed away. To honour them both I have published this image of my parents holding me at three weeks.
Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye
I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say
My father was my hero. I was the eldest son and I cherished that early experience of “first claim” to his love and attention. In the shrine I designed to his memory there are two photos of Dad and me, just the two of us. They are the only photos ever taken of just us two. In one he is holding me as a new babe and gazing down into my eyes. The other is a classic of Dad supporting me on his old “28 inch” bike with me in a baby dress of a typical one year old of the era!!! The bike was a great symbol of those early years. I have so many happy memories of Dad taking me for a “dink” sitting on the bar while he peddled. I still remember the nervous thrill of riding that same bike before I could even reach the seat. Somehow, once I learnt to ride on my own everything changed.
My father gave me inspiration. His faith was a traditional Catholicism with a passion for the poor and the marginalised. He would often take me with him to his voluntary work at the night shelter for the homeless in Geelong. Later in my teens I remember being in awe when I heard a testimonial to Dad and stories I never knew were made public of his commitment to the work of “Vinnies”
Our relationship was a bonding through unspoken words. I was a headstrong adolescent with a fiery temper that must have worried him. I was also an inquisitive young gay boy which I suspect he knew and carried inside with great anxiety and fear. Our religion and our culture didn’t allow us to explore the curiosity and libido inside me.
We shared a love of music and it was his collection of jazz and musicals that I played over and over.He read widely and from his bookcase I discovered the writings of Thomas Merton, Banjo Paterson, Boris Pasternak and so many more.
I miss my Dad, I miss all we could have been for each other. As he lay dying the “Living Years” lyrics were all around me like a spirit calling me to face the loss of so much. His funeral was a great tribute with some music from Bing Crosby as well as a passionate version of “Come to The Water”. as we gave him over on the final journey nearer to his God.
Though like the wanderer,
The sun gone down,
Darkness be over me,
My rest a stone,
Yet in my dreams I’d be
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee!
I am like my father in many ways. I have his strength and resilience. I have his passion and I suspect I share much of his quiet reserve about his inner life………..yet in a way this writing is a long step from “quiet reserve”!! He served in Borneo and PNG during WWII. He never marched in an ANZAC parade and never really spoke of what happened to him during those frightful years. We both hide much of our lives deep inside where no-one has access, except perhaps the spirit of healing who alone can break through the heavy heart.
RIP my loving Dad. I miss you still.