Today, December 6, is the day the Greek Orthodox Church acknowledges the Feast Day of Agios Nikolaos, the Saint whose name you were given. If you were still alive, I would call you. If I could, I would join you there in the backyard that was, embrace you, kiss you on the cheek, and wish you: “Χρόνια Πολλά Πατέρα.”
You would stack the Weber barbecue with heat beads and light them, right there under the Hills hoist clothesline in preparation for the lamb chops and souvlakis that mum had marinating in olive oil, garlic, oregano, and lemon juice fresh from one of the two lemon trees in the backyard. No lamb on the spit for us, unless Uncle Bill was gracious enough to organise it. When the coals had lost their fire, we would put some morsels on the grill and snack on these and cheese and olives, sip a beer or two, and wait for guests, carrying pita and salads and other yummy treats, to arrive. Mum and our relatives would then busy themselves in the kitchen preparing the food that we were familiar with and, when the time was ready, we would all celebrate.
I can’t do this. I never will be able to again.
All that remains of knowing you is the memories of the times we shared and the clutch of photographs that you gave me just before you died.
I think about you, you know. Often. I think about you sitting under the garage verandah with your cigarette and newspaper in hand. I think about the the chatter we shared about horse racing as we looked through The Sun form guide. I think about the deep conversations we held about life, politics, education, meaning, and caring in that lovely mixture of Greek and English that we knew. I remember the softness of your voice and the soulfulness of your poetry, violin and guitar playing, and the depths to which it took me.
One fond memory that comes to mind, from time to time, is when we sat, together, in the sand dunes at Point Leo and gazed out to the sea without saying a word.
Another, less fond one, that I recall vividly, is when you threw my dinner in the garbage can in Hughesdale when I refused to eat it. How old was I then? Nine, ten? I never refused dinner again.
You were a content, loving, gentle man, perhaps too gentle at times. And you had what I consider other faults, of course, but I’d like to think that I learned something from reflecting on these. Above all, you and mum were always there when I needed you.
I wish that I had more memories of the times we shared. I wish that I had taken more photographs of us together, that I had written of you and to you, but I didn’t know then what I know now. I wish that more people had known you the way I did.
There are ways in which we are not alike, I am my own person, after all. However, I cannot deny the impact that you have had on me, and for this I thank you.
I miss you, father.