CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Different things stir our spirit; reach into our soul. What stirs mine may not stir you. I suppose it’s what makes the world go around.

Recently on this site Peter Flynn wrote about the mighty Black Caviar. The sight of it powering away from its rivals obviously captured him. I can understand that. A horse in full flight; power, balance, courage, speed. Beautiful.

These things stir me too. I used to wish I could run like Carl Lewis. I thought Carl must have been touched by God. I remember watching Carl Lewis come off the bend in an Olympic 200 metre final. Los Angeles I think it was. He left the blocks with the same ease and poise that a kangaroo clears a cattle fence. At the bend he was going so fast I thought he might actually leave the ground. Long before Usain Bolt was pulling imaginary shotguns out after obliterating the best in the world there was Carl Lewis. Sheer athletic genius.

Footy stirs my soul too. Footy that’s free and skillful and tough. Not process footy. Not stats footy, not footy that needs rotations, ratios and rules committees. I love footy that’s so completely exquisite that it’s the visual equivalent of drinking a 1996 St Henri shiraz. Gary Ablett footy (senior and junior), James Hird footy, Leigh Matthews footy, Malcolm Blight footy, Chris Judd footy. Footy that celebrates Snake Baker, Peter Knights, Paul Van Der Haar and Ken Hunter. Footy that enables a Robbie Flower to cruise down an open wing, footy that gave Diesel Williams room to flourish, footy that provided Wayne Carey with his playground, footy that let Daicos be Daicos.

I can’t understand people who are blind to the splendour of this.

I have an eleven year old boy. Liam doesn’t love footy. He likes footy but it doesn’t stir him. He’ll cheer at the game, he’ll want to know if the Cats won after a Friday night late game, he’ll wear the jumper, but it doesn’t stir him.

Liam loves tennis. We’ve been to a few AAMI Classics and to the Australian Open on two occasions. We’ve seen Federa, Verdasco, Hewitt, Serena Williams and Djokovic up close. They are magnificent to watch. I always enjoy the day at the tennis, but it doesn’t touch me. It doesn’t take me to another place like an Ablett feat of brilliance did. But it stirs Liam.

Liam loves music too. He learns the piano and clarinet and sings in the National Boys Choir of Australia. Music resides in him. He sits at the computer and downloads fugues by JS Bach and concertos by Mozart. He listens to Beethoven’s symphonies and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. He listens to modern crap too but thankfully it doesn’t seem to enrich him like this other music does. I find it astounding that he can reconcile Pink with Bach. Youth is a wonderful thing.

Recently he got me to listen to one of the most magnificent pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

“Come and listen to this Dad.” We sat at the computer, he got the google machine going, went onto U-Tube, and found Miserere Mei Deus by Gregorio Allegri. It was written in the 1630s. We sat next to each other silently. This music reaches inside you.

After we’d listened he told me that the Pope at the time regarded this music as so holy that it was not permitted to be played in public. It was kept for the Pope’s ears only. I wandered what the Pope would think if he could see us listening to it on U-Tube whilst a weight loss ad blinked constantly at us.

The music stirred Liam’s soul. Mine too. We have some common ground. In years to come I hope he enjoys red wine.

On the weekend we went to a fun run/walk. It was one of those fund raising days. This one was for the choir.

“Instead of walking it why don’t we jog?” I asked.

After being initially reluctant Liam eventually came around to the idea.

“If you’re feeling the pinch we’ll stop and rest” I said, thinking it would be me nursing him home to the finish line.

We started at a slow but steady pace. We had four kilometers to cover.

“How ya feeling?” I was asking as we plodded along.

“Good” came his replies. He sounded as fresh as a daisy.

“Want to step up the pace a bit?” I asked after about two kilometers.

“Yeah”

So we did. As we closed in on three kilometers I started to feel my 47 years of age. Liam pranced along next to me, slightly red faced but otherwise very comfortable.

“If you feel good just go.” I said to him. He looked up at his huffing and puffing Dad. He hesitated but stayed with me. He could have gone but he didn’t. I wander if he understood the significance of the moment.

A few minutes later he tried to rally me. “Come on Dad” he said as we got within about 500 metres of the finish, but I was shot. He darted off down the track like a young blowfly in a fruit bowl. The acceleration was natural, effortless, and easy. His legs weren’t heavy and burdened by life and age. They lifted off the gravel path and took him away. I was left to plod to the end.

