"Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but Names will never hurt me”. Remember that saying from your childhood? Words will never hurt you… what a complete load of hog’s wash. Words can continue to hurt long after physical wounds have long healed and are forgotten.

I watched a show on Netflix this evening and a guy was telling how his father never showed any love towards him or his siblings. He said his father never told him he loved him. He only told him he would never be good for anything in life.

Words spoken into someone’s soul can last a lifetime and indeed shape one’s life. Words can mold a very person’s future, personality, fears, anxieties, affections, and love. Words can do irreparable damage whereas broken bones can heal and further in life can be merely a memory, sometimes a badge of honour, a scar to be proud of, something overcome and sometimes the making of the man. Words however can destroy the man or woman.

I wonder if there is a person out there that has not been affected permanently by words spoken to them? It is astounding how words spoken, often flippantly, or without any intention of lasting meaning can stay and sometimes fester within someone’s mind and heart. Words spoken in passing conversation that the speaker of the words never even realised his or her impact on the person hearing. That the person speaking goes on living life, minding their own business completely oblivious to the sometimes torment of innocent words spoken. I have incidents in my life where people have spoken to me, probably in passing, or at a time when nothing untoward was meant, but it has had lasting effect on my life. I bet if I reminded these people of what they said, they wouldn’t even remember the conversation. Words… they matter, they matter lots.

Most of my life I have been confident, a ‘what you see is what you get’ sort of bloke. But in recent times, as I age, I am more and more aware of my mortality and my failings in life. Dear Lord, what have I said that have affected people’s lives? What passing stupid comments have I spoken, maybe trying to be funny or smart or trying to make an impression with someone that has shaped or mis-shaped someone’s life? I really shudder to think sometimes. Would I like to know? Would I like for people who I have hurt or maimed with my words to tell me? You know what, yes, I would like to know, so I can put things right. Or try to. I would apologise to them, beg their forgiveness. But you know what, I fear the damage has been done, the ‘scars’ would be there, and no apology would heal that. But I would like to know, I would like the chance to make good.

For the greater part of my life I considered my dad to be a great role model as my father. Dad passed away in 2015, 13th February to be precise, aged 91, a month off his 92nd birthday. I knew him for 57 years. But you know what… I didn’t know him at all. And the more I try and get my head around my dad’s existence, the more I realise how little I knew him. How sad is that? Dad left lots of ‘him’ behind in the form of poems, songs, paintings, drawings, paper toll, war relics, and much more, but I still did not know him. I loved my father, he provided for me, my sister, and my mother. He was a good provider. But I did not know him. He was present all my life, in the same town as I raised my own family and introduced grandchildren to him. But I did not know him. He saw the best and worst of me. He tried to give advice… but I did not know him. Dad was a ‘hands off’ sort of man. Fairly typical of his generation I would imagine. He wasn’t a hugging sort of guy, shaking hands was about as far as he went. I am the opposite; I am the hugging sort. I tried to hug my father and it was like hugging a light pole, nothing there. I did not know this man. He never once told me, to my recollection… that he loved me. There was always something between us, I never really felt comfortable or loved by my dad. Maybe that was typical of his generation. Dad spoke words into my life now and then, quite flippant words, words that I am sure he never meant to make any sort of negative impression at all. Passing words that he saw no effect at the time and therefore no reason to retract them. But I heard them. I remember them and remember them often. They hurt. I suppose to some extent they still hurt. Poor dad never ever realised what he had done. Not the slightest idea how his words stuck in his son’s mind and heart. Probably typical of his generation.

So, me, what have I said? What hurt have I caused to the ones I love the most? At times my heart is so heavy with the thought that I may have, no I would have said words in passing that have really hurt someone for life. All my life I have promised myself that I would be a better dad to my children than my dad was to me. I tried to be the ‘hands on’ dad, even after a real hard day work, I would try to spend quality time with my kids. Throughout their lives I hug them, kiss them and tell them I love them and am proud of them. Sometimes when they didn’t really deserve it, I would still give them love. I was their dad, I had a job to provide, guide, discipline, be an example, love, encourage, protect, be strong for… what words have I spoken that have hurt them to this day? I would love to know… I think…

I was told once; you cannot do better than your best. I suppose dad did his best, sometimes I wonder. Maybe it was his generation. One thing I know, I have done my utmost all through my family’s life with what I knew at the time. I cannot take back those misplaced words; I can only love them all as much as I can for as long as I am in this world.

I wonder if my kids know me…

Give thought to your words.

The Old Van

I am a fan of Toyota cars and commercial vehicles, they are simply amazing in their reliability. Well mine have been anyway, I suppose there are others out there that have a different experience than me. All my Toyota vehicles have been wonderful.

My first Toyota Hi-Ace van was purchased at auction in 1992. I drove it as my work vehicle for many years.

My son, Bill, passed away in 2014.

I have Bill’s old van sitting out the front of our house.

It is a 1989 Toyota HiAce.

