A Father’s Love and Football

“I’m so excited about Father’s Day, Dad”, he would say daily in the lead up to the school breakfast. I tell him, “I am too”. Who doesn’t love a good bacon and egg roll but I have shared breakfast with a couple of under sixes before, in my own house, and the anticipation of sharing it with another hundred of them has me feeling a bit apprehensive.

We head off to school bright and early, Henry dressed in a flanno, boots and jeans. As well as Father’s Day Breakfast it is ‘Fiver for a Farmer Day’, an opportunity to raise some money for a genuine cause and the kids have been asked to dress as a farmer for the day.

On the way to school I tell Henry some exciting news. “I have got us tickets to the Swans-Giants final”. His face beams. It doesn’t take long for him to absorb the news. This will be the topic of conversation for the next week. He already has lots of questions but we are interrupted by our arrival at school.

Before long we are enjoying our bacon and egg rolls and an orange juice. I make some small talk with some other Dads and it is mostly about Usain Bolt coming to the Coast to play for the Mariners. It would be nice to talk about the Dees first finals appearance in 12 years, whether Big Maxy can win the Brownlow or whether Petracca is such a big game player that he will win the Norm Smith this year. However, I am conditioned enough to know I am too far north for those types of discussions. Besides, Bolt is a big story here on the coast and everybody is getting swept up in the excitement. I even allow myself to indulge in the hype and politely refer to soccer as ‘football’ to remain in the conversation.

After breakfast we have a good hour to kill and we head up to the oval. The oval is familiar to me as I scoured it recently after school for a lost jumper. I didn’t find the jumper I was looking for but I was motivated to run a small business collecting and selling second-hand school lunch boxes and drink bottles from the oval. I can see real market potential there.

I’m not sure why it is referred to as the ‘oval’. It is rectangular in shape, there are no goal posts of any description and there is no line-marking. It is well-worn though and gets a good workout from the kids at lunchtime. For this special morning, it is littered with Rugby League and Soccer balls. Like many of us Dads, few have kept their shape.

“I wish we brought the footy, Dad”. Having seen the unorthodox manner in which he ate his bacon and egg roll, I realise not bringing the footy to school is my second failure as a Dad today. I feel bad that I didn’t bring his footy. It is due to part absent-mindedness, part disorganisation. The same reason my donation is three Two Dollar coins and not one Five Dollar note. I am apologetic as the ka-ching ka-ching of my coins lands in the overflowing note filled hat.

We kick a soccer ball around for a while on the oval. That is all we do though. We kick a soccer ball. Back and forth. At times Henry feels obliged to pick it up and have a bounce and kick it. I kick it with a certain amount of awkwardness at the same time trying to be cool.

A moment later a Steeden rolls over and sits a few metres from Henry. Appearing over-inflated, the NRL logo fading and the synthetic texture worn away, it leans waiting to be noticed against a lonesome tuft of kikuyu. I keep an eye on it before I feel I have followed playground etiquette for long enough. I say to Henry, “grab that footy, mate”.

Then it begins. His world opens up. He is on the SCG. He is Luke Parker and then he’s Buddy. His left footy snaps over my head as he celebrates a goal with a double fist pump. His face lights up when I take a one hander and I go on a searching run. I am Flower. Always.

As the morning grows older and the oval gets busier, he weaves through traffic. He’s Isaac Heeney, then he’s Dan Hannebery and Josh Kennedy. He always uses their full name. Dribble kicks, handballs out in front and he has me doing ball-ups. Ruck contests and clearances accompanied by the fervour of a five-year old’s commentary. Soon he’s exhausted and it is my parenting responsibility to sound the siren. We make our way off the oval down the race to the classroom, arm in arm. I carry his flanno. He’s worked up a sweat in search of his possessions today.

It is a morning I will never forget. It is his face, the fun he has and the fact he spends the whole morning kicking the footy with me. It’s all he wants to do, which makes it a great Father’s Day.

In the classroom, he gives me a handmade gift. He is so proud to give it to me he is bursting. I tell him how much I love it. There is more to come, in the form of a written question and answer type interview which is more Neroli Meadows than Craig Hutchison. Whilst there is attention to detail, it is packaged with warmth and love. It is titled, My Dad Interview 2018.

In response to the question, ‘something Dad told me’, Henry has written, ‘He told me we are going to the rooty’. We have a good laugh because he knows it should read ‘footy’.

“rooty!” he says and we both laugh, “I did my ‘f’ wrong”. It’s a funny moment we share. I am grateful right now that he is in kindergarten and it is ‘footy’ that is at the centre of his universe.

Henry concludes the interview with, ‘The best thing about my Dad is he loves me’.

It is a well-researched interview.

As I put him to bed that night he asked me, ‘Dad, when we go to the Swans-Giants game, will you go for the Swans with me?”.

He agrees to a deal – I will go for the Swans for him, if he goes for the Dees on Friday night for me. There are no hidden clauses in the agreement but I suspect he will find a loophole and he does.

Late on Friday night when Mitch Hannan waltzed into goal and sent us a week deeper into September, I can’t quite describe the noise that came out as I yelled. It should have been the sound of exhilaration but what came out could fairly be described as wailing. The neighbors three doors down would have heard it.

So many emotions spilled over. So much joy. So much love.

I peered over to the lounge where Henry should have been cheering.

He was fast asleep.

About

Demons supporter. 1987 broke my heart. 1988 and 2000 is gone from my memory. The scars still exist. I still want them to do it for Robbie. I dream about the magic day all the time.

Comments

  1. Lovely story. Sad end for the five-year-old. Good luck for your Demons!

  2. “I am Flower. Always.”

    Love it.

    Thanks Piffy. I enjoyed that.

  3. Trucker Slim says:

    “Henry concludes the interview with, ‘The best thing about my Dad is he loves me’.

    It is a well-researched interview.”

    Yep, it’s a tear. A couple held back but a couple escaped. Lovely. The beauty of our world right there in that day, Thank you for sharing. Cheers

  4. Thanks Piffy.
    This was a gift, itself.

  5. Pete Baudinette says:

    43 years brother. If I only I could be there to hold your hair out of your eyes when you’re vomiting in the garden in celebration of a drought breaking gf win…..

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Ripper Piffy. Here’s to many more years of “rooty” for Henry and you. Together.

  7. Thanks for the comments. I hope everybody can enjoy this September whether your team is there or not. It’s a great time of the year.

  8. Thanks Piffy. Great memoir. Love how you locate and still the moments for us like sepia photographs.

    Good luck to you and Melbourne! There’s a narrative building here.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Piffy great stuff v enjoyable read

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