Snap Shot #19: The Daddy Drill

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I’ve been so far fortunate to have had a physically affectionate relationship with my son. In the space of thirteen years, I have tossed him in the air, balanced him on my feet, blown raspberries on his belly, tickled him in all the right places and, of course, we’ve wrestled. Wow – does that kid love to wrestle: on sofas, on beds, on the floor and in the pool. But as he’s grown bigger and stronger, plus his enthusiasm to imitate his WWE heroes, I’ve had to take care that someone doesn’t get hurt (me!). I needed a wrestling weapon, something to immobilise him altogether. Drawing on years of knowledge of his weak spots, I devised ‘The Daddy Drill’. This is simply two of my fingers placed on a spot either on his collarbone or his hip. With the right amount of pressure, my son loses all ability to function. His knees buckle. He laughs. And he begs me to stop. Perfect. But as well as our rough and tumble, I also appreciate the more tender physical moments we share. A few years ago, when he was around ten, he sometimes spontaneously grabbed and held my hand as we walked. I savoured those occasions, knowing that they would soon pass. And they did. His current habit that I’m enjoying, knowing it too will be a phase, is to lean on me while we are both on the sofa watching TV. Sometimes I’ll put my arm around him. I know that it is only a matter of time before he will tower over me, making me feel like a frail old man, my dominance but a memory. And no doubt our physicality will be forced to fade. Even so, I do hope that, at the very least, we will still be able to still enjoy a hug – an expression of affection shared without awkwardness. I would like that.

 

Snap Shot #18: An Underachiever Reflects

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My get up and go just got up and went. My drive has deserted, ambition’s all spent. But I’m not too worried. No, I’m not so sad. Cause my life as it is ain’t all that half bad. Yes, there was a time when I had my dreams – wanted to change the world with so many schemes. Maybe unlucky, most likely lazy, perhaps my ideas were just a tad crazy. I am no rich man and I’ve got no fame. But oddly enough – I’m happy the same. For all I’ve not done and all that I did, been lucky in love – got a wife and a kid. My get up and go may now be long gone. But it won’t worry me, I’ll keep shuffling on.

Snap Shot #17: Mad Man Magnet

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I have no doubt that many would consider me a weirdo. After all, I am the white haired freckled faced freak who has been seen standing on his head in very public places. Others have witnessed me propelling myself on a scooter via the footpaths of Sydney, dressed like a twenty-something backpacker with an exclusively black and grey wardrobe. So I not only accept my status as a weirdo, I embrace it. However, as eccentric as I may seem to some, I do tend to keep my weirdness to myself, choosing not to approach others to share my loopiness directly. This is especially the case when I am in the steam room after having a swim. So when this big bellied bloke waddles in and announces, “Ah – what a beautiful day!”, my relaxing muscles tense up. I’m not interested in steam room chit chat. So I say nothing, as does the Chinese woman who had also been having a silent steam up until now. The bloke plops his butt down way too close for my liking. “I’m on night shift now so it’s great being able to be here at this time of day. I only work from five to nine. Except on weekends.” And so he continues, as I nod politely but say nothing. He stops after awhile and the three of us sit there, silently sweating. I start to feel a little guilty, like I burst this guy’s bubble. I decide to leave the steam room, have a quick rinse and then enter the sauna. A middle aged man and another Chinese woman are finishing a conversation. Great. More chit chat. But they remain quiet until the woman leaves. “Nice to meet you” says the man. I brace myself, knowing it’s a matter of time before this guy tries to engage me. Sure enough, thirty eight seconds later: “I lost seven kilos this week.” “Wow.” I wonder if this means he’s been in the sauna that long, seven kilos of sweat sliding down the drain. “Yeah – I had to. I ‘d let myself go.” He then shares details of just how he let himself go. This involved time off work, mates, beer, barbeques and, intriguingly, Japanese prostitutes. Deciding I already have more information than I require, I leave the sauna. Co-incidentally, I find a cute little Japanese place for lunch. I am eating my Chicken Katsu and reading the paper when the guy who’s just ordered sits at the table next to mine. He points at the paper. “So, you think Trump is going to win?” Oh God. Here we go again. “I hope not.” “Yes, well, let me tell you about politicians.” He then proceeds to tell me about politicians. Somehow, several ‘C’ words seem to be involved. “And I’ll tell you another ‘C’ word, and it’s not the one you think: collaboration.” I know immediately that this is not the first time he has uttered these words. This is his routine – probably one of many. I start shovelling rice into my face as fast as I can. I wash it down with hot green tea, scalding the roof of my mouth. “If they just collaborated, people might respect them. And they’d get a hell of a lot more done.” And I am done. But I can’t leave until he tells me about a website he’s about to launch called “Look It Up, Stupid.” I tell him I’ll look it up. After shopping and returning home, I’m in our apartment block’s garden that runs alongside the street. A couple of days earlier I had pulled up numerous stubborn clumps of feral grass, leaving a bed of sandy soil. I am raking rocks out of it when I hear a voice behind me: “Nice garden.” I turn to see this slightly ragged looking man. “You like it? This is my dirt garden.” He then starts telling me how he’s had heaps of experience with plants. He’s a bit hard to follow but it becomes obvious that he’s talking about dope plants – lots of them. “I was on Yorke Peninsula on my own growing thousands of plants.” He then mentions something about getting stranded without electricity but it’s a challenge to keep up with him. I suspect that he’s now operating on several million less brain cells than he had before he began his horticultural activities at Yorke Peninsula. A couple of hours later I am finishing pulling some less feral grass out of a different bed when I hear another voice: “What are you planting?” I turn and have a pleasant chat with a man who says he lives around the corner and, like me, is the volunteer gardener for his block. He is very lucid and offers some worthwhile advice. Compared to those I chatted to earlier, this guy seems boringly normal. Except for one thing. And that thing is a sleek black cat attached to a leash. That’s right, this guy is out walking his cat with a special cat leash (who knew?). It gets even weirder when the cat, Spooky, decides to climb a tree. The guy is used to this and continues chatting. I’m less used to it and my eyes keep following the leash upwards, above the guy’s head and around the neck of Spooky, who’s trying to get down off a branch. After some coaxing, she is once again walking along the footpath, attached to her master. So, my fellow freaks, fruit loops, weirdos and mad men – I salute you. And although I may not be as forthright as some of you, I am still proud to be part of a bunch who dance to the beat of a different drum. But I do have just one request: should you ever see me in the steam room or sauna, please zip your lips and leave me alone.