In 1988 I decided I wanted to do something else other than roofing and plumbing before I turned 30. So, I applied for a job with Hilti Fastening Systems and scored that job as a sales representative. I did that job for approx. 4 years and because it did not pay enough, I had to go back to my trade.

Such a pity, I loved that work, loved the job, loved the product. But I was the husband and the dad of a clan of 4 children, and I had to provide for my family. Even at the expense of not doing a job that I loved to do.

You see, people depended on me.

My wife depended on me to be a good husband.

My wife depended on me to love her and to love our children enough that I would do anything to fulfill my obligations, and my vows to her.

My wife deserved every little thing that I had the pleasure to provide and do for her.

My children looked to their dad for everything in life. And not only me, but they also looked to their mum as well. To our children, Linda and I were everything in life, without us there was nothing.

Their total dependency was on us.

For everything.

I was the man of the house.

I know I am old fashioned and not politically correct, but the buck stopped with me.

I was responsible for our family. Period.

I took this responsibility very seriously and if my job was not paying enough to support my family in everything they needed, then I had to make changes to allow that to happen. I happily made the changes at the time and I did not give it a second thought.

I did love that job though.

Back to the Toyota van out the front.

It provided the wherewithal for me to work as a plumber and make the necessary money to provide for my family. It was my pride and joy. I had not had a work vehicle as good as this one before. I had it sign written proudly displaying the Spencer & Sons Plumbing logo on all sides and the date since the Spencer family started plumbing, 1927. The reliability of this van was utterly amazing, and I was quick to sing its praises to all who were looking for a recommendation for a van.

I loaded this vehicle to the max, probably overloaded it and you know what? It simply continued to give, to provide, to work… without it I would have been lost.

But I was not lost, day in and day out this van led the way to every job I pointed it.

This van provided everything I needed to provide for my family.

The day came however when I considered this wonderful Toyota creation was getting a bit long in the tooth and maybe, just maybe, it would soon be unreliable and maybe, it was time for me to upgrade to a new one, after all it had around 270,000 km on the clock.

It was in 2003, the van was 14 years old when I took delivery of a new van.

I still valued this old 1989 van and kept it just in case I needed it. My son Bill got his license in 2004 and needed a car. I thought this wonderful old van would be exactly right for him. It was reliable, if he treated it easy and kind because of its age, and he could not get into any trouble with it.

He bought it off me for $50.

Bill loved this old van and drove it all over the countryside, including the Snowy Mountains, the South Coast and all the way up to Toowoomba and Evans Head on numerous occasions.

Again, it was amazingly reliable and did not give him any trouble, not even once.

Bill started his own business, electrical, in 2013 and this van was then his work van. Again, it served Bill admirably and took him to all his jobs and allowed him to provide for him and his girl.

Bill died in 2014.

I took the old van back.

You might not understand the grief of a father, but this old vehicle was a direct link to my son. It was something he loved and sat in and drove on many times. His DNA was all over it.

He even told me he would never get rid of it. This van was his first piece of independence. He loved the old girl too.

It had over 450,000 km on the clock by this stage. And still had not given the slightest trouble in any way.

I drove the old van from time to time to keep it running, mostly up to the cemetery to visit my boy.

One day this van had a serious problem in its chest. It blew a head gasket and overheated quite severely. My mechanic advised it might not be worth fixing and would most probably be problematic from this point on.

It sat in my front yard, crippled for nearly a year before it was repaired as best as possible. My mechanic, knowing what it meant to me, repaired it for cost price and I drove the old girl home.

It still ran so nice, so smooth, so confident… an amazing vehicle.

This old Toyota van now sits in my front yard unregistered for 9 months of the year. We only put 3 months rego on it to keep it in the system. But still, it runs like a clock, purring along, taking me wherever I need to go. Mostly to Bills grave but sometimes it is like old times and takes me to Bunnings.

The new van is still doing its job and the old van, well for all intents and purposes, is obsolete, not really needed and is only around because of my attachment to it.

No one else gives it a thought or a care.

It had its day, its day providing, its day being the bread winner, its day being reliable, its day serving the family.

I am that van.

I was the one so reliable, so relied on from all the family, especially my children.

I was the one who would take them to every point of life they needed to progress to and grow into.

Then, I got old.

They became adults.

They had families of their own.

They did not need the old van any longer.

They had moved on to a new way.

I suppose this simply, is life. I suppose it happens to all parents.

But still, I now feel, well sort of obsolete, not really needed any more.

They can take me out for a drive once every 9 months or so. Not really needed but good to have around every now and then.

I watch my children bring up their own kids.

It’s like a wheel, it’s now their turn.

I have done my turn and now what?

I am Pop.

I am a has been.

I even see the look in their eyes and the tone in their voices, from time to time… I am the old man.

One day the old Toyota van out the front will fail completely. It will then have to be taken away, for good.

Who will remember that old van?

What memories will they have about that old van?

Will they remember the days when it was young and providing everything that was needed, or will they remember the old van sitting there… not really good for anything, simply the old model.

I will remember the good old days.