I strongly believe that the term “hero” is one that is inappropriately and often overused in today’s society. Let me be clear: I believe that service men and woman serving in foreign lands are heroes. I believe that police, ambulance and fire officers who put their lives on the line daily to protect us are heroes. I believe that a sportsman who had done something particular impressive or the latest singing “sensation” from a reality TV show are not heroes.
You will forgive me then for writing about my hero. He was not a service man, he was a miner. He was not a sportsman but he did play bowls. He was however my grandfather and his name was Alan Humphreys.
Now many of you are probably wondering why I am writing about Alan (I confess I never called him by his christian name to his face but I am sure he would not mind me doing it now). You see, today on my way to Coolum I drove past the Bribie Island turn off. Every time I drive past it I am always hit by competing emotions to, on the one hand, turn in and, on the other hand, to flee. This is because, of course, that is where Alan lived with my grandmother Elaine until the day he died some 16 years ago.
Driving past that turnoff always brings to the forefront of my mind some of the happiest memories of my childhood:
- Sitting in Alan’s boat in the middle of Pumistone Passage fishing for whiting for hours and listening to him talk;
- Waiting for him to come home from bowls to regale Nan and I will stories of matches won and lost;
- Our nightly battles to see who would answer more questions correctly on Sale of Century;
- Late night Uno battles in the caravan; and
- The sound of his voice catching ever so slightly as I told him that I had been accepted into university.
I worshipped the ground he walked on: plain and simple. Now I pause here to say that I am not in anyway seeking to diminish the role that my father, John, played and continues to play in my life. He is my best mate and my closest confidant.
That said, Alan was and still is my hero and I have never gotten over his death. It is for that reason I have such mixed emotions every time I get to the Bribie Island exit. I have, at best, returned to the Island no more than 10 times in the last 16 years and that is despite my grandmother continuing to live there after Alan’s death until her pass nearly two years ago. I have not visited where his ashes are: I can’t. I can not face fishing (aside from the odd deep sea charter) and everywhere on the island reminds me of times we spent together.
The problem with having a hero that is so close to you is that you want to everything within your power to make him (or her) proud. If I look deep into myself I have always been scared that I was not making Alan proud. I hope that I have. I have tried, during this period of rebuilding and reflection in my life, to do what I think he would have advised which is to be true to myself and to live in accordance with a set of values that I am proud of.
That is the very essence of a hero to me: someone who has such a profound impact on ones life that even when they are gone they continue to have a positive impact on your life. Alan, and the way he lived and the lesson’s he taught me, continue to form a significant part of the way I live my life today.
So, at the end of this most personal of blogs (I promise that future writings will not all be so personal), all I want to finish with is what I was say to granddad if I had the chance to talk to him now:
“I hope I have made you proud mate”
A beautiful and moving piece. I bet he is proud as hell.