So much of a Dad’s work can go unsung. Father’s Day is one of the precious few chances we get to celebrate him. Kelvin shares his special story this Father's Day as part of The Dad Files editorial series.
Memories old and new
Kelvin Shirley and his wife Sue live in Affinity Village in Baldivis, south of Perth’s CBD. They are originally from England and Kelvin remembers going fishing with his father on Sunday mornings on the River Lea in North London.
“There were boats going up and down the river, with housing estates on one side and bush on the other. They used to bring timber down the river on barges to Edmonton where I worked as a cabinetmaker.”
Now Kelvin is a grandfather to four grandkids and works as a maintenance officer at Rockingham General Hospital.
When eldest son Ian was born, “They had to use forceps. The nurses told me ‘you're going to have to leave’ and my wife said to her, ‘he's not going anywhere!’ That was fantastic. The other two, daughter Jenny and son Robert, were straightforward.”
Australia was the best choice we ever made
“We weren't really getting anywhere in England. We were looking through some brochures and Australia looked like it offered a totally better lifestyle. It was the best choice we ever made. There is such freedom for the children.”
Kelvin tried to be supportive to his kids from the start.
“Be hands-on from day one - lots of love and hugs, express your love and always be supportive. Encourage them to be the best they can be. I’d help them with their houses (they always wanted things done) and give them ideas of what to do.”
Kelvin describes being at the birth of his eldest granddaughter as ‘one of the best moments ever’.
“Right near the end, I’d been waiting outside and my daughter Jenny said “you might as well bring Dad in’ and that was lovely! Right at the end, my daughter’s partner and my wife had disappeared, so I ended up holding Jenny’s hand and my granddaughter in the other! It’s one of my favourite memories.”
With Jenny living just around the corner, Kelvin and Sue have her three children over whenever they can. “The grandkids probably get spoilt a bit more, taking them out and to places they want to go: to the park, swimming, down to Mandurah for lunch sometimes.”
Father’s Day is a mix of joy and sadness
For Kelvin, Father’s Day is a day to reflect on the birth of his children, their schooling and growing up years and then becoming a granddad to their children.
It’s also a day to remember their youngest son, Robert, who passed away at just 32. “It’s coming up to the two year anniversary. It's something you never expect to happen and you never want any parent to experience. We both miss him every day. Sue and I, we're good for each other. We manage to get through it together.”
On Father’s Day itself, Kelvin and Sue might catch up with their son Ian and his son Rory, their grandson, who lives north of Perth, for lunch. Other times they’ll go to his daughter Jenny who lives around the corner with her three children. It’s a family occasion “with kids going wild”.
Amidst all the noise and activity, however, everyone remembers Robert fondly. He loved his nieces and nephews and “He’d get down at the grandkids’ level and if we had a water fight he’d end up the wettest”.