Dad's Eulogy Part 2

Yesterday I posted the first instalment of Dad's eulogy:

I wrote this to read at his funeral service after he passed away one year ago today. Today is a tough day for my family. Here is Part 2:

One of my happiest memories of spending time with Dad was when I had a Wedding Decoration business. At times this was a comedy of errors and provided great amusement for the family. Every single weekend Dad would come and help me decorate weddings. He would tie bows on chairs, drape fabric on ceilings and was pretty much my right-hand hand man. Most times, Mum, Kath and Laura were also there. When Michelle was in Sydney she would come too. I felt terribly guilty that he would spend every weekend doing this for me without any reward. When I mentioned this to him he looked at me very seriously and told me how happy he was because he loved to see all of his girls together.

My sister Kath’s childhood and early teens were consumed by ballet – which of course meant that Dad’s world was consumed by ballet. Driving to and from lessons in Penrith, going to ballet concerts, paying for endless costumes and photos and ballet shoes. I’m sure he thought it would never end. And then Laura started dancing! But Dad never complained. Amongst all the to-ing and fro-ing Dad and the girls had their rituals like stopping at the corner store on the ride home each night for slurpies, lollies and sweets and sometimes they would pick up flowers for Mum. Again, another tradition created by Dad. Every single day when Steven and I were little he would bring us each home a packet of Lifesaver lollies and over the years there were Clinkers, Fantails, Cadbury Roses, Dairy Milk Chocolate, just to name a few.

Another ritual Kath remembers fondly, just as Steven had, is Dad making bacon and eggs every Sunday morning and serving her and Mum in bed while they poured over the weekend papers.

From an early age Dad encouraged Kath in her art. Kath remembers at the age of 6 or 7, Dad set her up in the backyard with pieces of fibro, some old brushes and house paints to begin painting. In recent years Dad became quite an artist himself. For Father’s Day in 2007, Laura and Katherine returned the favour by giving Dad a set of oil paints, brushes and canvasses. It took him some time to get started, but once he did, he couldn’t be stopped. Paintings of landscapes, cottages, seascapes, gardens and even animals began to fill the apartment in Manly Vale. Dad had found his new passion. He was completely self-taught and his appetite for art had been awakened. He and Mum began visiting exhibitions and art galleries around the country and even went to art lectures. Dad rifled through art books to find inspiration. He loved the impressionists, especially Turner, Monet and Streeton. He liked to observe nature, sometimes sketching scenes at North Head, but mostly he just loved to paint. He was always experimenting with paint and new techniques – dabbing with rags, scraping back and painting over scenes until they changed from fire to snow.

When Kath was older, she did a gilding course that made Dad very proud. His own father had also been a good artist and a signwriter and used to do the gold lettering on office doors. It was in the genes, Dad declared!

Laura remembers Dad’s keen handyman skills. There was the cubbyhouse he had constructed for her and the swingset that lay abandoned in the backyard for 5 years after the screws went missing. While renovating the house at St Clair, Dad attempted to pour concrete and stencil the driveway and despite the resulting uneven surface and colour it was there to stay. All his children have fond memories of his gardening abilities as he carefully selected an array of colourful flowers from the clearance shelf at the nursery. It was a particularly good find if he was able to pick up orange and yellow marigolds. Luckily for him, no one else wanted orange and yellow marigolds! What a score! He truly loved flowers and he was always sharing his home grown veges with the extended family.

Family excursions were common over the years and we all heard Dad declare “Come on people, we’re going!” and “I’m sitting in the car!”. Long trips interstate began at 4am with Dad driving straight through for hours on end. Local excursions with Dad included the pigeon club, the nursery, the rubbish tip and Bunnings.

A favourite for Dad in recent years was to “do brunch” in Manly. Always these were family affairs, but it was vitally important that we hurry to get there on time, seemingly so we could all hurry back home again!

