They called him Kelly

Today marks my dad’s 62nd birthday. Tonight, the family’s going out to celebrate with some fine food and some exceptional bottle(s) of wine. Because this is how he rolls.

Except, he wont actually be here to partake in the celebration. He suffered a heart attack four and a half years ago and passed away, and sadly wont be joining us. But this is what we do, and this is how he would’ve wanted it. Some fine dining, accompanied with some fine wining. He has always been boss like that. He enjoyed the decadent, finer things in life, no matter what. No matter the consequence. Or repercussions. A good time always took precedence. It’s probably where I get it from. If he went out with a grand. He’s spending 2.

But I could never ever possibly understand how he was wired. The man was cut from the old school. He was a philanthropist. A wheeler and dealer. A playboy. A schmoozer. Hard as nails. Smart as a whip. Charismatic as fuck. Think Don Draper mixed with Tony Montana. Throw in a bit of Michael Corleone, a little Jake the Muss.. And you’re probably not even close. He could be at Crown being wined and dined by Lloyd Williams one night. And be kicking it ghetto with a bunch of mates the next. People loved him. People hated him. He wore his heart on his sleeve. Loved life. Loved his family. And really, didn’t care for much else.

He was by no means a model citizen. I’m fairly certain he was never in contention for father of the year.. sure, he had a couple of nods for father of the week. Maybe even throw in a couple of father of the months.. but he loved his family dearly, and did everything (and I do mean everything) to show us the best things in life and give us what we wanted.

Case in point, our family trip to America in 1990.. it wasn’t so much the trip. I mean plenty of families have taken trips overseas. But on that trip there was one moment that showed me, at what lengths dad would go to, to give us what we wanted, and exactly what type of man he was. Being seven, I definitely didn’t appreciate it at the time. It was only recently that I fully understand the magnitude of the moment.

Growing up, I was obsessed with Michael Jordan. And I do mean obsessed. T-shirts. Jumpers. Trackies. Jackets. Hats. Shoes. Socks. Posters. Bed linen. You name it. If it was red, white and black, and had the number 23?… then I was rocking the fuck out of it. So you would’ve imagined the joy of a 7 year old boy, going to Chicago to watch his idol play basketball. This isn’t even the insightful thing. I recently re-read one of my many books (12 in total) on Michael Jordan. The author wrote of how, at the time, Jordan was coming into the peak of his fame. And how the old Chicago Bulls stadium had become a fortress of security to protect its main star attraction. First, you needed tickets to get into the stadium. Then needed passes to get to the court. Another pass to get to the basement. Another to get through the media area.. And finally, a pass to get to the area outside the locker room, where only family and team officials were allowed.

And yet that’s exactly where we found ourselves after the game. The locker room area.. Players. Coaches. Team officials. Cheerleaders. Refs. Beat reporters. Wags.. and…  an Asian family from Melbourne?? I still recall telling Jordan’s dad that I flew all the way from Australia to watch his son play. I didn’t get to meet the man himself. But this was good enough. And something I will never forget.. be it, how many stairs I fall down.. Which begs the question. How was dad able to get us into this area? Who fucking knows? But this is what he does. This is what he did. Network. Shit talk. Meet the right people. Grease the right palms. Take names. Cash cheques. Basically, get shit done.. I can barely get into most clubs in Melbourne. He’s overseas, sneaking his family into high security, restricted access areas.

I’ve always wanted to ask him how he did it. How he got us in there. Ever since I had read about it, it always intrigued me how he was able to get his family into that highly secured area. But It was too late. He was gone. And I will never know. I didn’t appreciate the moment until many many years after the fact, much like him.. I didn’t really appreciate dad and the things he did, until after he was gone. Most of the time, growing up and especially in my teens, I just found him over bearing, high maintenance, overly strict, and at times, just straight out annoying. It’s probably the time he’s been gone, the last half of my twenties, when I should’ve appreciated him the most.. and heeded his advice on things like, taking names and cashing cheques.

Even at the time of his passing, I can’t recall a real sadness. He was overseas at the time, and when I got the phone call, my reaction, can only be described as.. artificial. A asinine hollywood reaction. It took time to really sink in, and Its in the last few years, that I have felt a deep seeded sadness for him not being around anymore. Sadness knowing, that he will never get to meet my wife (whoever the fuck she may be). Know my family. Hold his grandchildren. Watch them grow. A deep seeded sadness that he will never ever be able to tell me… how the fuck he got us into the locker rooms of Chicago Stadium! So yeah, I miss him heaps.

But yeah, probs not as much as my mum. Recently, I came out of a relationship that barely lasted a month. But I was devastated. I couldn’t sleep. Coudn’t eat. Couldn’t function. Had the Xx on repeat. Yeah, I know how stupid that sounds. And looking back now, in context is absolutely absurd. I’m fairly certain, if my dad was still here, and had heard about this ridiculousness, he would’ve bitchslapped the stupid out of me. But it happened. I was devo. And that was only a month. Now imagine losing someone after 30 plus years?? I certainly fucking can’t. I cant begin to fathom what mum has been through. I honestly don’t even want to think about it…

However, it has been over 4 years now since he passed. And I’d like to think we’ve all moved on.. So this is what we do. We eat. We drink. We share stories. We celebrate. My brother’s favourite  story of dad? The time dad replied “fuck you” to the kid at the maccas drive thru, after the kid gave him his meal and asked him if there was anything else he wanted… Baller.

So happy birthday old boy. This one is for you. Tonight we wine and dine and celebrate your life. Tonight I pour a bottle of top shelf cab sav on the ground for you (when I say top shelf, I mean 20buck chuck. And when I say on the ground, I mean down my throat). I look forward to the time we meet again in the next life, and you can finally impart with me how you got us into Michael Jordan’s locker room. But for now, that can wait..

Right now, I’m going to go give mum a hug. Im sure she is needing it.

And why was he affectionately known by a blonde, white girl’s name? Well… Michael – Mi-Kel (filo accent) – Kelly. Yep. Yeah you’re as bemused as I am. It’s a filo thing. And could not be explained even I tried it. I also have a cousin named Wowee and an uncle named Bong. Go figure…

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R.I.P
08.11.51 – 15.02.09

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3 thoughts on “They called him Kelly

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