Dad Music

I’m six and half years old, a nuggety kid who can ride a bike faster than my brothers, except for my older brother, who sometimes beats me—actually he almost always beats me. But that’s okay cause my dad rides a horse in the sunshine. It’s a great grey animal that’s lean and hard and chomps on swede turnips so loud its teeth echo like a drum, so I keep passing it turnips over the fence. I might as well, cause I hate them, but the horse loves them and I so love that sound.  It’s like the music of my dad’s deep-set eyes that tell me God is good, even though—and Dad will never live long enough to find this out—I was badly hurt by a stranger a year ago. It happened when Dad was busy praying and trying to get mum healed, which he almost did, I think. He’s pretty good, even with things like that.

But more of Dad. He also has a big hat that shades the world; a lean body, a tanned face and a woollen tie, which I love the texture of and always want to touch, but never do. They’re so full of happiness, that lean body, tanned face and woollen tie—like all three of them are a trinity that can do anything. Then there’s his mischievous grin, which says I’m a great prize he’s won— so let’s dance a little!

I’m ten now and we’re chasing wild sheep in a thing called a Landrover through thousands of acres of scrub: those trees are really flying. The sheep slow down and now it’s my turn. Out the door, onto the push bike and into the scrub, bringing the sheep back to the wool-shed. Only one problem: my bike’s lost a wheel and Dad’s driving off into that ocean seaweed of bush. But it’s okay, we’ve got it sorted, Dad and me can do anything! Even make a bike ride and laugh under a blue sky.

I’m seventeen now and travelling fast in a Belmont ute on a long road of red gravel embedded in bitumen: me, Dad and my two brothers, squeezed across a bench seat in a January cooker for one hundred and sixty kilometres, between the red soil mulga block and the black soil saltbush block. Dad’s quieter now. I try not to look into his eyes so much. But he’s done pretty good, so far, I think. Like, mum’s passing was tough, we all know that, and so was the drought: especially that one where he almost lost everything. I never really knew that; he didn’t actually say that to me.

And right now, he’s smiling and pointing at a puddle of mud and a green tinge of grass on the side of the road, and laughing at those wedge-tailed eagles at a piece of road-kill, walking awkwardly away to let us pass: as if we are simply a nuisance at their dinner table, which I suppose we are. And we hate and we love this trip—Dad and us like sardines—but it’s on the way to becoming one of my forever and ever trips: the famous Byrock to Bre.

Time has passed again and I’m at a big old cathedral talking about Dad. The floodgates of grief are opening. The pall bearers are here. I’m walking out, and on the way, an awe-struck looking man with a weather-beaten face is taking me aside and speaking of Dad like he was the greatest priest he had ever met, like Dad—without even trying—had caused him to think that God loves him and that God is beautiful.