ROCK IN PEACE, DAD

ROCK IN PEACE, DAD
Shane Pinnegar

TONY PINNEGAR, father of three, grandfather of five, passed relatively peacefully on Thursday, 24th February, a little after 4:40pm, in Hollywood Hospital, Perth, Western Australia. Mum and Tash were there with him, thankfully, and he had seen his surviving brother Christopher the day before.

He’d had a horrible couple of days struggling to breath properly, and today was discovered to have a lung infection. He became agitated around 3:15, struggling to breath, and the doctors administered a shot to calm him, which had the bonus of sending him to sleep a little while later, but sadly his breathing slowed and, finally, after an epic battle spanning a decade and a half, he waved the flag.

I’m heartbroken, of course, but I’m also keenly aware (as was he) that he had been living on borrowed time for years – many years. Somewhere in late 2006 or at the start of 2007 he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. As the doctors prepared him for surgery, they discovered it had already snuck into his hip bone, so surgery was out of the question. He was told he may only have two years left – if all the planets aligned, if he had ALL the luck in the world, maybe as many as ten years (though it was made clear that this was very unlikely).

Here we are fifteen-plus years later, and he has continued to annoy us all, all these years. He was, without exaggeration, the most stubborn and obstinate person I have ever known. This posed difficulties in our relationship, but helped him enormously in his on-again-off-again battles with the dreaded fucking C-word.

Along the way he started collecting the whole set of cancers. Prostate, Hip, Lung, Bladder. (I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d had the balls and bum too, but was too proud to tell us) I’d ask Mum to confirm and fill in any gaps, but that would be insensitive right now, so I will just trust my dodgy memory.

 

He didn’t have a great childhood, but he did have a great adult life. His mother was, errr… a handful, shall we say. As a kid he was bounced between relatives’ houses and foster homes. He was plonked on a ship aged 13 with his two younger brothers in 1950, and sent to Fremantle, thence to Fairbridge Farm School.

He only had two years at Fairbridge (my uncles were there longer and had a far worse time of it), then became an electrical salesman, did National Service, met Mum and got married (for 59 1/4 years + their eternity), got into Insurance Broking (in which he had an illustrious career, especially in the 70s as state manager of CiL, and in the mid 80s he launched his own Pinnegar Insurance Brokers (I was so proud of him for doing that), and was pretty successful, until he sold it a few years later and was left massively out of pocket when the purchasing company went under only months later), and LOVED being an Aussie. I remember teasing him as a kid that he was a Pom (they were different times) – ooh boy, did that rile him! He often gave much of his own time to work on community projects for his beloved Rotary club, and was bestowed a prestigious award for over forty years continuous service.

Dad never wanted to talk about his childhood much, nor his time at Fairbridge. He’d mostly just brush it off, no matter how many times I’d ask, but in the past few years I have come to see that as a trauma response, rather than it just not mattering to him. When my daughter wanted to do a school presentation about him coming to Australia, he surprised me by showing me a two page speech he’d recently written for his Rotary club about his experiences as a Child Migrant.

I pushed him – as I had done for many years – to discuss it more, or even better write it down. I guess the time was right for him… from there, we started a proper memoir of those times for him – a historical document, if you like. He’d go through phases of reluctance to expand upon it, and I got busy at times, especially once I moved away. Sometimes he would push back as I interviewed him, refusing to dig any deeper into his emotions. I told him that if it was going to work, he needed to be less emotionally detached from his own story. He promised to try, and a while ago sent me a revised manuscript. I haven’t looked at it yet, but I reached out to him a week and a half ago imploring him to sit down and finish it with me. I was going to apply for a grant to allow me to work on it for two months full time, before time ran out. But time ran out.

We had our issues. Our relationship was usually warm and loving, but there was dysfunction at the core of our family – I think, because of his childhood experiences, he was often emotionally detached. We argued a lot when I was a teenager, we never saw eye to eye politically, and as I grew older and became more self-aware, I tried to talk things through, to resolve some issues – but he got more obstinate, refusing to even consider that poor decisions were made. “It’s in the past – get over it.” But that’s not how closure works, unfortunately.

