Vale Evelyn — a champion mum

Saturday mornings in winter for me run like clockwork. The reason they do so is to allow me the time to listen to the Coodabeen Champions on ABC and join in the banter via Twitter. It’s a rare day that I will miss Richo, Champs and the rest of the Coodabeens crew, but Saturday this week was one of those days. I caught a few minutes of their shenanigans in the car, but for the most part I spent a good portion of their time on air engaging in banter of a different sort with my siblings, in front of Mum at her aged care home.

 

 

It’s just the sort of thing she’s always loved — watching her five sons and her daughter chatting, chiding and laughing. All she’s ever wanted is to see her family and everyone around her happy, and play a part in making them so. It’s always brought a beautiful, broad, crooked smile to her face.

 

 

On Saturday, though, there was no smile. We can’t even be sure that Mum — Evelyn — was aware of our banter. I hope she was. Saturday morning was her last. 93 years old, Mum passed away at 12:58am on Sunday, surrounded by us. We’d bantered all through the day but her last few minutes were quiet as we all took turns to say a few final words of love and thanks as she slipped away.

 

 

Our brotherly (and sisterly) banter will go on but Mum will no longer be there watching on, smiling — at least not physically.

 

 

Far from being a ‘coodabeen’ — Mum was a champion, in the true sense of the word. She was always championing others and their own causes. She never made it about herself. Her attitude — perhaps even her mantra — was, “What can I do to help others?”

 

 

What she did do to help others was everything within her powers. And she did that for her entire life. Mum did not raise one family, she raised two. As the oldest of 10 children, born in 1924, Mum grew up quickly. And while very much still a child, she took on a parental role in her house. My grandparents, Mum’s mum and dad, for various reasons, did not provide her and her brothers and sisters with the perfect family upbringing. If you speak to any of her siblings, they will tell you that it was Evelyn who brought them all up, who kept the family together. If I remember correctly, Mum left school at about 12 years of age to take over the running of the household and raising of her siblings.

 

 

For the next decade or more, until her youngest twin siblings were born in the early ’40s, Mum did everything for her family, and more. When I say ‘youngest twin siblings’, I’m not being quite accurate. Mum’s mum had another baby — stillborn — after our twin auntie and uncle came along. It was during the Second World War, and when Grandma went into labour medical assistance was scarce. Mum delivered her youngest brother — Christopher — but he never took a breath.

 

 

I didn’t hear of that story until well into my adulthood. Nor did I know that it was Mum who raised her siblings and kept her family together until her brothers and sisters themselves told me. Evelyn was not one to complain. (I really should take a leaf out of her book.)

 

 

Mum finally left her Sydney home in her twenties, when her siblings had reached an age where they could manage without her presence. In Adelaide she met a handsome European man — our Dad. Married in 1954, they had six of us kids in 10 years, and Mum raised her second family, with the same undying commitment and love as she had her first.

 

 

Mum and me in 1976. She’s younger in this photo than I am now. Can’t believe I’m so old!

 

 

All of my memories of Mum are of her doing everything she could to make me, my brothers, my sister and everyone in her world, happy. And she did, in so many ways, small and large.

 

 

When I was in my late teens, I decided I could not hang onto every memento of my childhood, and threw a lot of them out. The Footy Records I’d kept since going to my first game at Footscray as a nine-year-old all went into the recycling. Years later on a visit home, I lamented to Mum that I hadn’t kept them. Mum made a cuppa and disappeared for a minute or two. When she returned, her arms were full. There they were, all of the old Footy Records I thought I’d never see again. “I knew you’d regret throwing them out”, she said as she handed them back to me.

 

 

My first Footy Record

 

 

To me, Mum was almost perfect — but not quite. There was one thing she always did that drove me up the wall. Whenever I came back from the footy, she’d ask me about how the Bulldogs went. If the Dogs had had a miraculous come from behind win, the conversation would go something like this:

 

 

Me: “Oh it was fantastic, Mum! We looked like we were gone but Simon Beasley kicked a goal just before the siren to give us the win!”

 

Mum: “Oh that’s such a shame for the other team.”

 

 

Or, if the roles were reversed, and the Bulldogs had been thrashed:

 

Me: “We got slaughtered. I wonder if we’ll ever win a flag.”

 

Mum: “Oh well, it was good for the other team; their supporters must have been very happy.”

 

 

It was enough to make me scream! But those responses simply expressed Mum’s lifelong philosophy, which was to look out for the feelings and happiness of others. From childhood until her dying breath, that was how she derived her happiness, through that of others.

 

 

For several days before Sunday morning, we knew Mum’s time was coming. On Friday night, the Bulldogs played the Cats, a side we had not beaten for nine years. Not knowing how long Mum would last, I wasn’t sure if I should go to the game. In the end, I decided I would. The game was a thriller. Against the odds, the Dogs looked winners for much of the night, until at the death (pardon the pun), it looked like Geelong would steal victory.

