Dad’s Life Lessons
(AKA Life Hacks by RPM)

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April the 24th is a date for celebration and also sadness in my family. My gorgeous nephew Campbell has his birthday on this day, Happy Birthday Campbell! (2017 is his 21st – so extra special birthday wishes Buddy!)  It is also the day we lost my Dad to cancer in 2009 – Robert Phillip (Mathew) Morgan (aka Bob).  Every year I try and think of a way I can celebrate the legacy he has left in many people’s lives, not just his immediate family.  Last year I created a playlist of his favourite tunes  and this year I decided to write about the life lessons Dad has imprinted on to me.

Here’s to you Dad!

Lesson 1 – You need to help yourself

Dad would never give us the answer to anything! We had the whole collection of Encyclopaedia Brittanica and World Books, which included 2 volume dictionary.  If we wanted to know something we had to go look it up.

He would not even help us with the spelling of a word, if we heard a word and we wanted to know what it meant, we still had to look it up. “But Dad, I don’t know how to spell it” fell on deaf ears.  He would give us the first and maybe second letter and the rest we had to work out for ourselves.  We were allowed to check if we had the right answer, but we had to work it out for ourselves first.  You ended up learning about a lot of other stuff as you went searching.

Lesson 2 – Books can give you knowledge too

After Dad’s father was injured he needed to leave school early to work.  Dad took on the role of looking after his brothers and sisters, and in some ways became the father figure of the large Morgan clan, one of 12 children.

He was also one of the most intelligent and informed individuals I have ever met. He could twist an argument on the head of pin and before you knew it you had no more defences, he had batted away each one with a super convincing argument.

Even though later in his life he did go to Uni and could show off his smarts, but was unable to complete the degree.    He did teach us, is that you could learn a stack from books.  I think my passion for reading and learning came from him.

He also understood the value of a good education and was so proud when I graduated from Uni.

Lesson 3 – Don’t follow the crowd, make your own decisions

Related to lesson 1, Dad was always encouraging us to make our own decisions about things and to not trust “the crowds” opinion.

I remember many times talking to Dad about things that were happening at school and asking his opinion on what I should do and he would offer an opinion and you could debate it back and forward.  In the end he would say “you are smart and I trust that you will make the right decision.”

Specific events that spring to mind are:

– Deciding if I should go to the Year 12 break up party

– Deciding if I should try marijuana at Uni

We were always encouraged to do our own research and make our own decision around things.  I read Karl Marx’s theorems (hasn’t everyone?) and could not understand why socialism was so bad, everyone got their needs covered and you could earn whatever you liked from there. How can that be bad?  Expressing that opinion at school was not so cool, and I was bullied for it.  My school colleagues would tell me to go to Russia or China, which showed their ignorance as both were forms of communism, and not socialism.  Unfortunately, pure theories can get corrupted (ah the wisdom of age).

Lesson 4 – Its OK to be curious

I have  a very curious mind, which serves me very well every day. It was very different story when I was a kid, I would get into such trouble for being curious and checking stuff out. My Nan would always scold me for sticking my nose in and peeking around.  We were on a farm, so I suppose curiosity could be problematic, especially, if it was checking out a crazed fruit bat or a brown snake (luckily my Pop sorted both out – caging the bat and snapping the neck of the snake by cracking it like a whip)

Dad would encourage that curiosity, asking me my opinion on things I would have no idea about. He would get me to think about it, analyse it and determine what my opinion was, doing research if needed. Being a kid was not a barrier, in fact an advantage, because I did not have fixed opinions.

This curiosity is something I rely on in my day job and in my side projects. Looking at something, understanding it and most importantly looking what could be done differently. Thank you Dad for encouraging this part of my personality, it has become one of the best tools in my tool kit.

Lesson 5 – Don’t let the facts, get in the way of a good story

My Dad could spin a yarn like the best of them. He had you convinced a door is not really a door and that he had implanted that as a thought experiment and got everyone to follow along.  He told stories of the amazing places he had seen, the pyramids in Egypt, the Kremlin in Moscow, Stonehenge in the UK.  The stories were amazing and fascinating and would have us spellbound.

He would start to add extra bits of embellishment to see how far he could take it, and when would be the moment we became suspicious. He liked being caught out.  The cheeky grin spreading across his face when you tweaked that maybe not all was true.  It just made the stories more fun and more enjoyable.  Even real life experiences told by Dad were so much more interesting.

For example, Dad was travelling back to us in Bathurst having been fitted with his first false eye, (he lost his sight in his left eye from a workplace accident). Dad was wandering around the airport and people kept staring at him.  He was tall – 6 ft 4 in – and so were other people, so that wouldn’t be it.  He thought maybe he had food on his shirt, no, or that his fly was undone, no again.  Eventually he went to the bathroom and saw himself in the mirror. During his wandering he rubbed his eye and the pupil part was in the very corner. So that was why people were staring. Quick adjustment and he was on his way.