Snap Shot #16: Epiphany

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For some years now I have bragged about knowing the meaning of life. Evolution. To evolve. We are given the gift of life, every creature on the planet, to improve. Both individually and as a species. But it is only recently that I have begun to appreciate the full implications of this observation. I now realise the degree to which such evolution is largely a self motivated pursuit. I can not change the behaviour of most others; though I can influence my son’s development – for better and for worse. But the one person I can truly change is myself. I can try to resist engrained negative behavioural patterns and strive to be a better husband to my wife, a better father to my son, less selfish, more mindful and a generally happier human being. I can acknowledge my shortcomings and try to learn from my mistakes. I can accept that I am only human and therefore naturally flawed. But if I can reduce the overriding influence of those flaws and not be defined by them, then I will have evolved. I will have lived a meaningful life.

Snap Shot #15: That In-between Feeling

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The symmetrical regularity is remarkable. We are seated in a jam packed Melbourne Cricket Ground, two years since the last time and four since the first, supporting a footy team with an uncanny knack of qualifying for the AFL Grand Final every two years. My son and I experienced the dizzy euphoria of witnessing an upset victory when the Sydney Swans took down the favoured Hawthorn Hawks four years ago. But when we returned to the MCG for our second GF two years later, the Hawks ripped the Swans apart, making it the most expensive disappointment of my life. Fortunately, this time our opponents aren’t the hated Hawks, who are missing from the GF for the first time in five years. Instead, our Swans face the feel good story of the comp, the Western Bulldogs – a team that hasn’t been in a GF since before I was born and the only one they actually won was over sixty years ago. It seems as if the whole rest of the country is behind them, making the Swans the team destined to kill Bambi. Our seats are the best yet, just behind the goals and ten rows from the playing field. The excitement builds as I look around the huge stadium with its quilt-like patches of red and blue. The game begins and it’s brutal. Our section of red and white clad supporters, looking like we’re cheering for Santa, erupt with every Swans goal. But we are drowned out each time the Doggies score, their fans achieving jet engine like decibels. The game ebbs and flows but remains tight. For three and a half quarters – it’s up for grabs. But then, half way through the final quarter, it’s the Doggies who want it more. They pull away and win it by 22 points. The siren sounds and the Bulldog fans go nuts. I’ve never seen so many happy crying tattooed bogans. Although I feel disappointed, this is countered by the wave of sheer joy generated by tens of thousands of delirious fans. The fairy tale has won the day. I head to the toilet quickly before the presentations. On the way back to my seat, the aisle is blocked by a big bellied bogan. We look at each other. Then he extends his hand. I’m moved by the gesture. I shake it and yell above the noise, “Your boys deserve it.” When I return to my seat, my son isn’t interested in staying for the medal ceremony. But I insist, saying that we are witnessing history. And we do, especially when the Bulldog’s coach gives his own medal over to his non-playing injured captain, who then triumphantly lifts up the premiership cup with the acting captain. The crowd roars. Okay, we can leave now. We follow the dancing Doggy fans out of the stadium, find a bit of grass and kick our red and white Swans ball back and forth. I savour the moment, knowing that this is likely to be the last AFL grand final my son and I will ever attend. We have been lucky to experience three: the joyous one, the depressing one and one that has left us with that in-between feeling. That’ll do.