He walks on the sand in front of me and his footsteps look so big as the retreating tide sucks at the imprints he has left.
Still a kid and I am following my Dad on a Gold Coast beach.
Along the shoreline.
Pretty sure it is near the flags out front of Northcliffe Surf Club.
We stayed at Garfield Terrace back then.
A block of units right on the beach.
You could hear the surf pounding on the back banks as you fell asleep.
And it was a good day when Dad was around.
He worked hard.
Politics, business and race horses kept him fired.
Worked fucking hard.
And I missed him when he wasn’t around.
Bed can be a lonely place for a little boy.
But they were good days.
Hollywood Jack Stewart.
He was my hero back then.
And I still follow his footsteps in the sand.
Watching his brown, broad back.
In those blue Speedos, baggy at the edges.
Speedos and women in bikinis.
‘Hollywood’ liked the fairer sex and they took notice of him.
He wrote a bloody book about it.
He and Mum were married so young.
That is what you did after the war.
When you were Catholic.
So did I!
Wanted to make him proud.
Married so, so young.
But I was still a kid.
So were they.
Mum and Dad.
And my sisters.
We all married so young.
Kids having kids.
Enough grown up in me to make the right choices but enough kid in me to make the wrong.
Again and again.
Yet Dad never judged.
Either did my boys.
They just loved, when love was all that was left to give.
Because I took.
Took what wasn’t mine.
Again and again.
But they forgave.
All because of Dad.
He passed down a big, gentle, forgiving heart.
A strong, beating, male heart.
And us Stewart boys all forgive.
We get up, we dust it off and we forgive.
And my Pop Barnie was the same.
Dad of the dad of the dad.
Sat me down on the back porch of his home at Belmore.
“Dave, good manners come for free.”
And it has set us apart.
In a world where rudeness and conflict is celebrated,
Thank you Barnie.
And thank you Dad.
I still follow you down the beach.
With that Summer north east wind in my face.
Watching the surf wash your footsteps free.
And when my sons have their own kids to guide.
Holding their little hands.
I am sure they will use that kind Stewart gaze.
That was passed down by you and me.