Some people are like a sunny day; warm and mild. My Dad was a thunderstorm; nourishing rain, invigorating wind, majestic thunder and brilliant lightning, all topped off with a vibrant rainbow of creativity.
He was always making something; costumes for the local theatre group, sculptures out of discarded tin or plastic, or “skate racers” for me and my brother. (Think wooden skateboards with handlebars that you knelt on and pushed along with the other leg. We drew the plans, and he made them while we were at school. That’s the kind of awesome guy he was)
His shed was rumbled and roared like a restless volcano as he worked his magic inside, eventually emerging with some wondrous new creation. My Mum was the family breadwinner, and Dad was a stay-at-home househusband. Somehow, between cleaning the house, cooking dinner, and keeping on top of my and my brother, he still found time to create. Our backyard was his portfolio, filled with giant chess pieces, mosaics, tin dragons, and earth mother figures.
Every Sunday, he would drive us to the beach and teach us how to surf. Every Thursday, when Mum was off at her committee meetings, he would buy us ice creams and show us so-bad-they’re-good sci-fi movies.
I always admired how he seemed to be able to get along with anyone. He could strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, and within a few minutes, they’d be chatting like old friends.
Of course, it wasn’t always lollipops and unicorn farts; I had my share of arguments with him, and looking back, I think it was because he was a little Aspie himself. Many of his rules seemed arbitrary to me, and he refused to ever explain them.
So we may have had our differences, but these moments were like a few spots of burnt crust on an otherwise spectacular pizza.
When I was 19 years old, he died of a heart attack.
This happened just a few months after I was diagnosed with autism. I’ve always been thankful that he at least lived to see that day, and I hope that it helped him to understand our differences. Whether he too fell on the autism spectrum I can never know. I suspect he did, because of his intense focus on his passions and his sometimes rigid way of doing things, but these are hardly spectrum-exclusive traits, and he was never diagnosed.
I often catch myself wondering what he’d think of movies that have come out since he died, or what fantastic creations he would have gone on to produce. There are so many people who have come into my life in the last five years that I wish could have met him.
But most of all, I wonder what he’d think of me. Would he be proud? Would he want me to get a “real” full time job, or would he approve of me doing autism support and aged care volunteer work while surviving on Centrelink? Again, I can never know for sure.
What I do know is that for nineteen and a half years I was blessed with a truly wonderful father, and I’m grateful for every second we had together. Especially the time at the beach (before my OCD kicked in, for the record) that he held my head still so a blue wren could shit on it, because apparently this was “good luck”.
I love you, Dad. Thanks for everything.