Ron Peters died in a car accident on 25 June, 2012.
10 July, 2012, Frankston, Melbourne, Australia
When I started thinking about what to say about Dad, I realised that whatever I said would have to be down-to-earth and uncomplicated, just like Dad. He was a quiet man, a kind man and a very patient man – he had to be with 3 women in the house. As Rhonda has already reminded us, he didn’t say much, so when he spoke, you knew it was important.
One of the earliest memories I have of Dad is playing down in his workshop with his oscilloscope. He would set it up and we would touch things with the sensor and watch the green wavy lines on the display – for hours. It wasn’t the same when Perkin Elmer issued him with a new one, with a blue display. It just lost the magic somehow. Dad had a special table in the workshop – an old dining table from somewhere or other – with a drawer in the front for cutlery. Inside that drawer were the kids’ carpentry tools that Santa had controversially brought us one year. I found out years later that Dad had personally stepped in and spoken to Santa to make sure we received those tools. You knew something was important when Dad spoke up. We loved banging in nails and using the little saws to make little projects under Dad’s guidance.
A lot of the time as we grew up, Dad wasn’t there. He travelled a lot for Perkin Elmer, but we always looked forward to him coming home, because there were always cuddles and kisses to be had. When he came back from an overseas visit, it was even better because there were always presents. Some we would not appreciate until much later (like the ABBA briefcases) and others are still being used today, like my Beatles songbook and my Boogie and Blues songbook. Dad would always manage to choose something for us that was not expected, which made it all the more exciting.
When he was home, Dad would sometimes take us into the office on weekends where we would race up and down the loading dock on the chairs with wheels and play with the office intercom system. We also got to use the Cafe Bar in the staff room and make endless hot chocolates. Sometimes we would go around the corner to the Peters ice cream factory so Dad could buy us an ice cream. Once, we got a free one because he told them our surname was Peters!
Without Dad, I would not have known who Carl Sagan was – we watched Cosmos together and talked about extraterrestrial life. Without Dad, I would not have my love of Pink Floyd. Every time Mum went to a Beta Sigma Phi meeting, Dad would move the stereo speakers to one end of the lounge room and blast us with Moog, Kansas, Charley Pride and Dark Side of the Moon. Dark Side is still one of my personal top 5 albums. I remember watching Hey Hey It’s Saturday with Dad every week, without fail, as well as the Banana Splits on a Sunday night before Countdown. Dad showed me The Goodies and Doctor Who – he had such great taste – we laughed together a lot. By the way, Jon Pertwee was Dad’s favourite Doctor, in case you are wondering.
Dad loved to play the piano when we were little. He never played with sheet music, he played by ear. We used to sit beside him as he pumped the pianola pedals and sing 'There’s a Bridle Hanging on the Wall', and 'My Blue Heaven', at the top of our lungs. He enjoyed listening to Rhonda and I playing the piano too, especially when our ability became good enough to play Beatles tunes, Bach, or Elton John’s 'Song for Guy'. As I got older and went through high school: Dad and I would discuss politics, ethics and the merits (or not) of Tom Baker as Doctor Who.
Dad loaned me his copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, complete with copious notes in the margins. I remember very clearly pouring over this book because here, written down, were some of my Dad’s most innermost thoughts on life and how one should live it. In turn I showed him Illusions by Richard Bach, which is in many ways a companion piece to that. He was always interested in what I had to say, no matter what it was about.
He also introduced me to Bond, James Bond. He loved Sean Connery as Bond – especially in Goldfinger and Thunderball. Every time the movies were on the telly, we would be there, watching. To Dad, Sir Sean was the only decent Bond.
He may not have gone to church, but Dad was a very spiritual person. He believed in something that binds us all together. I think this is why he loved the Star Wars movies so much, because The Force really resonated with him. This was also shown in his interest in Native American spirituality, especially the writings of Black Elk. One thing I will always be grateful to Dad for, is that he insisted I complete my degree. When I started my course it was a 3 year diploma. You had to be invited back to do the 4th year to make it a degree. Dad told Mum he wanted me to do the fourth year. Without him making that call, I would not be the librarian I am today and I love him all the more for going in to bat for me on that one.
He didn’t speak out much, but when he did it was important. The day I got married, Dad was VERY quiet. We got into the car to go to the church and he wasn’t saying a lot at all. I looked over and I realised he had tears in his eyes – not crying as such, just glistening. I asked him if he was okay and he told me “I am just so proud of you, Andrew is a good man and he loves you very much. You will be happy together because you are friends – just like your mother and I.” Then we both did cry – just a little. When he spoke up, it was important.
Watching Dad as Gramps has been wonderful. Rachael and Stephen have loved doing all the things with Dad that I used to do as a child – playing in the workshop with wood, and magnets, and marbles. Going to the beach, playing kick to kick, watching The Goodies and just cuddling up to him. He adored all his grandchildren and they adored him right back. They will miss him terribly. There is a hole in our lives where this man, Ron Peters, my Dad, used to be. It is a simple hole, an uncomplicated hole, but it is deep, so very deep. Goodbye Dad. Every time I look in the mirror I will see you and in my heart I will always hold you. Thank you for everything.