THE YEAR THAT
My dad died in March. For my whole life, I always thought, like most Kiwi blokes, I wasn’t good enough for my dad; that I didn’t reach the mark. I knew I was loved, but my dad never told me he loved me. That’s why comedy was so appealing. When I told a joke for the first time at school and a whole lot of kids laughed, it was the first positive affirmation I’d had in my life. So I associated people laughing with people liking me. It was day one of my career and day one of my downfall too, because I started to get my self-esteem from the approval of others
Then when I was 45, Dad told me he loved me for the first time. He was half-cut and he said, “You know I love you, eh?” The first thing that popped into my head was, “Where was that when I was a kid?” As well as an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Then I sat around for a couple of years waiting for him to say it again and resentment started building up when he didn’t. My counsellor told me I was in charge of my feelings and one day when I was on the phone with Dad, I thought “Bugger it” and when we’d finished I said, “I love you, Pop,” and he went, “Oh yeah, okay. All right. Talk to you later.”
Then I finished every conversation with “I love you, Pop,” and after about two years I was about to say it and he beat me to it.
Then one day in 2016 I was driving when the old man called and said,“The hospital rang. I’ve got to go in.” I thought: “Hospitals don’t ring you and tell you to come in.” I said I’d pick him up and we were told he was terminal on that day. It was just him and me.
We left and I said, “That was good news, eh, Pop?” “What are you talking about?”
“Well, you could have dropped dead with a heart attack and we’d never have had this chance. I’m gonna spend every spare moment that I can get with you and I’ll enjoy every minute of it. You’ll hate it, but suck it up, big boy, this is what life’s all about.”
That last year with him was the best year of my life. We spent all our time together. Talked every day. We arranged his funeral. I shot a video of him thanking everyone in his life and having a good laugh, which we played at the funeral.
I thought I was helping him but a couple of weeks after the funeral, I started to realise he was helping me.
He helped me to understand myself better. I only remembered the bad things from my childhood. But there was one story he told me that I hold on to.
“Do you remember when you were 12 and I bought you the chopper?” he said. “Remember the day I gave it to you?
I said yeah, but I didn’t remember. I remembered the bike vividly.
He said, “I remember it too. I took you out to the garage and opened the door and you started crying and I started crying.” And as I looked at him with tears in his eyes, I knew that it had happened.
I finished every conversation with ‘I love you, Pop,’ and after about two years I was about to say it and he beat me to it.