Happy to have the four points #2
Christmas 2010. Belle and Din ran through the house straight to Grandad and Grandma, sitting out the back, just as I hoped they would.
Big Nev and Din hadn’t had much time together, given that my son was only a year old when we left for the UAE. And although Nev had, I think, 763 of them, granddaughters were rolled gold.
I was warned. He’d suddenly become confused. The biggest difference I noticed was the absence of the beatific, sentimental Christmas scan around the yard at his kids, grandkids, and the start of a fourth generation. It had blurred. The loving patriarch of a good-sized tribe was struggling.
I’d given my dad more than his fair share of worry over the years, taking a longer road than most to get to where your nature intends you to be. But while we were sitting together after lunch he brought up the better of those days, when we’d meet under the standalone scoreboard on top of the bitumen slope at Princes Park to watch the Royboys.
“Those people used to come from the far side of the ground to shake your hand,” he said, in a voice that later had me howling behind the shed. “Why was that?”
Couldn’t answer him, and I remembered a lot of things from those days – the pride in introducing those I did know at the ground to the big feller in the camel or grey parka, the big wins, his company along with that of my brothers and friends, the day we saw out a piercing hailstorm in that same uncovered spot.
The old FFC logo was like a bugle. It also gave me a bridge between Geelong, where I lived at the time, and Nev’s eastern suburbs home when we were playing at the Western Oval, now my heartland. Sweet days.
Eventually that particular time together died along with Fitzroy, whose colours, mascot, history and eight players were sold to the Brisbane Football Club in 1997 after a long, slow demise. To me they looked like the Lions, their song sounded like the Lions’ – but they weren’t a duck.
Nev had too much history – in his early years and with his sons – to change colours. I was too unwilling to adapt to the corporate age of football and move allegiances 1,660km up the track, despite his occasional urging and reminiscences of the recalcitrant Martin Pike, a mutual favourite.
Thankfully Big Nev had his reward, in trumps, for his loyalty to the Lions before he left us. Three flags on the trot from 2001.
I was sorry we couldn’t share them. We wore different colours.
He was on my mind a lot as we yelled the Dogs home to take the flag this year. There was no outer at Princes Park, or Western Oval, or the Junction. No ‘G. But Bella and Dinny were by my side for the whole match in the Abu Dhabi flat we’ve made our home. My crowd.
I can only hope they were enjoying the time with me a fraction as much as I loved watching football and just about everything else with that beautiful old bloke.