A poem I wrote the day after losing my beloved younger brother, Ian
So, below is my draft eulogy for my younger brother Ian
Ian Barry Matthews
28/10/1953 – 17/7/2021
I am devastated that me and South Australian Members of the family are unlikely to be able to attend my beloved brother’s celebration of life but wanted to say a few things to mark his passing.
Ian was present in my life from my earliest memories until just a few hours before his death. He was the little brother I played and fought with, the one with the imaginative games, the little pest who wanted to play with me and my mates. We built shangeyes (sling shots) and cross bows together, playing for hours, roaming our neighbourhood as kids did in those days. Sliding down slopes on bits of corrugated iron, tadpoling, playing marbles and NEVER snitching on each other. Ian had a gold filling in a front tooth for many years from a slingshot injury I inadvertently gave him (he told Mum and Dad he ran into a wall) and I still sport a scar between my thumb and forefinger from a carving knife incurred in a scuffle over washing and drying the dishes (I told Mum and Dad I was washing up and accidentally sliced it).
Ian always knew how to rile me, was a natural sportsman and even though almost 2 years younger so often beat me at games like table tennis which I thought I was pretty good at. He was a small kid and one of his favourite tricks was ducking below the table tennis table when his turn to serve, which annoyed me, then he would suddenly pop up and deliver a killing serve. There was much chasing around the table after these incidents and blows were frequently thrown. I clearly remember Mum running down the passage toward me broom raised while I hit a laughing Ian with me saying ‘I’m sorry Mum, I can’t help it’
I did realise, very young, that while Ian liked to rile me, it was not a good idea to rile him. He was so unflappable most of the time that it was too easy to forget this. A tomahawk narrowly missing my head, at one time, reminded me of this. You really didn’t want to get Ian mad. When we were at primary school and were about 10 and 8, the bully of our working class school, a huge (to us kids) Greek boy who nobody challenged, one day decided to pick on Ian, one of the smallest kids. Ian lost it and started swinging his fists at him. The much bigger boy just laughed holding Ian at a distance while his arms flailed. But the big boy dropped his guard and Ian knocked him out with one punch. Ian was never threatened after that and neither was I because if the little brother could do that what could the older brother do? Interestingly, Ian remembered neither of these incidents as an adult and I had the strong impression that he thought I was ‘making shit up’.
Ian was a great hockey player and he passed the love of this sport on to his family. I asked him how he got into it and he told me that when he started high school he went to try out for the baseball team (my sport) but got the times wrong or it was cancelled and so he tried out for hockey and never looked back. I heard many tales about his exploits from mutual friends and Ian. One day in a high school match, Ian (Matty as his friends called him) was disaffected with the umpiring and stood in the middle of the field, dropped his own shorts, and shouted at the umpire ‘Pull your pants up and give your mouth a go!’ He was sent off but he was unrepentant- he had a strong sense of fairness. When a little older and playing district hockey, top level, his coach benched him because he’d missed a practice. This was a summer competition which had fewer rule constraints than the then winter main competition and Ian marched over to the opposition where he was welcomed. He scored the winning goals. I don’t know if his coach benched him again.
Ian, as most of you will know, was very intelligent but the constraints of formal education were not for him and he was fortunate that one of the senior teachers at Woodville High School, Mr Phillips, was also the Hockey coach and this saved his bacon on many occasions. It didn’t protect me, though. In 4th year high school (year 11) I was sitting in class and our Chemistry teacher came in for his lesson. He settled in, looked up, saw me and said ‘Matthews – out, I’ve had enough of Matthewses for the day’. He was Ian’s class teacher and had a double lesson with Ian just before mine. I didn’t really mind as I just continued reading a novel as I would have done during the lesson anyway – my noncompliance just wasn’t as visible as Ian’s.
