James Thomas Lacey it says on the birth certificate, but we called him Mick. We called him Mick because Mick is what he was called. And though fathers are normally called "Dad", our dad, our Mick, somehow transcended the role of father. "Dad" was too plain an epithet for someone so unique.
He was our supporter, our rock, our mate. He loved quietly, with restraint, and without flamboyance. He never embarrassed you with showy displays of affection. But it was love that was no less fierce and no less felt. In fact it was intensified by its restraint. To feel his love and contemplate his mortality was something I could, from an early age, find crushing. So I have been preparing for this moment for a long time. He was mischievous, enjoyed a laugh, a yarn, a tease that bordered on torment. But it was the most gentle and affectionate torment you could ask for, and instead of being injured by his velvet barbs, you felt the more loved. Didn't you?
He never took life, or himself, too seriously, and was quick to make a rude face at anything or anyone that smacked of pomposity, self-importance, or self-promotion: politicians of all types and across the generations, the Royals, bureaucrats, Rex Mossop and Tony Greig were all objects of his scorn. Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety Bird and Precious Pup were more his style. He even spent years using the same snicker as Precious Pup.
He loved the Australian bush. Not the obsessive and studied love of an amateur naturalist, but a sheer uncomplicated love of the simple and sensuous pleasure that the bush offered. As a younger chap living at Five Day Creek, he would roam bare-footed up and down the creek fishing for perch, affectionately accused by the locals of being half-native, though that is not the word they used. Later, on return camping visits to the Macleay, the fishing was just an excuse to be out there surrounded by the water, the gum trees, the gnarley hills, the cicadas, the birdlife, the dry summer heat, a bloody good campfire, and his mates...some of whom may not have even been family. When in this element, Mick was truly at his happiest.
Unlike most blokes of his generation, he cooked: meat and three veg, stews, steak & kidney, curried this or that, pea and ham soup, damper, Mickles Pickles. His flagship was definitely Mickles Pickles. But no baking as far as I can recall. No, he left the Anzacs to Nancy. But his nightly cooking, his support of Mum, was one thing that stood as testament to the rock and pillar of the family that he was. There are many things he may not have been, but he was there if you needed him. Always.
He had his faults too. He was a hopeless handy man and I don't think I ever saw him do more to a motor car than put in petrol or fill an over-heated radiator. Changing a tyre was possibly achievable, but a challenge. Maybe he changed a spark plug in the mower once. He had a weakness for pulpy Westerns and could snooze away the afternoon at the drop of a hat. Until his final years he loved a drink with friends -- the mainstay being beer, but port or muscat with soda made a refreshing change…and in later years an occasional snort of Butterscotch Schnappes (or was it snatch? He was never quite sure.) For 50 odd years he smoked. Rollies, never tailor-mades. Log Cabin or Havelock, thanks. He also had a weakness for black jelly beans and crystallized ginger, but these are hardly faults are they? They were just some of his guilty, or maybe not so guilty, pleasures. Along with mangos, fresh prawns, oysters, mud crab, and Crème de Menthe and ice cream. He was an epicure before his time, was Mick.
There is more, so much more that could be said, that will be said, about his life. What he did and what he achieved. His teaching, his golfing, his marriage, his friendships. But not now. Not here. In these few words, I just wanted to try to capture a little of what he was. At least to my eyes. The essence of my Mick. My dad. And to put down this memory, the one that I shall carry of him forever.