A tribute to my dad: a Bulldog – not quite through and through – but a Bulldog nonetheless

Gigs dad 1Gigs dad 2

 

 

It’s after midnight as I sit here, the comforting sound of percolating coffee constant as I type. Except it isn’t coffee percolating – it’s my dad breathing. His lungs are filled with fluid. He has pneumonia. He has bleeding on the brain. And two broken ribs. And a cracked vertebra. Since his fall a few weeks ago, he’s gone downhill fast. Tonight could be his last. At 92 years old, Dad is dying. Mum’s on a reclining chair next to his bed, asleep, her hand holding his one final time.

I don’t have my parents to thank for my love of footy. Neither of them ever took more than a passing interest. Dad came to Australia in 1951 and settled in Melbourne a couple of years later, but the game never grabbed him. To him nothing could match the skill and artistry of the round-ball game. He only ever got to one VFL/AFL match. His long-time Geelong-supporting friend took him to see the Cats play Essendon at the MCG on the Queen’s Birthday in 1989. It had rained an inch the previous day and the ‘G was a mud-heap. 87,000 saw Geelong win in a canter. Essendon only kicked four goals. It was never going to be the sort of game that won Dad over.

Mum grew up in Sydney. She ended up in Melbourne at the same time as Dad. She lived in Hawthorn at first, so supported the Hawks. But when Mum and Dad married in 1954 they built a house out west, in St Albans, so Dad could be near his workplace, ICI in Deer Park, where he was an industrial chemist. So she, along with Dad, became supporters of Footscray. Supporters only in the sense that, if you asked them who they supported, their answer would be “Footscray”. That’s literally as far as the support went. Mum’s been to one less game than Dad. But perhaps there’s still time. Though she’ll be 90 in November, we may yet get her along to a match.

So one could never say their interest in the game was great. But they did take an interest in our interest. They could see that my brothers and I (my sister less so) were consumed by footy. On a Saturday night, Dad would never fail to ask, “How did Footscray go today?” or, from 1997, “How did the Bulldogs go today?” He had a general idea what was going in the AFL. He knew when the Dogs were a good side and when they weren’t. And if the answer to his question was, “We got slaughtered”, he’d pass on a rueful, “Ohhh”, to us, just to let us know that he was sharing our pain, even if just for a split second.

Mum also always asks how Footscray has gone. But her response to my answer always infuriates me. If the Dogs have had a big win and I say, “We smashed ’em”, her invariable response is to feel sorry the team that lost. If it’s a team such as Carlton that we’ve beaten, I’ll snap back, “No, don’t feel sorry for them! They’ve won 16 flags; they’ve had their glory. Now it’s our turn!” But she never seems quite convinced. And, even more infuriatingly, if we’ve lost, she’ll say cheerfully, “Oh well, that’s good for the team that won, isn’t it?” I’ve given up trying to share the pain or the pleasure with her!

Despite their support for the Dogs and their passing interest in the way our team’s going, I’ve always held them responsible, at least partially, for the terrible era us Doggie supporters have had to endure. You see, they got married on November 27th, 1954, just weeks after Footscray won its first – and still only – VFL/AFL flag. The Dogs have not won another premiership since they tied the knot at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Hawthorn. Coincidence? I don’t know but I have told them on more than one occasion (not least after one of our heartbreaking Preliminary Final losses) that I’m going to write to the Pope to get the marriage annulled.

But I could never do that. Their love for each other and for all six of their kids is far too strong to let a silly thing like footy get in the way of it. It’ll be 60 years in November. Or it would have been. They’re not quite going to make it. The doctors were in earlier tonight. There’s little they can do now. Dad’s not being fed. They’ve taken out his saline drip. The antibiotics were doing nothing so they’ve been stopped, too. It’s all about keeping him as comfortable as possible from here. At some point in the next few hours, maybe the next few days, the sound of coffee percolating will stop. And that will be it. Dad’s life will be over.

He never loved footy like I do but he loved the fact that I did. And he loved me. And I love him.

Thanks Dad.

 

*Gigs’s dad passed away at 5am the following morning, August 23rd, 2014.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Neil Anderson says

    Thinking of you and your dad Gigs as another Bulldog supporter originally from that area.
    My dad was a great family man who did everything he could for us when we lived in Footscray. Riding his pushbike out to Laverton RAAF-BASE so he could save for a car was one sacrifice.
    But while he was busy doing the right thing for his family there was never any time left for what he would call the trivial stuff. So I would have loved him to take time out and ask, ‘How did the Dogs go today?”
    I can see in your writing how much that meant to you and how much you appreciated his interest in footy…for your sake.