We went our separate ways after our childhood, though Ian was always in my life. He ended up working at Moomba for SANTOS for several decades and more and that was where he acquired the nickname ‘Jock’. He worked in the laboratory at Moomba when he first started, somebody one day called him ‘the lab jock’ and it stuck. As Ian and I look similar, though he retained all of his hair, I’ve had the experience over many years of men approaching me with ‘Gidday Jock’ and then regaling me with difficult to believe tales about what he said or did. Though he worked there for years he was never happy with their poor health and safety practices protected by a government that valued the revenue too much and fellow workers who accepted increases in money as trade offs for poor practices. This came to a head when Ian’s. ‘other half’ the man who slept in the same room and did the same job when Ian was on leave, died in an industrial accident. Ian ramped up his words, made a pain of himself, SANTOS claimed he had mental difficulties, though their own psychiatrist thought not. Eventually Ian got the largest payoff in known history and retired from there.
Ian met Bernie and his girls on a bus trip to Qld to visit me and family when I worked in Maryborough for three years. He didn’t mention this, at first, but his visits became more frequent and eventually all was revealed. I still remember Yasmin and Aleasha clambering into bed with me and my first wife Margie on and early visit. Not sure which one it was but somebody had bloody cold feet and I remember thinking ‘These kids are really friendly’ and I started to understand how Ian bonded so deeply with them.
There was that period that followed when Ian and Bernie and the girls bought and lived in a house at Ottoway near where our parents lived. Ian had been employed out of Adelaide and that’s where he was flown back to so this worked and the girls had the opportunity to develop a relationship with Nana and Papa, both now passed.
Once Bernie and Ian split up, Ian moved to Qld to be near his girls, act as a support person to both of Bernie’s subsequent husbands (I’ll keep these tales to myself) and to enjoy the warmer weather. He once told me he showered in Qld to get clean but in SA it was to get warm. I suppose such a long time at Moomba had increased his affinity for warmer climes.
Ian had a funny attitude to money. Another tale he didn’t remember from his childhood was one where he was in the practice of borrowing money from me. We had little money then and I carefully saved my meagre pocket money for things I wanted. Ian spent his as soon as he got it and was always taking loans from me. One day he said to me when we calculated what he owed me ‘Brian, you know I’m never going to be able to pay you back, don’t you?’ I replied ‘Yes’ and he said ‘how about we call it quits’, I agreed and he immediately said ‘ That’s great, can you lend me two bob’. I laughed and laughed and ‘loaned’ him the two shillings. He paid me back in spades several times as an adult and I know he was incredibly generous with his money to others, on one occasion when he lived in Currimundi paying for expensive surgery for an elderly neighbour’s dog because he knew the neighbour couldn’t afford this. I’m sure there are many tales like this out there and he didn’t brag about his largesse, I had to drag those details out of him.
I could go on and on and then you’d truly be reminded of my little brother. His daughters and his family in Adelaide loved him dearly and all are devastated by his loss. Yasmin, Aleasha and family, you’ve lost my brother but you still have me and the rest of my family and we are truly grateful for the joy you all gave to him
A funny last tale for you all
When Ian was at Moomba and he’d come home to Currimundi, he would enjoy the beach and nearby lagoons and would often sit for hours contemplating his lovely environment. He started to notice that he got some strange looks from people and realised that a guy in his age group doing nothing was suspicious. So, he bought himself a fishing rod with weights, no hooks, and a bucket (Ian did not like fishing and the suffering of the captured creatures) but he would sit for hours, line dangling, taking in the world, with people occasionally commiserating with him over his lack of success
I laughed and laughed when he told me this tale
RIP beloved brother
This was a song he once mentioned to me that he wanted at his funeral
It has been a hard week, first losing my mother to pneumonia and the gruelling last days of her life, then to be informed of my younger brother’s death from a heart attack. This post contains a draft eulogy for my Mum, and I’ll make another post for my brother.
My Mum’s funeral has been suspended indefinitely due to COVID lockdown in South Australia and I’m unlikely to make it to my brother’s funeral in Queensland as state borders have closed.