 

So the past couple of years – especially the recent months – we’ve been a bit distant. He didn’t understand why I needed to talk about things, despite me explaining it over and over. I made it clear I loved him and was always here for him, but there was nothing I could do this week from a distance.

But none of the conflict can detract from the good shit. Our family gatherings were often dysfunctional, but just as often boisterous and hilarious – and sometimes all of the above. Nicknamed “Sir Lunchalot” at his work place, I was barely twenty when he inducted me (and later, my brother and sister) into the “long lunches” he so enjoyed. We spent many a languorous, largely liquid, lunch at various flash restaurants – all paid for by his expense account. Before that, he’d often take the family to great restaurants around town (and often bill them to clients a la Mad Men!) and I can certainly lay my fascination with gourmet cuisine at his feet.

From a young age, many an afternoon I spent with him at the footy, watching East Perth at Perth Oval, and when I was old enough, it was a joy to be invited into his inner circle of mates and buy them a round at the bar at half time or after the game. Between Dad and Nana, I guess I was always going to be a drinker… not that he always approved of my antics. I recall going to a fancy dress party where you had to dress as the opposite sex – I would have been in my early twenties. Mum found me a summery dress, and I stuck balloons down the front. Back home after midnight, I was heating up some baked beans for an alcohol-soaking snack before bed, obviously clattering around like the drunkard I was. He came storming out, hissing at me (in an attempt to not wake my younger sister and brother) – “What the F- do you think you’re doing? And what the F- are you wearing?” I couldn’t help but giggle and return the same questions to him, standing there in his baggy white ghosties with holes in them. He just shook his head and went back to bed. He put up with a lot from all three of us (not to mention our ratbag friends), but I think – I hope – a lot of it amused him no end. I know he was proud of us all and the disparate things we chose to do in and with our lives.

I even finally began to understand his beloved country music in my twenties and thirties. Geez, I hated it when I was a kid and as a teenager anything that wasn’t heavy rock wasn’t allowed in my world.

Thankfully, I got to say a few words of love to him over the phone today, even if he couldn’t reply. All I could hear was the horrible sound of the oxygen pump on him, but again – even if I were there, I wouldn’t have been able to see him because of the current COVID regulations.

I already miss him so much. I always have whenever I have travelled away from home. Now he’s gone forever, and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve had to come to grips with the loss of a loved one – and believe me, we have had plenty of opportunities to brace ourselves over the past fifteen years – when it happens, there’s nothing can prepare you. I know more than enough friends who know all too well how hard this is.

 

So, Vale Daddyo. Tony P. An-Droopy-Cock (he had a blow waved hairdo at one point which resembled former Aussie politician Andrew Peacock). The Tonester. Grandad. I never did get to repay you all of the thousands of beers I (and my friends) nicked off you over the years, but I tried to help doing odd jobs like chopping down trees, digging holes, lifting heavy things – whatever I could, whenever I was able, so hopefully that counts for something.

I think it’s time now I played some Johnny Cash in your memory. I’ll finish your memoir as best I can with the information you’ve given me. Hopefully it will meet with your posthumous approval.

I’m sure there’s something else that I meant to say… if it comes back to me, I will update this later – maybe add some more photos as well.

UPDATE – Ahhh, that was the other thing I wanted to say… I don’t know what a world without my Dad looks like – and I wish I didn’t have to find out. He’s been there every second of my 55 1/2 years – up until yesterday afternoon. Now……….. what?

I love you, I miss you, Dad. Rock in Peace xXx

8 Comments

  1. Very beautifully written and a lot of lovely photos and fond memories to always treasure. So sorry for your loss.
    Keep writing, you were born to do it.

  2. Lovely written Shane.
    Once again, your Dad was a great man and may he R I.P.
    All the Pinnegars were awesome neighbors in my childhood years.
    Sending love to you and your Mum Sandra, sis Tash and bro Scott.
    Love Dan
    Xoxoxo

  3. You could be talking about most families. My own is pretty dysfunctional. My heart goes out to you both at this sad time.

  4. I loved reading this beautiful memoir of your dad Shane, so beautifully written as I’d expect from the heart. An iSight into your dads life your relationship. Thank you for sharing Much Love to you all and may your dad RIP ♥️♥️

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