Arriving home, Dad was nervous about what us kids would think and whether we would be embarrassed, by his false eye.  Far from it, we could not wait for him to ‘pop his eye out’, so we could see the back and to touch and feel his eye (spare eye of course). We would even stick the spare eye to our foreheads and pretend we had a third eye.  We had so much fun with his spare eyes.

Lesson 6 – Everyone has something to add

My Dad was ridiculously generous, in fact to a fault.  However, he did impart in all of us the ability to give of ourselves, our time and attention to people.

When Dad worked as an engineer at Bathurst jail he would often strike up friendships with the inmates there.  Dad did not judge, he believed in people.  He could see the best in everyone and had a great sense of intuition.

He was also very patient when he needed to be to let the good come out in people.  Not always, but often. He always trusted us to do the right thing and when we didn’t he would help us work out what sort of person we wanted to be, rather than tell us what to do.

I remember one story of him inviting a inmate on first night of his release from jail, to come and stay with our family.  I don’t recall the guy, but I do remember Mum being nervous about having this guy in our house. We found out after he had left that he was in prison for killing someone.  Dad could see beyond the tattoos, saw beyond the prison sentence and saw the person underneath all that and trusted him so much he allowed him to stay with his young family, in our house.

Lesson 7 – Be there for your family

The Morgan clan is large and cumbersome at times. Having us all in the one place, can be overwhelming. I remember taking my boyfriend (now husband) to a Morgan wedding and he could not keep track of his Rhonda’s from his Jenny’s and Sandy’s (Jenny and Sandy are twins, so far enough), Danny’s to Miles’.  He looked like a bunny in the headlights, all big eyes, terrified and frozen.  Now he is completely used to them.

Dad taught us if your family needed you, you were there. No questions, no delay, just get there, and be there as quickly as you can (safely, but quickly).  We had many a lovely Uncle stay with us over the years or share a meal with us when in town (looking at you Uncle’s Allan, Mervyn and Peter).  He would help his family whenever needed.

When my husband had a serious hospitalisation he was there.  He stroked my hair until I fell asleep, he staying with me to ensure I had company and was looked after. He held my hand and hugged me when it was really scary and terrified I would lose my husband. He was just there, when I needed him, every time I needed him.  In fact, my whole family were, they always are and I treasure them for that.

He even gave us a much needed laugh. We were waiting in the Intensive care waiting room area, just my sister Tiffany, my Dad and I (the rest of my family were back at my home, waiting for news).  We were about to go to the emergency accomodation at the hospital and when I looked at Dad the pupil of his false eye had turned into the corner. My sister and I could not stop laughing enough to tell him what had happened. He just kept saying what?, what? and it would just make us laugh even harder.  We needed that release, I know he did not turn his eye on purpose, it was just what we needed.

Lesson 8 – You can be what anything you want to be & just be you

Dad would always encourage you to do what you wanted, to be who you wanted.  In his mind there were no limits, nothing that could stop you. He made you feel invincible, brave, capable and confident.  This is great gift to give any child, anyone in fact and he was magically at making anyone feel this way.

But most of all he celebrated you just being who you were.  If you were not fitting in, it was OK, because he knew you better and told you it would be OK. And it was OK, in fact it was better than OK. You found friends that liked you just the way you are, and they are friends to this day.

When I look back at what I have achieved, I can be hypercritical of myself, it is pretty amazing what I have done and continue to do.  This is thanks to the unwavering support by Dad. He instilled that in me early, so that it became a life skill, which I could call on when I got tested in the future.

Lesson 9 – Wrapping someone in a hug can solve all sorts of pain and sadness

There are 2 things I miss the most about my Dad and this is one of them.  He had healing hugs, everything seemed like to would be OK, when you were in his embrace.  The fear, sadness and pain would go away, and even if it persisted, you always felt loved, wanted and cared for.

As a result my family are big huggers.  We hug everyone and everything and we constantly remind each other of how much we love them.

The second thing I miss the most is the chats.  I would talk to Dad every week as an adult.  I would love to be able to talk to him about what’s happening in my life and get his take on it and do the same for him. I could always tell when something was not right with him and he with me and he was the only one to call me Missy,  and that is as it should be.

When I was a kid, it did not matter what the topic was, my Dad would be willing to talk about it.  I have asked my dad the most personal and invasive questions, e.g. Have you masterbated? When did you start? Do you still masterbate?  Nothing was taboo and I could ask him anything. I would even ask questions from my friends at school,  that they could not ask their own parents.  This openness meant that I felt comfortable sharing when I was scared or worried about anything, as I knew we could talk it through.

I am sure there are many other life lessons from my Dad that I cannot recall today. Maybe that is just as well, as I would love people that knew him and loved him to share their lessons.  Feel free as we celebrate the life and the joy that he gave, as we miss him for one more year.

RIP Dad, miss you and love you!

Missy