He loved to watch old country and westerns movies starring John Wayne, the TV show Bonanza, a wide variety of sports and he got a great laugh from watching the sitcom Two and a Half Men.

I’m sure it’s clear how much Murray was loved by his family. It was no secret however that he could be difficult at times. He could be moody, cranky and melancholy. He was complex and complicated. Stubbornness was a trait he kindly passed on to each of his four children. Despite this, there was never any doubt that he loved us all completely and unconditionally.
If you Googled the term “Family Man”, surely his name would be at the top of any list.

Less than a year ago Dad was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. We all thought it had been detected early and he would make a full recovery. On the first day of November, out of the blue, Dad announced that he was taking part in Movember. Participants grow a moe for the entire month of November to raise money and awareness for men’s health issues, particularly prostate cancer. He had Mum take photos, which was unusual for him and before we knew it he was sporting a fabulous handlebar moustache.

Sadly the cancer spread to his bones and it soon became apparent that a recovery was unlikely. Dad spent the last month of his life in the cancer ward of Nepean Hospital. As a family, we did everything we could to make it as comfortable and pain free as possible. Mum, Steven, Katherine, Laura and myself would take turns to sit with him each day, hold his hand and tell him how much we loved him. In the final week, we slept overnight in his room, so he never had to wake alone and someone was always there if he ever needed anything. At approximately 10pm on May 23, at the much too young age of 67, he passed away, we hope peacefully, with all of us by his side.

Hazel Hawke passed away on the same day. There was no story on the 6 O’clock news about Dad’s passing like there was for Mrs. Hawke, but to those who knew and loved him, his passing was just as significant.

I know for Mum this has been especially hard. It was their 47th wedding anniversary two weeks before and even in Dad’s fragile condition, he didn’t forget and asked the nurse to phone Mum hoping he hadn’t missed the date. Mum was particularly sad that Dad didn’t get the chance to enjoy retirement. She made the comment to me, “I know we were hardly Darby and Joan, but we had plans.” I didn’t want to say to Mum, “Who the hell are Darby and Joan?” so I went home and googled it. Darby and Joan is a proverbial phrase for a married couple content to share a quiet life of mutual devotion in their retirement.

Murray, Uncle Murray, Darling, Muzza, Dad, Grandad – today we remember you and celebrate all that you brought to our lives.

We hope that you are proud of us and left us knowing that you were very much loved.

There will never be anyone else quite like you.

Dad's Eulogy Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted a blog. It seems that I have taken on a little too much right now but as tomorrow will be one year since the passing of my father, I thought it would be a good time to share some memories of him. I hope you can indulge me with this rather lengthy post. I wrote this eulogy for Dad's funeral and here is Part 1. Part 2 to follow tomorrow.

Dad’s Eulogy 30.5.2013

MURRAY IAN ROSENTHAL was born to Edna and Basil Rosenthal on July 5, 1945 in Brisbane QLD.

He was one of six children, older brothers Brian and Basil (both deceased), older sister Gloria (deceased), younger brother Paul, and younger sister Rozlyn, who has travelled from Brisbane to be here today.

Rozlyn has fond memories of her mischievous brother who she said was known to be a bit of a larrikin. They moved house a lot, every year or so, but Rozlyn especially remembers times when they lived in the suburb of Groverley. Murray was friends with a group of boys in the street and they would spend all day down the road, "in the bush", making bows and arrows to shoot at anything they could. They’d find lobbies (better known to us as yabbies) in the creek, and bring them home and boil them up. He was just a real "boy".

Murray was often put in charge of caring for his two younger siblings, especially during school holidays when their mother was at work. This did lead to a few unfortunate incidents. Once he dragged them both under the bed and cut off all their hair. On another occasion, they were playing Cowboys and Indians, with real weapons of course, and Murray hit Rozlyn over the head with a tomahawk when she was only about five years old.