No pity party here. Many around the world have had it much worse but it is helpful for me to share these thoughts with others until I have the chance to do so with friends and family….
Mary Eileen Matthews
10/9/1927 – 12/7/2021
Loving wife of the late Bob Matthews, loving mother of Robert Margaret Brian and Ian and mother in law, grandparent, great grandparent, step grandparent and great grandparent.
4 children, 8 grandchildren, 15 great grandchildren
Mum was one in a large family, common in her era. Her father had migrated from Malta before world war 1, her mother was a descendant of Prussian immigrants who came to South Australia in the 1850s. As the eldest girl in her family she took on many responsibilities at an early age and was, by all accounts, a de facto mother for her younger siblings. She had little schooling. She told tales of being rowed over the river Murray to school by an older brother in her very early years but not so many years later it was she who would drive her younger siblings to school in a horse and cart, then returning home to do chores and watch the cows so that they didn’t wander as the fences were poor.
Audio file of Mum in her final months
Her schooling was by correspondence and she admitted that when she received her course materials she would complete tasks by filling these in from the answers in the back. But while Mum had minimal formal education she learned many practical skills in childcare and domestic tasks both through her family commitments and the work she started at a very early age. Though a child of the Great Depression she said she never went hungry though, as an adult she would not eat rabbit. She talked about how it was one of her jobs to trap, gut and skin rabbits for the family and for many years this was their main protein.
Mum met Dad in Mannum. Their romance was short and he proposed to her one night when drunk. She told him she would if he came back and asked her again in the morning when he was sober. He did come back and they were soon wed. They lived in Adelaide for a time where my older brother Robert was born but then moved to Mum’s home town, Mannum, where me and my other siblings were born. Dad worked at Shearers, Mum reared children and they lived in a house not far from Papa Joe and Grandma Emma. They moved from Mannum to Adelaide around 1956, partly for work opportunities and schooling options but also, I later learned to escape perceived stigma over the tragic death of one of her sisters at the hands of an estranged boyfriend. Domestic violence is not a recent phenomenon.
In Adelaide Mum and Dad leased/bought a Deli in Alberton which Mum ran while Dad worked. After a few years they bought the ultimate family home in Rosewater where Dad set up a backyard engineering business. He would work night shift as a fitter and turner, have some sleep, and then work in his business. Mum was heavily involved in the business, managing accounts and working lathes. She also had other jobs when work was slow, reared her children, painted and maintained the house, and catered to Dads every need. He was a hard worker but Mum worked twice as hard. As her children grew Mum continued her work in the business and, when work was slow worked as a domestic at the Spastic Centre in Woodville.
Eventually, of course, we all grew up, Robert went into the army, Margaret worked in Insurance, I went to University very unsuccessfully at first and Ian worked in the paint industry. As we all moved out of home and on to creating our own families, Mum and Dad settled into a routine that allowed them more time to themselves, bought a caravan that they left onsite at the Mannum Caravan Park and they would spend a weekend there every fortnight visiting Grandma Emma when she was still with us, but mainly pottering, socialising and, for Dad, frequenting the closest pub. Mum was not a drinker beyond a very tame low alcohol option. Anyway, the fortnightly visits to Mannum continued and friendships begun in her place of birth remained important all of her life.
Once Dad passed away, Mum lived in the family home for a while but soon moved and eventually settled in her unit in Parkholme where she lived happily for two decades and a half before failing health and mobility led to her living at Villa St Hilarion for a number of years.
Mum played a lot of 10 pin bowls in her 40s and 50s, learned to drive in her early 60s after Dad had gone and joined various clubs and was often the driver for friends and family. She was very active into her 80s and only stopped driving after her first fractured femur when she became dependent on a cane and was worried she might fall getting out of the car.
Mum influenced many people in her life, was always willing to help others, and maintained a high level of independence until her last few years
I have two lots of props for my eulogy.
