24 February 2016, MCG Committee Room, East Melbourne, Australia
Hello ladies and ... scrap that , I’ll start that again, hello gentlemen and gentlemen and welcome to the 71st and one twefth birthdayof my father, Raymond Ian Wilson. As dad said in his email, 71st and one twelfth birthdays don’t traditionally beget presents, and as he said in his first email, they don’t traditionally beget speeches either.
But dad, as you all know, does like to organise a function, or more particularly does like to organise a function timetable, and so when the innocents at the MCC handed him a page that had a gaping blank between 7.30 and 11, with nothing but good times and great company and lovely food and fine wine, he went into a panic, and so now we have nine speeches, all about him, and if I check this running sheet ... Delta Goodrem is on just after 9.30 singing Happy Birthday Mr former Hawthorn District Junior Football League President.
Most of you know I’m tony wilson, I’m Margaret and Ray’s second born, I do have an older sister, although I have to admit that this all male affair has given me the first glimmer of hope that dad’s gone all Downton Abbey on us in his old age and is going to leave the whole lot to me. Sometimes you can’t fight these things ... Ned’s here too ... he’s the dutiful second son ... off to a life in the military ... I promise I’ll still let you use red hill, especially in those less popular winter months.
My father does love to organise a function. The one he’s had a crack at recently had both Ned and I very worried. It arrived by email with an innocent little bing into the inbox, but then we looked at the subject and it just said, ‘my funeral’. I felt that sinking stomach feeling ... holy shit, dad’s turning 71 and a 12th soon, he’s not getting any younger, this could be bad news, and so I desperately started scanning the page
―who’s to be invited ... Don, Ern ... oh that’s nice, mum and sam and pippa are on the guest list for this one,... anyway it’s all here, by all means come up over the course of the night and I’ll tell you whether you got the nod,
-Who should speak ... look at that. It says that he’ll see how I go tonight before he makes a final decision
- what music should be played; Nick Cave seems a bit cool for dad, Annie Lennox . Mozart Piano Concerto No .21 K 467 "Elvira Madigan" Andante
fuck, you really can take the boy out of Preston can’t you ...
-I’m still scanning desperately
-what he wants to wear to his cremation ... dad loves beautiful shirts, loves them, makes ned and I come over when he’s wearing a favourite and feel the quality of the cloth, and he’ll usually say, ‘can you feel the quality of that cloth’, I’d let you have this you know, if you promised to look after it, ifI came around and found it on the ground, I’d take it back, but you could have it, in fact I’d like you to have it, and then he might get you to try it on, which rarely works because I’m six foot three going four and he’s five ten going on nine, but we go through it because dad loves and appreciates high quality cloth and loves sharing them with people who don’t love or appreciate high quality cloth really at all – so anyway it’s no surprise that dad didn’t want to wreck one of his good shirts in the cremation. Instead he’s chosen this – a simple white T-shirt emblazoned with the image of him running through big Carl ...
So I’m scanning, scanning ... one of the things I’m really keen to find out is when he’s going to die, especially if he knows ... but no details on that ... just endless details on everything ... else
For the wake, sandwiches can be wholemeal bread... egg is okay, but I particularly like chicken and mayonnaise with celery and some sort of herb infusion, I think it might be dill, ask your mother about that ...
Brochure photos ... yep he’s chosen his funeral pamphlet photo ...
Music to accompany the slideshow ... holy shit, what’s this list of jpegs, he hasn’t chosen his own slide show has he?
Scanning, scanning ... come on dad, really hoping you’re not sick ...
Get to the end of the email ... “Love Dad”
Ned is actually the one who replies first,
“Um dad, is there anything you want to tell us’
Dad replies straight away ...
Oh no, everything’s fine. I probably should have put that up the front of the email. I’m feeling quite well.
So that’s great. Dad is not sick, and two pages of funeral plans plus a 71st and a 12th birthday are just, well, dad being dad.
Our theory is that he wants to have the best birthday. He is a very competitive person, and it’s served him well in life.
Not every father tells you constantly where you rank against your siblings.
Not every grandfather tells their three year old grandchild where she ranks against the other grandchildren.
Dad likes winning parking ... he send photos of his great parks to my older sister sam.
He likes winningraffles, and he wins them extraordinarily often.
He likes winning football teams, and is absolutely insufferable when he gets a Collingwood fan in his gunsights and can unleash on sentences like ‘2 premierships in half a century’.
He’s so competitive that when he retired from football, he went down to the local lawn bowls club with a view to taking up lawn bowling. Dad’s theory was that nobody takes up lawn bowling young, and if he did it seriously in his thirties, he’d be a certainty to make the Commonwealth Games team.
He joined a club, had a few bowls, and only stopped because mum sat him down and said what has become a famous sentence in our family ... ‘I’m not ready to be married to a lawn bowler yet.’
I repeated the story to mum yesterday and she said to me, ‘He still thinks that I cost him ... he actually still regrets it!’
Not only is he not sick, but mum says that his latest competitive endeavour is trying to win ‘living the longest’ ...
He’s on a diet,
He’s stretching every morning
He doesn’t drink during the week
He told mum to give away all his Brioni suits because he’s never going to be that size again ...
So he’s set his sights on living forever, and jesus christ, I’ve seen how he tackles a task, he’s not out of it.
Dad, in our eyes is the ultimate achiever ...
Hard working, dedicated, dreams big ... whether it’s getting the Blacks to A Grade or teaching rotten Ronnie Andrews to the best of his ability, or starting a business or caring for kids or playing league footy, or marketing my novel or setting up a roster for his disabled grandson. He’s just amazing.
He believes he can do anything... he believes in his own luck, whether it be the great raffles of life, like marriage and health and career and friends, and also in actual fucking raffles, which he always wins, racking up two business class flights to Dubai in 12 months one year. He believes in his talent. He believes in a meritocracy, and why the fuck wouldn’t you if you won all the time.
Happy bithday dad. You might have won a few raffles in your time, but none is better than winning the one to be your son. Have a wonderful night, and see you all again for the 73rd and three fifths.