 

 

With the final siren having sounded, the Cats’ Harry Taylor lined up for goal. If he kicked straight, Geelong would win. If not, it would be a Bulldogs victory. As Harry prepared to take his kick, I summoned Mum’s strength and tried to embrace her attitude. “If Harry kicks this, I’ll be happy for all the Cats around me. If he misses, I’ll commiserate with them.”

 

 

Harry Taylor’s kick sailed wide of the mark. As my mates Dave and Alan wildly embraced me, I almost forgot Mum’s mantra as I bounced up and down, rejoicing with them. And then a random Cats fan, came up to us, congratulating us on the win, telling us that her heart almost couldn’t take those last few seconds.

 

 

She was smiling. Her Cats had lost in heartbreaking fashion but she was simply happy for us. Just as Mum would have been.

 

 

In her endeavour to please others, Mum often ended up being late for things. It would drive Dad and us crazy, but she never meant it and was always apologetic for it. We had expected her to pass on either on Friday June 29th or Saturday June 30th. Instead she lasted almost an hour into the new financial year, which, as my brother jokingly pointed out, meant we will now have to do another tax return for her.

 

 

Late again, Mum, one final time.

 

 

But we won’t lament the extra paperwork that comes with her lasting just that little bit longer. It will give us the chance to reflect more on just what an incredible human being she was. I always tell myself if I can be half the person Mum was, I’ll be a wonderful person. I’ll keep striving to get to that halfway mark, in her memory.

 

 

Mum was no ‘coodabeen’ — she was a true champion. The greatest champion I’ve ever known.

About Andrew Gigacz

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

Comments

  1. Djlitsa says:

    Lovely tribute Gigs. A champion indeed. My thoughts go out to your family.

  2. Beautifully spoken Gigs.

    And what a remarkable life and the expectations upon your mum at such a young age. I know my grandmother went through similar experience when her mother died at a young age… that was it for school at the age of 12…. unimaginable.

    Terrific end to the bulldogs game, just.

  3. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman, Gigs.
    As I said elsewhere, 93 is a fine innings.

    Condolences from my family and I to you and yours.

  4. Peter_B says:

    Beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady. Loved the story about her rescuing your precious Records.
    “I’m happy that Swish and Rulebook and Dave and Mickey are happy” (grrrr).
    See it’s working already.

  5. Luke Reynolds says:

    Wonderful tribute Gigs.
    The footy records tale brought a smile to my face.
    Thoughts are with you and your family.

  6. Sad Gigs, though your words pay a wonderful tribute.

    My mother died a few years back,i also put up my farewell on the almanac as a way of remembering my mother, as well as sharing the memories.

    Take care,

    Glen!

  7. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    Brilliant tribute to your dear mum, Gigs. How good of her to keep your footy records? So many wonderful memories accumulated over 93 years. Vale Evelyn.

  8. Condolences Gigs. That’s a wonderful tribute.

  9. Colin Ritchie says:

    Gigs, there is something special about a mother, something that can be so difficult to express into words, especially for males, but you did it so eloquently, and so lovingly. I’m sure mum wherever she may be, must be feeling extremely proud. Take care.

  10. Peter Fuller says:

    Gigs,
    You’ve provided a brilliant memorial for your mother, tears – metaphorical or literal tend to do that. Like others offering comments, I was touched by your mother’s generosity and thoughtfulness reflected in the anecdote of your footy records. I also enjoyed reading again that story of your irritation at your mother’s empathy for the opposition teams’ supporters, which I recall you mentioned in a post several years ago.
    What a mighty performance raising two families. The stoicism of the best of that generation (most often women) is inspiring.
    There’s something of a coincidence with my mother’s death, she didn’t make Midnight on 30th June, 7 years ago (barely an hour less than your Mum, but she had reached 96, so we consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to have had here with us for so long. We of course miss her terribly, and often have to consider what would Mum say about some of our actions, or do if faced with a particular issue confronting us.
    It seems that you and I have been equally privileged by our wisdom in choosing our parents wisely.

  11. G’day Gigs.

    Here was how i shared the recollections of my mother.

    https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/my-mother/

    Take Care,

    Glen!

  12. Wonderful tribute to your Mum, Gigs.
    I love your brother’s joking comment re having to fill in another tax return.

  13. chris bracher says:

    That’s really touching Gigs. I’m off to celebrate my own Mum’s 86th birthday with family today. Your account of your lovely mother has underscored for me of the importance of making the most of every opportunity with her, and the importance of her being able to proudly reflect upon a job well done.
    Vale Evelyn.

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