  2. Thanks, Neil.

  3. Keiran Croker says

    Thinking of you Gigs. My nearly 92 y.o dad passed away 3 weeks ago. It’s an emotional roller coaster. I trust great memories will sustain you and your family for the coming days and weeks.
    Cheers, Keiran.

  4. So sorry Gigs.
    Nothing can prepare you for the loss of Dad.
    The more you love and were loved, the more you hurt.
    In our thoughts mate, Chris and Tom

  5. Beautifully expressed Gigs. AE’s and my thoughts are with you and your family.
    The depression and WW2 generation certainly understood the value of small pleasures, because they were lucky to have even those. Particularly those who experienced it in Europe as I assume your Dad did (Polish?)
    AE’s wonderful Croatian father died 2 years ago next week. Getting to know him made me understand that adversity either ennobles or embitters a person. It never leaves you unmarked.

  6. Phil Dimitriadis says

    He swam across the Danube to flee from Eastern Europe and find freedom in West Footscray. I’ll never forget that story Gigs.

    Deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  7. Gigs thanks for sharing the news. Very sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. Beautifully written tribute. Your Dad had an amazing life from what you’ve told me, escaping mindless tyranny, and finding freedom. All the best.

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    Gigs, beautiful and inspired. Well done to express your emotions so clearly and strongly through words. Deepest sympathy to you and yours. Loved the photos – a good looking couple.

    Been thinking of you all week. I heard your stats read out on ABC radio Monday morning and thought only you could come up with that.

    Take care. Go Dogs.

  9. Thanks for all the wonderful and kind comments, everyone. Keiran, condolences on your loss, too. Hope you’re going along okay.

    Gigs

  10. cowshedend says

    Vale Mr Gigacz, wonderful tribute Gigs. What a great legacy your dad and mum have with you and your siblings, sympathy to you all, special thoughts to my old classmate Jamie.

  11. All the best to you and your family, Gigs.

  12. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Andrew my love and thoughts are with you, your mum and brothers and sisters. Good to have been by his side to say goodbye. He will be in your hearts forever as you are in ours.
    Yvette

  13. All the best to you and your family Gigs

  14. John Butler says

    A long life well lived.

    Condolences to you and your family Gigs.

  15. Gigs, Very sad to here of your dad’s passing. My 96+ year old dad died about 8 months ago after leading a great life. It left a real hole in my life, I used to ride over and see him three times a week and discuss politics and footy over our coffee.

  16. A wonderful tribute, Gigs.
    The thoughts of Marg & I are with you.

  17. matt watson says

    Gigs,
    A beautiful tribute.
    I’ve become a big baby ever since my son was born.
    It’s was as though his birth switched on my compassion.
    You almost made me cry with your words.
    Condolences and I wish you the best.
    My father is enduring his own battle at the moment.
    He was a Footscray supporter until I picked North Melbourne as my team in 1977.
    My old man thought he could support his club or he could support his son.
    So he became a North supporter…

  18. Steve Fahey says

    Condolences to you and your family Gigs, a moving tribute

  19. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Beautiful Gigs superbly written thank you for sharing your family’s life . All the best

  20. The People's Elbow says

    Beautifully expressed, Gigs.

  21. Warwick Nolan says

    Really enjoyed your tribute,e Gigs. Best wishes at this time for you and your family.

    Lots and lots to identify with. We can only respect the generation of new Aussies who left their parents’ country to start anew. How daunting that prospect must have been. I wonder how significant a role football played in embracing and assimilating both cultures?

    I recall in grade 5 or 6 being asked by my teacher to “look after” the new immigrant boy in our school. I recall being stunned when he declined not only not to barrack my team (his choice of course) – but preferred not to be aligned to any team at all.

    It would seem in your Dad era, it didn’t matter so much which team you chose to support, nor to what degree you got involved – but it was vital that you at least chose a team and barracked for them for life. Admiration only for you and your Dad.

  22. Peter Fuller says

    Gigs,
    Thinking of you fondly in your loss. Thank you for your beautiful tribute to your Dad – and your Mum. They are obviously people of special character. It took me a long time to understand what a priceless gift loving parents are, and how fortunate some of us have been in that respect.

  23. Thanks to everyone for such heartfelt and warm words. They mean very much to me at this time. My talented filmmaker nephew, Chris Pahlow, made a wonderful short video documentary of Dad’s life a couple of years ago. Some of you might be interested in watching it. You can view it here: http://vimeo.com/69124407

    Gigs

  24. Gigs

    Lovely tribute, my deepest sympathies.

    Your dad raised a good kid

    Sean

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