29 July, 2013, Melbourne, Australia
"Born under a lucky star!" If you spent time with Dad, it was a phrase with which you became familiar. Of course the old saw about "the harder you work, the luckier you get" was as true here as ever, but Dad's gratitude was always genuine nonetheless, and often delivered with a beaming smile, surprised anew at his good fortune. "Born under a lucky star!"
If you'd been around when he was actually born, you would have got pretty good odds on a lucky star being involved. With their father gone early, Dad and Damien were left to find their paternal role models where they could. In essence, he had to teach himself how to be a man, in a time and environment where man was often pronounced with a capital M. It can't have been easy, but in the process I guess it established one of his defining characteristics: Adrian Bennetto was a man who knew his own mind.
You can see it in his expression in those early university photos - although I know his mind was not very highly rated by some then, and nor was it the first aspect of him that attracted general comment. The washboard stomach! The muscles! It was a devotion to physical fitness that he retained to the very end. (Pause for extended laughter.) But there's a cheeky confidence in some of those shots that looks like it could go either way. This guy will either climb the highest mountain in the world, or pull off the heist of the century.
Of course, according to him, he effectively did both shortly thereafter, in the successful courting of Elizabeth Rosemary Ellis. If Mum's parents were taken aback when the jock suitor suddenly demonstrated cryptic crossword chops, or his English tutors were surprised when the average student started having profound insights about Gatsby, they would soon cotton on to his way of thinking: Pay attention, and you might learn something.
And there was always more to learn. He devoured Conrad. He was as at home with Slaughterhouse-Five and Catch-22 as he was with The Glass Key. If there was a common thread, it was still often to do with what it was to be a man - it was a lifelong, resonant theme to him - but his personal curriculum was always widening.
So in music, of course, it was Frank and Miles and Louis, Getz and Mulligan and Bill Evans, always Bill Evans, above all Bill Evans. Yet it was also Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys, Vanilla Fudge, Simon & Garfunkel, The Rocky Horror Show. You couldn't pin him down. Then, increasingly, Vivaldi and top-flight sopranos and the great man, Johann Sebastian Bach.
Dwell on that for a moment. Bach and Bill Evans - both champions of complexity and playfulness in the form. Both often regarded as a little too distant and detached, too matter-of-fact, clever rather than heartfelt. It's ironic that, having transcended the perception of the brainless jock, Dad was now thought of by some folks as too concerned with the life of the mind.
And yes, it's true, he was always teaching, and not only professionally. The depth and breadth of his regard was such that any conversation was likely to strike a vein of his knowledge, and then you had to buckle up, 'cos you were going to get the works. The Civil War. Church architecture. Metallurgy. The combustion engine. He proceeded under the assumption that you felt the same way he did - that there was always more to learn. He was perfectly willing to share as much of it as he could recall, and he could recall a lot, and there was no recess bell to save you. It was brilliant, and unspeakably valuable, and often thoroughly exhausting.
But if his regard was fearsome, it paled in comparison to his disregard, which was legendary. If Dad was not interested, you were left in no doubt. At times this went beyond indifference and entered the territory of - what's the phrase? - fucking rude, but there was no malice in it. It was simply how he felt, and he had little patience for the social niceties in which we usually veil such responses.
On the issues that mattered, however, he was always emotionally paying attention. For the grandchildren, "Grandpa" was immediately replaced with "Grumpy", but it was only ever a name; he adored them. He embraced Craig, Steve and Catherine as they joined our family. And there are many, many people here today who can testify to his compassion and unwavering support in their toughest times.
Adrian Bennetto is gone now. So it goes. To Mum, Lise, Kaz and myself, his love and affection have illuminated and warmed our world for so long that to complain now would be downright greedy. We loved him. He knew it. He loved us. We know it still. The lucky star may seem dim on a day like today, but, in the face of all that, it couldn't ever really stop shining - not while there is still so much more to learn.
And I can imagine his own appreciation of the irony that, in the end, he wasn't brought undone by that once-spectacular body (though of course it had betrayed him with illness in recent years) nor by that incredible mind, though it too had encountered unfamiliar darkness and despair. Of course not. In the end it was always going to be his heart - his huge, romantic, unquestionably foolish heart.
There are further eulogies from Adrian's wife, daughters and grandson here