An ambulance was often called to the school, most times specifically to collect Murray. One day he was doing some gardening in the school grounds with another boy, most likely to get out of schoolwork, and they were throwing pitchforks at each other. One went right through Murray’s foot. I remember him proudly showing the scar that still clearly showed the markings of a fork even years later.

Murray left school at the age of 14 to start an apprenticeship as a Painter and Decorator with his stepfather Eddie. His father Basil had also been a painter and of course the family tradition has continued today with my brother Steven taking up the same trade.

After work each day he would arrive home to find his mother had his dinner ready on the table, steak and 3 veg every night, never anything else. He always enjoyed his steak way past the "very well done, burnt and crucified" stage and this never changed. When he was finished he would drive across the other side of town, every night, to visit our mother Marie, his then girlfriend.

Murray met Marie when he was 17 and she was 14 at a drive-in picture theatre. They would be there just about every weekend, and as they had a friend in common, they would often chat to each other. Mum said they eventually "paired off", whatever that means. On one of their first dates Mum said that Dad took her out in a "tinnie" to go fishing. That could have ended badly. Dad just loved boats and fishing and I guess he thought everyone else did too. He probably thought wow, this will impress her. Incidentally the name Murray means "Man Of The Sea" which seems so appropriate.

When they met they loved to listen to The Beatles and other popular music of the 1960’s, although their taste in music change considerably over the years and it would be fair to say, it didn’t move in the same direction. Dad went through his Slim Dusty stage while Mum was listening to classical pieces. In recent years they found common ground as they both enjoyed Andre Rieu and songs from Les Miserables.

I asked my Grandmother, who is here today, what she remembered about their early courtship. She said that one day Mum announced that she was going to a party over in East Brisbane, which was on the other side of town. Grandma said "No you’re not" and Mum said "But I promised Murray!" Grandma said "Well, you’re going to have to unpromise Murray, because you’re not going." Apparently she stayed in her room and sulked for the rest of the evening.

On another occasion Mum and Dad were sitting in Dad’s car parked out the front of her house at around midnight. Grandma called out from the open kitchen window "I think it’s about time you came to bed Marie." The next day Mum and Dad were sitting in the lounge room and Grandma overheard Dad say "Did she say anything else when you came in?"

It seems that even my parents were once teenagers in love.

They married young. Dad was 20 and Mum was only 17 when they tied the knot on May 14, 1966 in a small church in Michelton in Brisbane. They drove to Sydney for their honeymoon and the car broke down - sounds romantic. They wanted to start a family straight away and Steven was born the following year. They bought some land and built their first home just before I was born in 1969. At around this time Dad saw a Bassett Hound puppy at a house he was painting and decided he had to have one. This was the start of their dog breeding and dog showing days. Mum and Dad spent every weekend indulging in what would become a shared passion of theirs. At one stage they had 49 dogs at one time. This may also explain my own lifelong love of dogs.

Make no mistake, dog shows were serious business and required some thoughtful dressing. In the early 1970’s Dad went shopping for some new clothes to be worn at one of the more important dog shows and turned up dressed in purple pants, floral shirt and white shoes. We still have the photos to prove it. We all remember in later years when Dad bought a handycam that was the size of a small car. He proudly slung it over his shoulder and was known to film the dogs while wearing his Drizabone coat and Akubra hat.

For many years Dad was pretty much always working and when he wasn’t at work on Sundays they would be at dog shows. There was always at least one kid around so they never really had time to be just on their own.

We moved a lot too, just like he had in his childhood. He was always restless. By the mid 1970’s they decided to move to Sydney for better opportunities to find work. Dad did however always remain a staunch Queenslander and loved to barrack for the Maroons in State of Origin matches.

After a 10 year gap, in 1979 Katherine was born, followed by another 10 year gap when Laura joined us in late 1988. There were 22 years between the oldest and the youngest child. For a long time Mum and Dad referred to Steven and I as "The Kids" and Kath and Laura as "The Girls".
Dad had four children and even though we share many common memories, we’ve discovered that he actually had quite a unique relationship with each one of us.

