It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog
or my Dad.
Last week my beautiful papa bear lost his fight with cancer. We are heartbroken. But as anybody who has nursed a loved one with cancer will tell you, relieved. Relieved that the pain, and loss of dignity and pride will not continue.
My Dad was a remarkable man in so many ways. I reckon most of us think the same about our dads. But mine really really was.
Born into a relatively poor family with a father who took off when he was seven, Dad was the oldest and left school very early to work and provide support for the rest of the family. With many entrepreneurial pursuits on the go as a little one, he got serious with a trade and went on to become a Master Builder. Later he would move into home improvements, and then the swimming pool industry. He was still working when the disease (well two diseases struck actually, he was diagnosed with Leukemia (AML) and Lung cancer at the same time), and wound up his last business from a hospital bed. And while many people will always associate Kerry Frahm with Kerry Frahm the Builder, the Pool Shop guy, the Pool Builder, these are not the identities that I wish to highlight here.
Kerry Frahm – the father
One of the bittersweet aspects of a cancer diagnosis is that you get time to have many conversations. Dad was shocked and outraged by his diagnosis. He had not yet retired and had big plans. My generation makes the pursuit of pleasure and ongoing activity – instant gratification. His generation stored it up “for after“. And so sadly for me, Dad had many regrets and time to dwell on them.
I’m pleased he talked about them though, as we could refute or challenge his version of the events. One was that he was not a very present father, nor one of these “modern fathers”. Yet, my memories include a father who did the dishes every night and tested my brother and I on antonyms, homonyms, similes and spelling as we wiped the dishes. I also recall many nights him on bathing / shower duty – with the three of us singing Hey Jude and Little White Bull repeatedly as we did so. If there was anything to regret I believe it should be the green eggflips he used to make us. Dad was also the provider of French toast, banana fritters and the best steak sangers. Although I must admit the steak sangers got a little bit poncey as he aged (blame the herb garden passion).
He was the most present of fathers and far more modern than most I meet. And never did a day, a phone call, or time spent together go past where my brother and I did not know how fiercely he loved us and how incredibly proud he was of us
Kerry Frahm – the lover of women
It’s not as saucy as it sounds. Dad was a lover of women, and while I am sure some could speak to his Casanova days pre-meeting Mum, I mean more of his proclivity to put the women in his life on pedestals. He adored and worshipped my mother to his last day. Married 45 years last month, it could be suffocating to watch at times. But I too had my pedestal, and soon so did my sister-in-law, Fiona. His adoration and pride in his three granddaughters (Jessica, Caitlin and Grace) was extreme. He also adored his sister-in-law Joy, and of course his mother Jess was always revered by him. Even his mother-in-law Faye, had a special place in heart, and he would speak to her positive attributes frequently. He encouraged feminism in all forms – and exhibited in it special gifts. Many of my feminist slogan fridge magnets came from him. Imagine my delight one Christmas Day with a special gift just from Dad, the book ” How to succeed in business without a Penis”. Noted. Thanks Dad. But he introduced family friendly work practice when it was a rarity in small business for his staff members because he wanted women to feel they could work if they wanted. I had assumed that coming from a working single mother family has influenced his respect and admiration for women greatly. Certainly he was not constrained by notions of gender rigid roles.
Kerry Frahm – the giver.
He may not have always been the easiest to live with, or work with, but he was exceedingly generous to all who were in his life. Sadly, his generosity and insistence on thinking the best of people was taken advantage of several times in his career and personal life, even while he was bedridden in hospital. He was the embodiment of grace though, deeply disappointed he would simply let it go. Dad created opportunities for people who would not be employed by others, he gave of his time to build sporting communities and he gave his opinion to all regardless of whether it was asked for or not!
Kerry Frahm – the enthusiast.
Dad took to ideas and interests with unbridled enthusiasm and passion. Baseball, tee-ball, amateur theatre, speedway, solar energy, water chemistry, bonsai, permaculture, the zodiac, salad dressings, ten pin bowling, big words and climate change to name but a few. With a skerrick of formal schooling, he taught himself on any topic he perceived as interesting. Taught and mastered. And lectured. On all. Frequently. One of his greatest joys in his last six months was the establishment of a massive backyard garden with the help of his brother Chris. The delight and excitement of having five varieties of tomatoes striking would be known throughout the whole of the hospital.
Kerry Frahm – the legacy.
Dad was a man of extreme pride, and short of patience. He was hilariously funny and quick of wit and it didn’t matter how much morphine he was getting in the last days he was firing off one liners that snuck up on you, with a wicked glint in his eye. In his last days he was adamant that he didn’t want people coming up to the room and being morose and moribund (his words not mine). Nor did he want people feeling pity for him. He focused intently on those who visited to make sure that all left with a good last view of him.
Everyone who has come across Dad, will have their own take-away message. Obviously, some will not be as biased as mine. The legacy lessons for me come from the breadth of my 41 years with him and certainly the last 7 months.
1) Be enthusiastic. Find stuff to do that makes your eyes sparkle and makes people groan that you are still going on about it.
2) Be expressive of your love, pride and appreciation of people.
3) Don’t wait for later. It may not come.
4) Try new stuff always. Jobs, careers, recipes, sports.
5) Give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know what impact it will have for them in the long run.
Thanks Papa Bear, love you dearly and always.