Vale Sean Flannery
Love you, mate.
I've been a bit off my game the past few weeks dealing with the death of my step-father Sean Flannery, who passed on to the big Journalist's Club in the sky last Friday.
It's been tough finding topics to write about, so consumed have I and my family been with his funeral and the million other things you have to organise when someone shuffles off.
Anyways, in the interests of giving you something to read today, and also saving me from thinking too hard, I'm gonna post part of the eulogy I wrote for Sean, which was basically a list of things he taught me in the 40 years he was my father.
A love of the bush: Though he didn't get back to his home town of Forbes, NSW, as much as he would have liked, Sean loved the bush, loved country NSW and everything about it: driving fast on dirt roads, parking with your keys in the ignition, his family and mates, the smell of the place, the cold seven-ounce glasses at the Fat Lamb hotel in Eugowra.
How to roll a joint: I don't think Sean's love of pot comes as a surprise to anyone who knew him. And if it does, I hate to break it to you like this. The man liked a smoke. He could also roll a pretty good joint when needs be and I learnt at his knee. I won't, however, be passing this family tradition on to my kids.
Consequential thinking: At first blush it might seem bizarre that Sean could teach anyone anything resembling responsibility but we don't always ape our role models - sometimes we go in the opposite direction.
People who would meet Sean for the first time would often say to me, "Your old man is wild, he's crazy, he's so much fun." To which I would sometimes quip, "Everyone likes it when the circus comes to town, try living with it on your front lawn."
I think my great lesson about consequential thinking was on the night Sean and his great friend Jim Oram decided to use one of our family Cabcharge dockets to take a taxi to the Blue Mountains to watch the sunrise while smoking a fat one. Then come back again.
When my mum got the bill, I looked at her face and knew there had to be a better way. That's why I rorted all my Cabcharges from employers.
Gentleness: Sean was by and large a very gentle man. He only hit me once in more than 40 years - a slap across the face when I insulted my mother - and I can tell you, I deserved it far more times than that.
Sean was incredibly demonstrative - he had no problems hugging and kissing his children and telling us he loved us very much. That was pretty special and it's made me a gentler person.
How to feed the dog: Dogs had a bad time in our house. The owners were often absent or incapacitated. Suffice to say I learnt to use a can opener at an early age.
Beer should be cold, music should be loud: One of Sean and my special bonds was forged via a lifelong competition to see who could serve the coldest beer.
We used to try for that point just before you get ice crystals in the liquid - which any man would know is incredibly easy to misjudge and you're left with a VB slurpee. Get it right and that was pretty much Nirvana for Sean.
He also taught me that you can never have too much booze at a party and the value of a good rort, which is why we drank a certain beer at his wake on Tuesday, because I convinced the PR for the brewery to give us many free cases.
How to sleep through loud music: This is kind of a follow on to the last point. As kids, we certainly had to master this skill or it'd be a bleary morning in geography the next day.
And of course we had to feed the dog as well.
Storytelling: Perhaps Sean's greatest gift to me as a writer was his advice that, when telling a story, write it like you're talking to a mate in the pub.
It's powerful stuff and has informed most of my writing - in journalism and fiction - which is also probably why I swear so much in both those forms.
Deny, deny, deny: This was pretty much Sean's default position when caught out doing something he shouldn't.
Once again, we parted company on this one. I saw how this mantra can spiral out of control, so I tend to just look sheepish and admit everything when I'm busted.
And neither Sean nor I have a criminal conviction - god knows how - so we'll call it even.
Acceptance: I never saw Sean talk down to any man or woman in all the time I knew him. He'd give a person a gobful, but not because of their skin colour, sexual orientation, how they were dressed or how much money they had in their pocket.
Sean was one of the most genuinely accepting people I knew - maybe because you had to be genuinely accepting to get on with Sean - but it's something I try very hard to remember.
Love: As I mentioned earlier, I cannot tell you how many times Sean Flannery hugged me tight and whispered into my ear he loved me. It's the most far-reaching thing any father can do for his son or daughter, and I thank you for it mate. I love you too.
Despite how it reads, there was a somewhat serious side to Sean, which you can see here.
If you're interested - here's a tribute video my brother put together of Sean that details some of his career highlights and shots from the past.