Pallbearer title

Pallbearer

I first saw my dad cry when his father died.

Pop spent his last days in Coburg Hospital. Dad got the train down from Cobram to say a final goodbye. Each of his siblings had their time, then in we went.

Pop was unconscious and pasty-faced, thick tubes hanging from his mouth. We hovered over the bed and dad gazed down at his father. He held his hand tightly, gently rubbing thumb over knuckle. I noticed, for the first time, that they had the same hands: large, rough and deeply palm-lined.

“You’re a tough old bastard,” he said.

I felt uncomfortable as dad gripped Pop’s hand even more firmly. Minutes went by and nothing was said.

Then, as if out of the blue: ‘I’ll never see him again…”

The old man was choking up. Tears welled in my eyes as I wrapped an arm around him. “It will be alright,” I said.

It was weird to see dad vulnerable; an unfamiliar raw nerve had been exposed. Dad had always provided and protected and stayed strong. The spectre of death had penetrated his leathery veneer.

I found myself focusing on those hands, still clutching his dying dad’s.

Those hands.

On my shoulder as I entered another new classroom, the result of another bank transfer.

Reaching into his jacket pocket as he walked in from work and producing a new set of footy cards.

Guiding my first attempt to reel in a redfin from the Murray.

Steering our car, full of scab-kneed boys, to little athletics, junior cricket and junior football.

Placing a wad of beer tickets into my palm as a pimply 17-year-old at the footy club. “Don’t go overboard,” he’d said.

Back in the hospital, we held the moment a while longer before leaving Pop for eternity. Three generations, a love that carried through the ages, but never outwardly shown. What was that Mike and the Mechanics song again?

Afterwards I drove dad back to Cobram. He had a few beers and became chirpy again, reeling off stories about his father that I’d never heard before. Several times he thanked me for driving him home. I shook my head and told him, in no uncertain terms, that it was the least I could do. I could have done it a thousand times over and still felt indebted to him.

Fast forward a few days and we were hauling Pop’s weight out of the church and into the back of the hearse. There were six of us: four of my cousins and my father and I. We were up front, straining with the emotion and the weight.

At the gravesite the bugle man played “The Last Post”. I had my arm around Nan. She rested her tired, sad head on my shoulder.

Being a pallbearer was one my proudest moments: being shoulder to shoulder with my dad and playing an important part in my grandfather’s farewell.

The experience stayed with me, strongly, until the circle closed and I became a dad for the first time.

Edie didn’t have to wait long to see me cry, however; I was in bits the moment I laid eyes on her. But don’t lose hope, dearest forefathers: I managed to fight back the tears the first time I handed her over to dad for a nurse.




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  1. Colleen

    This is so well written Daniel and very emotional, thankyou so much for being there for my brother and father love you xxxxx


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