But he'd never written one for me until last year, after he learned he was dying. He read it aloud the last time the Menzies family were all together, in February of 2012. I found it today while going through my filing cabinet in preparation for the move, and because I only have the hard copy that he gave me I thought I'd spend the time and tears transcribing it.
So here it is.
Twelve thirty-eight, a miracle of the night,
No crying, slow blinks in Leboyer-dim light,
Dark hair, perplexed peeps,
Mouth agape while mother weeps,
Into water, first bath by sire,
Shaking hands, brain on fire.
Clumsy mitts that can’t disguise,
A first look into those dark eyes,
Gazes meet and one heart soars,
Misty eyes, the clench of jaws,
Nurse has seen it all before,
Grabs new baby, out the door.
Pediatrics now ensue,
She’s overcooked, but she will do,
Yaya arrives with second sight,
Adds more chaos to the night,
Mother sleeps and dad departs,
To Sydney Faculty of Arts.
Cigars all round that no-one smokes,
Lots of laughter, sleepless jokes,
Pheromones on overtime,
Exhaustion sweet, joy sublime,
Back to Crown Street, one more peek,
Through thick glass, view oblique.
Home at last, but colic bound,
Baby cries, a ghastly sound,
We helpless as that week-old child,
Doc assures us symptoms mild,
Try telling that to parents new,
Frantic learning, brains askew.
Lying on the bed one day,
Gibberish babbled, three at play.
Baby chokes and ceases breath,
Scares us shitless, imminent death?
Dad grabs child by legs and feet,
Inverted shakes above the sheet,
Bub comes to with awful cry,
Relief abundant she didn’t die.
Trained from two as pillion child,
Dad rides carefully, never wild,
Off to playschool on seat of tank,
Back at 3 and draw a blank.
“The bleeding’s stopped,” I hear the cry,
News to me, now what’s awry?
Shovel blow into the skull,
By rival child, slightly dull.
Ambos called, panic surging,
Siren blares at Isa’s urging.
Off to Daceyville,
In school band,
Dad thinks it’s grand,
Flat and sharp,
Who needs a key?
The tears still flow
And all agree
That these kids are just talent plus,
A bandmaster’s genius.
But better for the education,
Is some global perambulation.
So round the world six months is spent,
In countries new, of vast extent.
And travel through these sprawling nations,
Means lots of time at railway stations
Playing cards while others view,
Dad and daughter stuck like glue.
Then it’s time for secondary learning,
Dad wins vote for school discerning,
St Catherine’s is the choice at last,
Not for snobbery, or chasing caste,
Just to give his precious girl,
A better chance at life’s pearl.
Alas she was her father’s child,
For private school a bit too wild.
So off to high school, where things smooth out,
Many fewer rules to flout,
There’s still some wilfulness observed,
But also teacher-praise incurred,
She sticks to it to some degree,
And does quite well in the HSC
Well it’s off to the Gong with Dad in tow,
Orientation, all that show.
But Gongoloids don’t suit young Eees,
Nor does uni, she’s not at peace.
A month or six of break’s required,
Before once again she is inspired.
So ay out west she stakes a claim,
Straight HDs in the BA game.
By now Dad’s skint and not around,
To have his ear upon the ground.
And many are the things, he fears,
Troubling Isa, bringing on tears.
Accumulated listings of regret,
Are bigger than the national debt.
And sometimes with the weekly post,
She fires arrows, with Dad the roast.
But this too passes, as time immemorial,
She does more study, a Masters curatorial,
Then finds her life-long niche at last,
Museums, curation, nothing half-arsed.
Joins the derby, learns to skate,
A gentle sport to participate
In clashes wild she busts a knee,
Expressing her femininity.
Then there is her perfect feller,
Her Clinton – the calm co-dweller.
A perfect match in many ways,
For him there can be no better praise,
Than making happy a dad’s only child,
Truly on whom fortune smiled.
So young miracle of the night,
I know this sounds a little trite,
But I really have to say aloud,
You’ve made your Dad, so bloody proud.