Almanac Life: Dad and Monet



Recently one of my brothers sent me a photo of my father taken in 2014. Christmas 2014. He was sitting in a chair and peering out across my brother’s backyard, just gazing, reflecting, lost in thoughts he only knew. He died two and a half years later. It was pretty quick when it happened. He was going well. Then he was floored by stroke. Eighty-three is a pretty good knock.


I’ve looked at that photo several times because it reminded me of something, and I couldn’t work out what. Or maybe it reminded me of someone? I’ve seen it before. A man at peace. Gazing. The slightest of smiles perched on his lips, balancing there, like a drop of water on a grape. The shape of contentment. Not smugness but stillness. Ease. Calmness. Rare commodities these days.





He had nearly reached the point where the world couldn’t hurt him anymore. Perhaps that’s nirvana? The unattainable.


He had nothing when he died. Nothing material that is. Sure he and Mum owned the house and he had a few quid in the bank (not much but enough) but he owned nothing other than a six year old Toyota Corolla. I marvel at what an achievement that was. It was like he threw the book back at the financial gurus who stress accumulation and expansion. His aim wasn’t to have enough in retirement but to have just enough. Close to nothing besides the necessities of family, a roof, food, music, wine and a garden. Barely anything but plenty, nonetheless.


It sounds easy but it isn’t. Try to imagine the process of divestment, of leaving things behind, of casting off the heavy clothes. I think what he achieved took immense skill. It was masterful. To wind down at the perfect rate. To walk at the same speed as the universe expands, but in the opposite direction. To judge the allotted days and to fill them with glorious intangibles. To achieve a whimsical balance.


If he possessed a thing he got rid of it. A thing to him was anything that wasn’t in the list above – family, a roof, food, music, wine, the garden.


When he died, we couldn’t find his Stawell Gift winner’s sash or the medal he won that Easter in 1955. This once prized possession, previously housed carefully in a box filled with tissue paper and stored away for safe keeping had disappeared. We finally found it all – stuffed into the corner of his jocks drawer. It had become a thing. Perhaps slightly more than a thing because he kept it, but it wasn’t what gave him tranquility. It wasn’t the drop of water on the grape.


I remember he told a story of going into the bank one day. He wanted to deposit a cheque or some such thing. He waited patiently until it was his turn at the counter. He explained the transaction he wanted to complete to the young person who couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.


“Oh,” he was told, “if you want to do that you have to go over there,” pointing at another counter further along.


The old man simply said:


“I don’t have to do anything.”


It was polite but firm and tremendously powerful.


“I don’t have to do anything”.


I want to get to that point. I want to be able to say that one day. The weariness of the pandemic tyranny is profound. Serenity is the new gold.


I eventually remembered what the photo of Dad gazing across the garden reminded me of. There is a similar one on the wall at Giverny, in France. Monet’s garden. A man sitting, imagining, thinking, peaceful, complete.





Read many more thoughtful pieces from Dips O’Donnell HERE




We’ll do our best to publish two books in the lead-up to Christmas 2021. The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020  and the 2021 edition to celebrate the Dees’ magnificent premiership season(title is up for discussion at the moment!). These books will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers and Demons season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from these two Covid winters. Enquiries HERE


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About Damian O'Donnell

I'm passionate about breathing. And you should always chase your passions. If I read one more thing about what defines leadership I think I'll go crazy. Go Cats.


  1. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.” Works in many contexts – we are all addicted to something. Work. Ego….
    Lovely piece & sentiments Dips. Monet’s house and garden in Giverney was not far from the front line and trenches in WW1. He could hear the thunder & lightning of the cannons. His great friend the French Prime Minister Clemenceau (smart blokes those French PM’s) urged him to evacuate to Paris for safety. Monet old & near blind sat in his garden and waited out the insanity of war on his back step.

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab read as always Dips!

  3. “He had reached the point where the world couldn’t hurt him any more.”

    Timely Dips.

    Would love to be in Melbourne for a beer this arvo.

    Thank you.

  4. Beautiful reminiscing, Dips.

    “I don’t have to anything”.

    I think I have arrived at that point.

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    Thank-you for this Dips. A beautiful read. Your father has the look of someone who never had an encounter on social media. I think that is the direction I should take.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Thoughtful, loving and well-judged, Dips – like so much of your work.

  7. Cheers all. Fabulous comments. Interesting about Monet PB. I wasn’t aware that he saw out the war in his garden!

    AF – that is a great point about social media. In fact in his grumpy moments he would announce that modern technology “is evil”.

  8. Superb Dips lots of reflections and meaning in this thank you

  9. roger lowrey says

    You excel yourself Dips. Simply brilliant.


  10. Luke Reynolds says

    “To wind down at the perfect rate”. Brilliant.

    Great words Dips, and wonderful photo of your Dad. I love that the Stawell Gift sash was still tucked away, even if hard to find.

  11. Thanks Gents. Nice words.

    Looking forward to a few ales in a pub with the knackers pretty soon! To discuss these weighty matters!

  12. Peter Fuller says

    You’ve achieved the rare distinction in this beautiful piece of producing something worthy of the subject. I was fortunate enough to meet your father at an Almanac gathering and I was struck by how modest he was. His achievements with his family confirm that he didn’t just peak on a mid-fifties Easter Monday, but sustained performance throughout his life, in more important non-sporting activities. You capture his disdain for the superficialities of much of the contemporary world, and his adherence to sound values irrespective of the fashions of the moment. Thanks for the valuable reminder.

  13. That’s beautiful. Thanks Peter.

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