I’ve been talking about you

In my work I regularly meet with people such as church pastors over coffee or a meal. We talk about a range of matters but one of the topics that seems to come up again and again is family. My wife and my children are incredibly important to me so it should be no surprise that they are always in my thoughts and conversations.

Recently I was chatting to a pastor and once again our conversation turned to our families. We both shared stories of how incredible our respective children are, how quickly they’ve grown up and how proud we are of them.

That conversation about our children reminded me of a time long, long ago.

My dad worked on a ship travelling up and down the Western Australian coast. He was away from home a lot.

I still remember, one day when I was quite young, visiting the ship dad was working on when it was docked in Fremantle. I’m the youngest of five siblings and for whatever reason, on this day I was there with my eldest two brothers.

A man who also worked on the ship walked past and a conversation began. Once he was told we were ‘Tom’s kids’ he said something to the effect of, “You must be … “ and then mentioned our names. “Your dad talks about you all the time.” He gave us the impression that our dad was very proud of his children.

Wow! That was a revelation. Dad talked about us.

I would never have thought that when he was away from our family for weeks at a time that one of his popular topics of conversation would have been his children.

I don’t know why I found it so surprising but I did. It meant that I might just matter to dad.

All of that got me thinking.

Do my children know that I talk about them, endlessly?

Does James know that earlier this week while talking to a group of people about him someone mentioned how I immediately puffed out my chest with pride? They caught a glimpse of how much I love James in my facial expressions and body language as well as the words I was using.

Would Emily ever think that I often talk about how incredibly talented she is and that I’m so proud of her? Would she know that the picture I paint in others’ minds of her is of an incredible young woman who I love so very much, because that’s exactly how I see her?

Do both Emily and James know that even though I’ve had some amazing highlights in my life, they top them all? Do they know that even in the busyness of my life and work they are never far from my mind and my conversations?

Emily and James, you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you …. your dad talks about you …. all the time.

If you’re a parent, do your children know that you talk about them to others?

Do they know that when you’re away from them and you can choose to talk about anything in the world, you talk about them? Do they know that you’re always on your mind and in your heart? Maybe it’s worth telling them today.

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Father’s Day 2017

Dad was a FIFO worker before there was such a thing. These days FIFO stands for ‘Fly In Fly Out’ but back then dad would ‘Float In Float Out’. He worked as a cook on ships, mostly heading up and down the Western Australian coast. That meant that dad would be absent from our home for weeks at a time.

When he was home I don’t know that he really knew how to interact with his children and I’m not sure that I knew how to interact with him.

Even though there was often both a physical and emotional distance between us, my dad was a good dad who did the best job of fathering he could.

I’m now coming to realise that there are many things that I see in my self today that can be traced directly back to my father and the influence he still has on me.

Maybe I could point to things I wish were different when I was young but really, I didn’t miss out on much. Life was pretty good and a lot of that was down to the love of an imperfect father. These days I’m an imperfect father so the last thing I want to do is blame dad for the things I may have missed out on while growing up. Instead, I blame my dad for a range of other things.

I blame my father for the fact that time and time again I suddenly find myself awake in the middle of the night. I wake up and sense someone is in the room. Someone small and furry … with whiskers. It’s one, or often both of our cats wanting to get in under the covers. I love cats. I love them because my dad loved cats. He loved most animals but especially cats.

I blame my father for some of the music that is still stuck in my head. Dad was almost 44 years older than me and so his musical tastes weren’t exactly ‘current’. Which explains why to this day, among a very wide range of music in my collection, covering many different styles, I still listen to Bing Crosby, dad’s favourite singer. (Just don’t mention that I also listen to Sinatra. Dad was certainly not a fan.)

I blame my father for the fact that I’m a qualified chef. Dad was a chef and I followed that career for a number of years. I completed my four year apprenticeship then decided it really wasn’t for me, but it has given me skills I’ve been able to use ever since. It also meant that some years later I was able to work alongside dad for a week when he was cooking at a camp on Rottnest. It was a memorable week.

There are many more things I can see in me that come from my dad. Some good, some not so good. I also know there would be many other parts of who I am that I don’t even recognise as coming from dad but are still part of his influence.

My dad was a good dad who provided for his family well and did the best he could.

It’s Father’s Day in Australia.

This is my sixteenth Father’s Day without my dad. George Thomas Olsen passed away in August 2002, just a few days before his 83rd birthday and around a month before Father’s Day of that year.

I really do miss dad but it’s not with an overwhelming sadness because I know he’s in a better place and I know I’ll see him again one day.

I still wish he was able to see Emily and James grow up into the wonderful young people that they’ve become and to get to know Pauline even better. I reckon he would have really enjoyed Emily and Josh’s wedding a few months ago, although he would have told me that some of the music was too loud. He would have been proud to see James begin university this year.

I look forward to a new day when we’ll catch up on everything we’ve missed over the years.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Today won’t be a sad day because I’ll be spending the day being a dad to my own children and working hard to ensure that there are many ‘good’ things that they’ll be able to blame me for in the years to come.

(Yes, that’s me with my dad and mum in the picture above. You can click on it for a closer look.)

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A New Season

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. – Ecclisiastes 3:1

There’s a lot of activity at my house this morning. The day has arrived.

In a few hours I’ll be walking my beautiful daughter down the aisle. It’s all part of a new season, a process that began almost twenty one years ago. The process of letting go.

One of the hardest realisations for a parent is the knowledge that from the moment a child is born you are in a slow, constant, bit by bit, process of helping your child transition from being dependent on you for everything to independence. While Pauline and I will always be Emily’s parents, and will always be there for her and Josh, another part of the letting go process happens today.

