July 12, 2008 | Graham

…not to shine in use…

When I came to Australia as a five year old there were a few continuities in my life apart from the language. One of those was Alistair Cooke and his “Letter from America”. It was broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, I think on a Sunday afternoon. The ABC broadcast it as well, just after Sunday lunch.
Another more tenuous one was John Cargher‘s program, “Singers of Renown” as well as his “Music for Pleasure”. I remember hearing the latter at my Grandmother’s place on Sunday afternoons, while the former often issued eccentrically from our radio in the beach house at Currumbin, over the sound of surf and wind. In Canada I was often left at the table to reluctantly chew over my junket after everyone else had finished, while opera, broadcast from the New York “Met”, was on the radio on a Saturday afternoon. In this new country people still liked to listen to men and women bellowing to soaring music.
Another continuity was my dad.
Alistair Cooke died some four years ago, aged 96, and working until one month before he died, after 58 years of “letters”.
John Carger died a little over two months ago, but he eerily lingered on the airwaves as the ABC filled his time slot post mortem with a repeat of his “Singers of Renown Encore” series, introduced by Julie Copeland. He hosted 42 years of “Singers of Renown” and was 89 when he died, working until the end.
Dad also lingered, somewhat bizarrely. Mum didn’t receive his ashes back from the undertaker until some time after he died. He wanted them scattered at Currumbin Beach, but the problem was how to get all the family together to give the scattering sufficient gravitas.
Last Sunday he would have been 96, if he hadn’t died two and a bit years ago at 93, and he worked at something every day of his life right until the end. So the whole family, minus dad, gathered at Currumbin and we sprinkled him on the sea at the front of Flat Rock, washing the last speck out of the box with sea foam. Afterwards I went for a quick memorial dip – Dad was always in the surf, even the year that he died, when we spent some time at Burleigh, and he got rolled by big waves, but still got up.
So my continuities are now discontinuities (not that I need continuities between Canada and Australia anymore) except for one thing. The will to endure was strong in all of them, and that’s a lesson that I take forward in life.
Friends of mine, even younger than me, and I am only 50, talk of retirement. I find that an alien concept. Marx believed that a person was defined by the work that they do, and in this he was right. Cease to work, and you lose your definition and start to fade.
Conservation and sustainability are catch-cries of our times, but there is nothing more wasteful, and self-indulgent, than sidelining our best when their productive careers are perhaps no more than two-thirds complete because of an outmoded idea of planned obsolescence or some hippy happy concept that having paid your dues somewhere in your 50s or 60s you are now free to be a child again. What a waste of human capital, human potential. What a blight on human happiness.
Dylan Thomas had it right. We should “rage, rage, against the dying of the light”. I’m sure John Cargher could have found an aria for it, and if he had we could have played it loudly over the speakers on one of the cars as we tipped Dad back into the elements.
The “Youngs” after the ceremony. Back row Terry O’Connor, Rebel O’Connor, Bronwyn Young, Wolfram O’Connor, Helene Young, Graham Wade. Front row Graham Young, Andrew Young, Marie Young, Harley Huesch (Young), Elizabeth Young, Sophia Young.

Posted by Graham at 4:38 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Society

1 Comment

  1. Graham: [a] Your continuities didn’t become discontinuities; they became memories – perhaps they may become traditions or even, way in the future, myths.
    Glad you could all give your father such a good send-off. He was a fortunate man to have a really good farewell.
    [b] I agree about working – whether for money or for intangible reward – until you are completely helpless. Almost everyone can make themselves useful in one way or another. It is indeed a disgrace that we live in a society that despises age and experience and that throws some of its most useful workers on the scrapheap well before they have reached their personal best.
    Trouble is, so often I hear calls to raise the retirement age and to slash pensions coming from pampered layabouts who did not enter the paid workforce themselves until they were in their mid-to-late twenties; who raise a sweat only in hedonistic pleasure and certainly never at work; who are obsessed with retiring in obscene luxury themselves several years ahead of their peers.
    What have they themselves contributed to the overall good that I should pay any attention to their views on this matter?
    By the way, never met one who looked pleased when I told him that I would have to get the pension until the age of 137 before I looked like breakng even on all the tax I had paid since I first started work. L-O-L! 🙂

    Comment by Graham Bell — July 14, 2008 @ 9:59 pm

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