Google is flush with suggestions for the writing of a eulogy. Decide on the tone, consider the audience, briefly introduce yourself, state the basic information about the deceased, use specific examples to describe the deceased, be concise and well organised, and get feedback. It’s all rather lovely isn’t it? The mechanical breakdown of a person’s life summarised in ten short minutes from the perspective of the eulogist. Why do we wait? Why, in general, do we find it so difficult to tell let alone show those around us we love and admire them?
Wikihow has given me the hour glass. I’ll now fill it with sand.
My dad Mario, has a head shaped like a box. Frankly, observing Dad’s head is where my brothers and I first coined the term “box head” for people of Balkan lineage. The forehead is slightly elongated and quite wide contributing to the head’s shape as a box. I don’t blame Dad for this, the poor guy was fighting genetics as his father, my Dida, sports the ultimate box head. In fact, Dida would be a world champion box head if such a thing existed. Fortunately for me, I appear to have gravitated to my mum’s side. Thanks mum.
I have been told Dad woke half of Beaconsfield when I was born beating his chest proudly as he proclaimed to my grandparents they had a new addition to the family, a baby boy by the name of Erik. If I were a casual observer to this moment, I imagine the gleam in my father’s eye would have been similar to the one I observed as he stood proudly next to the podium preparing to passionately unleash the words “My son is married!” at my brother’s wedding a few years ago. Dad went on to steal the show with his speech. That’s the thing about Dad. When he speaks, he commands attention and people listen. That’s the thing about great men. In every setting, people hang on their every word often in wonder and amazement.
Like all people, Mario has his own peculiarities. Social doesn’t exist in his psyche. Dad is intensely competitive, so much so that I suspect he took great pleasure in beating all four of his young sons in tests of physical strength, board games and the Copacabana Cup, an improvised game of indoor soccer requiring the use of a soccer ball made of cloth and foam being shot at single bed mattresses doubling as goals. I am certain Dad once harboured dreams of being a part of Vanilla Ice’s entourage as his impressions of rap dancing looked more in line with the first steps of a newborn wildebeest than a record setting artist. He also has the canny knack of popping his chest out like a peacock when his feathers are ruffled. The stance becomes upright, the head cocked back past what performers call the number 1 position, the fists clench a little and chemical reaction of sorts takes place in the old man’s lip sending it skyward to form something of a stiff upper lip. We also knew if Dad called us a “doodler”, it was time to run. There is not a profanity or a name on the face of this planet that could reign down the wrath of God in our household such as hearing the word doodler come out of Dad’s mouth. Seriously, doodler.
Kent Nerburn said “It is much easier to become a father than to be one.” This is not true in the case of my dad. Dad was made to be a father. I’m sure his brothers Tony and Leo will attest to that. What was once the Lalork with his brothers became the Booba with his sons. The Booba is a boogeyman who stalked children in the dead of night (the house was made to be pitch black) sniffing out their scent with accompanying snarls and growls before ultimately feasting on their flesh. The thing I remember about playing Booba was the excitement at home knowing it was coming and some of the unbelievable things my brothers and I did to hide from and escape the snarling bringer of death. Jacob removed dirty linen from the linen basket in the laundry, covered himself with the remaining dirty linen and put the top back onto the linen basket going undetected for some time. I am certain this is where Jake learned to get himself out of tight spots in defence during his 9 year AFL career.
I often told people if I grew into half the man my father is, I would be someone who could be proud of himself. Arnold Schwarzenegger had the biceps, Jean-Claude Van Damme could do the splits and Charlton Heston’s jaw line was immaculate. I looked up to all of them but none of them were my hero. My hero was and still is, my dad. Dad, I have never seen a man treat his wife with more care, respect and reverence as you. 30 plus years on and it’s obvious to all around you, mum remains the apple of your eye. You’re the first person I ask for advice, the last I ask to put together a cabinet for mum and the person I enjoy besting the most (you can thank my childhood beat-downs for that; suffer in your jocks).