We are absolutely thrilled for Emily and Josh. From the earliest days of seeing them together we knew they shared something special. Today they declare their love for each other and their commitment to each other for life.

Today is such an exciting and happy day. We will continue to pray that this will just be the start of a marriage that will continue to grow and that being together will allow Emily and Josh become all they were created to be, both individually and together.

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I blame it all on my dad

(This is my annual Father’s Day post.)

We can trace a lot of things back to our childhoods. For better or for worse it’s those early years that form who we are.

I’m now coming to realise that there are many things that I see in my self today that can be traced directly back to my father and the influence he still has on me.

I blame my father.

I blame my father for the fact that time and time again I suddenly find myself awake in the middle of the night. I wake up and sense someone is in the room. Someone small and furry … with whiskers. It’s one, or often both of our cats wanting to get in under the covers. I love cats. I love them because my dad loved cats. He loved most animals but especially cats.

I blame my father for some of the music that is still stuck in my head. Dad was almost 44 years older than me and so his musical tastes weren’t exactly ‘current’. Which explains why to this day, among an very wide range of music in my collection, covering many different styles, I still listen to Bing Crosby, dad’s favourite singer. (Just don’t mention that I also listen to Sinatra. Dad was certainly not a fan.)

I blame my father for the fact that I’m a qualified chef. Dad was a chef and I followed that career for a number of years. I completed my four year apprenticeship then decided it really wasn’t for me, but it has given me skills I’ve been able to use ever since. It also meant that some years later I was able to work alongside dad for a week when he was cooking at a camp on Rottnest. It was a memorable week.

There are many more things I can see in me that come from my dad. Some good, some not so good. I also know there would be many other parts of who I am that I don’t even recognise as coming from dad but are still part of his influence.

It’s Father’s Day in Australia.

This is my fifteenth Father’s Day without my dad. George Thomas Olsen passed away in August 2002, just a few days before his 83rd birthday and around a month before Father’s Day of that year.

I really do miss dad but it’s not with an overwhelming sadness because I know he’s in a better place and I know I’ll see him again one day.

I still wish he was able to see Emily and James growing up into the wonderful young people that they’re becoming and to get to know Pauline even better.

I look forward to a new day when we’ll catch up on everything we’ve missed over the years.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Today won’t be a sad day because I’ll be spending the day being a dad to my own children and working hard to ensure that there are many ‘good’ things that they’ll be able to blame me for in the years to come.

(Yes, that me with my dad and mum in the picture above. You can click on it for a closer look.)

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Mother’s Day 2015

Rodney Mum 1984

I don’t remember anything remarkable about the last Mother’s Day we shared with mum before the illness that consigned her to hospital for the rest of her days, but then we weren’t expecting it to be the last. As far as we knew there’d be many more days to celebrate mum.

Mum’s last couple of years were spent in hospital after suffering a brain aneurysm. For most of that time she was unable to communicate with us. Occasionally she was able to say a word or two but there were other signs that would show us that she knew a lot of what was going on. Mum was pretty much paralysed so even making movement to communicate was difficult.

There were several times that more bleeding in her brain would cause doctors to tell us that mum only had hours or maybe days to live. We would all begin to grieve our loss only to find the days turning into weeks or months until there was another medical setback and the whole process would begin again. You can imagine the kind of emotional toll that took on each of us, not to mention how it would have been for mum who was trapped inside a body that no longer did what it was meant to do.

Rodney Mum 1964When mum finally left this earth I experienced a mixture of relief, sadness and joy. There was relief that she didn’t have to suffer any longer, joy that she was now enjoying paradise but still the immense sadness of losing someone I loved so very, very much.

I’ve seen more Mother’s Days come and go without a mum than I have with a mother. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a sad day for me but Mother’s Day always brings moments of reflection among the moments of celebrating what an incredibly wonderful mother my own children have and celebrating with Pauline’s mum.

I know that for many, who have more recently lost a mother, the pain is just a little more raw today and I do hope that if that’s the case for you, you’ll be able to recall some wonderful memories and think about the influence your mum has had on you. I hope that in years to come the day will be a celebration of the memories your mother has left you.

On the 28th of February, 1987, my mother, Margaret Sadie Olsen, passed away at the age of 66. I was just 23 years old when mum died. Mum was 43 when I was born.

There is so much that I wish she could have shared over the last few decades. Mum wasn’t around to see me cycle across Australia for the first time, just 8 months after she passed away. She never lived to see me realise my childhood dream of working in radio.

By the time I met Pauline, mum had already been gone for close to 5 years. She never got to see her youngest child marry the woman he loves. Mum never got to hold Emily or James in her arms. How I wish she was still here to see our wonderful family. I desperately wish that Emily and James could have met their Grandma Olsen and that Pauline could have spent time with her mother-in-law.
Rodney Dad Mum
Mum never heard me tell stories of my trips to India, Canada, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or Bangladesh and never had to sit at home and worry when I had to evacuate from Haiti during food riots several years ago. Although she never got there, mum had an interest in travelling to Africa. I so wish I could tell her about my journey to Ethiopia and Rwanda last year. She was long gone before I took up the challenge of working to see children released from poverty around the world.

She never experienced the thrill of seeing Emily and James top their classes or perform so well in so many areas of life. Mum wasn’t very tall so both Emily and James are taller than she was. They could have playfully leaned on their Grandma just as I used to do when I was younger.

I know that there are many significant events in the lives of my four siblings that mum has missed too. There have been highs and lows along the way but all of them would have been quite different if mum had been around to share them.

I know that the person I am today is very much a product of who mum was. I value the influence she was and continues to be in my life.

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