My father was ninety-one years old when he died recently, far outliving his father and grandfather who died well before they reached their sixties.
Dad was a doctor, a kind, caring man who was available for every patient day and night. He sat with them in their sorrows and rejoiced with them at weddings and births. He loved babies – he delivered over two thousand of them– and loved to meet them when they’d grown up and he was asked to deliver the next generation of children.
He never talked much about his patients, and not just for reasons of confidentiality. He was a man who lived in the present, one of the few people I know who did. He had many stories to tell but rarely embarked on a ‘Now in my day’ kind of speech.
He grew up on a sugar cane farm in far north Queensland, the son of Italian migrants. To his dying day, he lamented moving to Victoria when he was fifteen. He had so many blessed memories of his time growing up in an idyllic location but the stories of his childhood were few and often repeated.
At his funeral, my brother and sister and I shared the eulogy between us. I told of his childhood and how he met Mum, my siblings talked of his sporting prowess and how they engaged with him on that level.
I came away wondering if I even knew my father. I certainly hadn’t related to him as a sportsman and had never heard some of the facts my sister and brother related. Conversely, my sister asked me where I’d heard all the facts I’d related about his childhood. I’d collected them from his aunt, his best friend and his sister. Dad told us very little about why and how his parents emigrated – living in the present, he just wasn’t interested.
Perhaps if I’d sat down with him decades earlier … but then he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s twenty years ago. Too late by then.
An alarming fact is that in 2025 (in just three years), 316 Australians are predicted to contract Alzheimer’s disease – a day! And no one knows when they will get it.
I wish Dad were here for me to record his story. Don’t be like me and wait till it is too late.
For Father’s Day, give your dad a present that will make him feel special, valued, loved. Hire a life story professional to record his life story in his own words.