Steven had a particularly special relationship with his father. He got to see him almost every day as they worked together as painters for more than 20 years. Mum recalls that the first time he went to work with Dad as a little "helper" he was only about 4 years old.

Steven said that Dad was highly regarded by others in the building industry and was often described as a "top bloke". He was quiet and respectful - a hard worker. He worked quickly but always turned out work of a high quality that Steven said was rare in their field.

He went to work with his thermos of milky tea every day for what I remember him calling his "smoko". He never complained. He never took a day off. He worked hard all his life. Painting from the age of 14 until he got too sick to continue. Sadly he never got to enjoy any sort of retirement.

One of Dad’s greatest joys in his life was to be Grandad to Steven and Leanne’s three boys, Jared, Tom and Zac. Leanne describes him as a beautiful Grandfather who had a lovely way of joking and having fun with the boys that they really responded to. He was a key figure in their lives and they really looked forward to their Grandad coming to watch them play their various sports.

Steven had season tickets to the Penrith Panthers home games and they all loved to go and do that together.  Dad proudly told his Grandsons that he had once played football as a boy on the oval that the Brisbane Broncos had also played on. He took a great interest in the boys’ talents and he often said that Jared reminded him of a young Arthur Beetson.

The most special thing they all did together though was to indulge in Jelly and Icecream. This was their tradition that I’m sure the boys will remember fondly when they think of their Grandad in the years to come.

Steven made the comment this week, "He would have given you his last dollar". And sometimes over the years I reckon he did. That really was the essence of who he was. He always thought of everyone else, insisted on paying for everything and was always available to us. He was just so generous with his time. A phone call and he was there. Break-ups, house moves, renovations, driving us all to and from the airport when we were going on overseas trips. It didn’t matter what it was, he always insisted on coming to help.

Steven said Dad loved cooking everyone breakfast and described him as the master of bacon and eggs.

Murray enjoyed a special relationship with his niece Michelle who was also his Goddaughter. He was a father figure to Michelle and she remembers times as a kid when he let her sip his beer on the back porch and the cup of tea that he would make and leave next to her bed at 5am every morning when she would come to stay. In fact this was another tradition in our family. Dad would get up really early every morning and deliver us all a cup of milky tea next to our beds before he went to work. I would nearly always fall back to sleep and never drink the cold tea but he still made it every day.

Michelle also really loved it when Murray and our family would come to stay with them in Qld on family visits. I remember pulling up outside their house and Michelle would be hanging out of one of the front windows and the minute she laid eyes on him she would announce his arrival to all and sundry by squealing out in sheer delight, "It’s Uncle Murray!!"

I remember Dad being a particularly overprotective parent. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere near the water at the beach, we could not have friends that owned swimming pools and we absolutely could not eat fish without taking a tiny piece between our thumb and forefinger and mushing it up until it could not possibly be described as anything resembling a fish.

Another great passion of his was his pigeons. He had raced and showed pigeons as a youngster and he continued this for many years. He was always rebuilding the pigeon cage requiring lots of trips to the local tip. When I was about 9 or 10 it was my job to sit with Dad in the pigeon cage every Friday night and record details of the birds and their I.D numbers in a ledger that he would then take to the pigeon club. This was my job because of my excellent penmanship and spelling ability, although in the past few days I have discovered that he told both my sisters the very same thing!

He was a great animal lover. Apart from pigeons we had finches and budgies, chickens and roosters, goats and dogs and cats. For a while there he also raced greyhounds. He loved looking after all of our animals when we were away on trips. I was upset once when a kitten of mine went missing. Dad decided to drive around and do a search in my local suburb. He phoned me and said "Sandy, I think I’ve found your cat!" I was so happy and eagerly awaited his return with Oscar. Unfortunately he had found a ginger cat, not the tabby I had lost. He was always terribly worried that someone would witness him dumping a cat when he tried to return it.

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