I hope I’ve made you proud.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to take this moment to introduce you to a pioneer. Here is a woman with a particular peculiarity. Mother dearest has a special knack for the insertion of similar sounding words into her delivery without realising she has done it. I’m mindful this cunning linguist still sees her grown sons as “boys”. I’ve been told the night I was born and the following day, mum had me in a vice grip and refused to part with my screaming self. Apparently sedatives weren’t a deterrent to this new mother. All four of her boys have tried to cut the apron strings but her good old ethnic self keeps dragging us back in. I can’t fault her for it. Mum only wants the best for us.
Henry Ward Beecher said “the mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.” If Beecher’s words hold true then mum’s heart is the size of an elephant. I often wonder how she’s kept it together over the years given my injury curse (back in my professional sporting days), Jacob’s kamikaze style of football (he was one of those players who was described as a tough hombre or hard working because he couldn’t kick :p), Adam’s relentless pursuit of the tattoo and Josh talking in tongues until he was fifteen. All three of those shits drove me nuts before my tenth birthday. She’s dealt with all 4 of us for a touch over 30 years without one admission to Graylands (I suspect it’s the holidays Dad takes on her that keeps her sanity in tact). The only reason I’m not including her husband is she made the conscious decision to marry a box head. That’s on her.
Jacob makes the pilgrimage from Adelaide to Perth at least once every year. His career and wife continue to keep him there much to our chagrin but the Port Adelaide Football Club gave Jake the chance to live his dream and extended that dream by recruiting him into their coaching ranks. I remember the day he was drafted well. A highly credentialed junior footballer, Jake was overlooked by all 16 clubs before Port Adelaide threw him a lifeline in the 2004 Preseason Draft selecting him with Pick 10. Roughly one and a half months separated the AFL and Preseason Drafts. I’d had never seen nor heard my mother as quiet as I did during that time. For her, you could see the pain was immense. She had invested so much in her boys, spending hundreds of hours in a car ferrying us all to extra classes, sporting commitments or whatever fad took our fancy at the time. The day Jake’s dream appeared crushed was the day I first began to understand mums take everything to heart no matter the significance. This would be something I would come to appreciate at a more personal level in the future. Back to the point. We often head out with a bunch of friends and enjoy a few drinks and chatter way beyond levels of accepted sobriety. Who leaves her phone on for the inevitable 2AM call acting as a taxi for 10 or so drunk dickheads? You guessed it. Super Trooper Jad.
Sigmund Freud put forward an interesting position when he floated the Oedipal complex. Personally, I don’t subscribe to his thoughts but it stirs very different emotions in me. If mum was an animal she would almost certainly take the form of a polar bear or an elephant. She is utterly devoted to her sons. I have never, ever seen a person act as selflessly and without regard for her own wants, dreams and goals as my mum. I am certain mum would make a deal with the devil and suffer the pits of hell for eternity just so her four boys can lead happy, healthy and successful existences. That is something I cannot begin to fathom. A woman could do worse than model herself on you mum.
One last thought on mum. She’s definitely her father’s daughter but holds an uncanny ability to mimic her mother, my grandmother, Baba Marija. It’s so uncanny that we coined the term JadMarija to describe this phenomena. I wish I had the proper words to describe the physical posturing shared by these women but words escape me as I enjoy this moment of reflection (put yourself in my shoes and take a moment for yourself picturing your mum doing her “thing”) . If I had to describe it then it’s somewhere between Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada and Bill Murray’s Carl Spackler in Caddyshack. Really, it’s something else.
Mum, I know I’ve been a royal pain in your arse (especially the younger years) but know this: there’s nobody I’d rather have as my mum and I love you for it.
One Last Thought
6 NBA Championships, 6 NBA Finals MVPs, 5 NBA MVPs and over 32,000 points builds a convincing case. If it’s good enough for MJ, who am I to disagree?
“My heroes are and were my parents. I can’t see having anyone else as my heroes.” – Michael Jordan