The first, ornamental hands, one with a finger missing, that remained in Mum’s possession for over 60 years. My late brother Ian and I saved our meagre pocket money for the better part of 6 months to buy these and give them to Mum for Mother’s Day when I was about 10 and Ian 8. Mum would never get rid of them, even though damaged. Gifts from family were important to Mum and she routinely kept things that were well past their use by date.
The second is a hand towel that will be familiar to many. Mum made clothes in her younger years, knitted and eventually settled on crotcheting the surrounds of hand towels she purchased so that they could be easily hung. These were regular and valued gifts to friends and family and it was only recently that she could no longer do this. Mum showed her love by doing for others and she did a lot for many over the years.
I need to thank my Sister Margy for her unfailing support to Mum for so many years. I also need to thank my first wife Margie for the company, support and kindness shown to Mum over those years. The staff of Villa St Hilarion also need acknowledgment for the kindness and support shown to Mum over a number of difficult years. And finally, to my wife Barbara who always ensured that Mum had some special treats and Mum’s last meal was sticky date pudding which Barbara insisted I take to Mum when she last went into hospital and Mum hoed into this with a grin. Thank you also to my cousins, family members , and old friends who visited Mum when she most needed company and I’m saddened that COVID limitations impacted so heavily in her final year and a half
Mum we will all miss you but know that your legacy lives on through family and friends who are all better for having known you
My tears will be spent
But not the hole in the heart rent
Remember you we will
When the sun rises and birds sing
Your spirit lives on
Though your body failed
In every smile you shared
You will live on…
Beating my own Drumhappy-fm-29-6-21.m4a
This is something we can all make a difference with. I understand the concerns when people post of rubbish discarded, but if we each put a bit more effort into collecting stray garbage (rather than complaining) our environment would be so much better. That stray cup or wrapper we walk past with censuring thoughts; so easy to pick it up. Take little steps and the outcome can be amazing. …. Rave follows
Having car serviced in Morphett Vale, went for walk, discovered a skate park, rubbish everywhere, fast food stuff, car advertising, mainly. Found a big plastic bag, picked up everything I could find. Put it in the bin – totally filled it. The park remained much cleaner for months. The cleaner a place, the less likely people will discard things, thoughtlessly….
Similar thing at Carrickalinga lookout. Took an hour there and no bin so had to take to Myponga but …
I suggest we adopt the world and think this is a wonderful initiative 😀
Different but still similar
Speaks loudly of our race
Decrying experience of the other
Knowing that ours is the truth.
Discrimination an important element
A strength of our cognition
Serving purposes that allow
Clear identification and problem solving.
But it becomes a sharp axe
When applied to others
Cutting their ways to pieces
Abrogating responsibility for care.
It takes integrity to support
The right to express a view
That challenges your sense of self
Not fitting within your comfort zone.
Worse still the judgement
You are not worthy if this you believe
Regardless of whether it impacts
On others and their lives.
‘Live and let live’
Seems a very sound rule
But one so difficult to apply
When your truth is so apparent.
Retreat so many do
From the conflict entailed
Avoiding the pain of action
Revelling in the hazy mist.
Others step forward with zeal
Fighting the good fight
Sure that their view will prevail
And their goals will be realised.
Fence sitters are often decried
How can both sides be seen?
Everything must be black and white
Gray a colour not embraced.
And here I sit on that fence
Watching the turmoil evolve
Falling on one side or the other
As the fence violently shakes.
Not a more evolved person
Just an interested observer
In the slapstick of life
The battles never ending.
For far at the soldiers’ rear
Generals, politicians, media moguls,
Religious leaders, and others with motives apparent
Point the weapons and pull the triggers.
So depressing at times
And then a kind act of one to another
Can make the heart truly sing
Restoring faith in a flawed species.
Originally made with curry powders imported by British colonialists, Australia’s understanding of curry has come a long way.
— Read on theconversation.com/from-curried-wombat-to-rendang-and-doro-wat-a-brief-history-of-curry-in-australia-150370
I wonder if some might enjoy this read 😀