I watched him go. He went quickly. He put space between us in the blink of an eye. Youth, what youth. I watched him and it stirred my soul. I realized I was watching the boy take his first steps to becoming a man. Liam will find his own way and the things that stir his soul. They’ll be different to mine but I’ll celebrate that.

About Damian O'Donnell

OK - which is the odd one out: Love the Cats and flannelette shirts, especially in winter. I get on extremely well with red wine. We just seem to hit it off. Love horse racing in Spring. Used to love cricket. Go to Stawell every Easter and contemplate life around the fire. Love water skiing, especially in summer. Get meaning from catching a beautiful curling wave. Love a great oil painting. Will read most things put in front of me. Thought 'The Sopranos' was the best TV show ever made - by miles. Run an accounting practice in Melbourne's suburbs.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Dips, my moment of revelation would have come a long way before 3km.

    Don’t feel too bad.

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    Dips,

    I wish I could field like you!

    I really enjoyed reading your piece, particularly the bond between you and Liam and how different styles of footy floats your boat.

    Cheers,

    PF

  3. smokie88 says:

    Excellent Dips,
    Similar feelings were stirred within me this past cricket season: as I plugged away in the 3rds, my 16 year-old son was promoted to the 2nds. My immediate feeling was that I had just lost my main motivating factor for continuing to play. But I soon recognised it for it was: another changing of the guard.

  4. Thanks boys – appreciate the comments. I’m really looking forward to the father/son bond as I get older.

    As Molly Meldrum would say, do yourselves a favour, get a glass of red wine, find Allegri’s piece of music, sit down comfortably and play it REALLY loud (whilst sipping your wine of choice).

  5. johnharms says:

    Dips

    That’s why I had kids late. I have an excuse.

  6. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    Dips,

    just a beautiful reflection on a developing relationship between father and son.

    It shows how much our kids can teach us if we open our souls to them. Will definitely get Anastasia, who is the same age as Liam, to read this and then have a listen to Allegri. Great work.

  7. ‘What I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys, see you later can I have them please’.

    So sayeth the late great Harry Chapin

  8. There is a chronological sequence of father sons here.

    My son has just turned 25 and is about 6’5′ (in the old money). He recently left the comfort of home when he got a job some distance away. He does extensive exercise (including footy training) six days a week, surfs on most weekends and after work when the waves are ok and does all manner of stuff.

    My wife recently met him at the other end of the island and had lunch with him. He now fully supports himself, including purschase of all cullenary requirements. Jane was bemused when he fessed up during the conversation. ‘I didn’t realise just how much I eat’

    We no longer have to change the guard on the fridge.

  9. Phil – I hope Anastasia enjoys the music. Otherwise you’ll be called “lame”. Isn’t that what kids call most things these days?

    Phantom – love that song.

  10. Rick Kane says:

    Dips, that’s a wonderful reflection on parenthood and the cycle of life. Sadly, my father passed away before I had children of my own so I didn’t get to say sorry to him for all the time I had spent being judge and jury of his shortcomings. I love how much my children have taught me. It sounds like you’ve got a good thing going on. Cheers

  11. Alovesupreme says:

    Dips,
    I had a similar experience when my rising 30 year old son was 11 (which makes me 44 at the time). He’d decided to tackle the Olympic Dream fun run (10k.), and I was happy to encourage him, as I’m a very committed runner. He did an appropriate amount of training, so I was confident that he’d cope with the distance, but I had the natural concern of a parent that he wasn’t going to over-do it. We ran together at a modest speed, and I asked him several times was he OK. Each time he grunted or nodded an affirmative. When the finish gates came in sight, I turned to ask him how he felt, and if he wanted to push through the final 150 metres. Unfortunately for me, he chose that moment to take off on my blind side (shades of Bannister v Landy at Vancouver, 1954), and I couldn’t pick up the pace quickly enough.
    He has since run occasionally, and finally completed a slow first marathon, last October.

  12. Yesterday at the GF my 7 year old son played in the pre-game Auskick kids vs parents game. I missed it due to being in the rooms preparing. I told him how sad I was to miss it, he said “That’s ok, make sure you win!”

    After the game, (a nail biter), the Auskick kids presented us with the Premiership Medallions. Simon gave me mine. Rather than a changing of the guard I saw it as a kind of reverse changing of the baton. Im 45 yrs, 6 months and 26 days old. I’m not going to play footy again. I hope he has many years of enjoyment.

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