Our Grand Ol’ Pa

My early memories of the Cahir family recall the Treadwell road house, the long table like some Norse mythological feast with enumerate plates of food devoured, flagons emptied (honoured guests clunking and chinking glasses across the wide table), and lively merrymaking, mostly punctuated by shrieks and hoots of laughter, of cheers and huzzahs and heckling. The relationships between aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings continue to be lubricated by that inherited sense of laughing with and at life.

Parts of this humour we can lay at the feet of our Grandfather: the Playful Pa. Pa, the ridiculous teaser Pa — the grand “OOH Pa!”.
Pa the teasing scourge of the under 10s.

Visiting involved Greeting Pa with a kiss. And then undergoing the ritual hand crushing within the bear/vice grip. And then the sockets attaching your arm to your body would be rigorously tested as Pa vigorously worked your arm like a water pump. One of the common tricks would be that your hand would only be released on repeating some set of words Pa decided you needed to say: “Go Bombers!” Would usually see welcome release. The number of Bombers fans in the family testament to the effectiveness of this strategy. There are a few stubborn non-adherents. With their crushed little Carlton Blue-bagger souls.

Other stock in trades would be Pa pretending that he was meeting you for the first time (again!) and then not being able to hear your name. When he did finally hear you shout your name Pa would take great delight in replying: “Well, its certainly nice to meet you Suzie”. Only later in life have I reflected that the choice of name suggested that Pa may have been a repressed Johnny Cash fan.

“Oh Jim!”, Valda would say, “leave those children alone”. But neither he nor we, could seemingly leave each other alone. Particularly when the false teeth come out we’d be running around the large dining table in the depths of half terror only to run into him again. The greeting saga could take some time … however it would all end when the agreed safewords were uttered: “Enoughs, enough, Pa!”

And to be fair, its not only children that Pa enjoys a good teasing of. When Carmella and I introduced our esteemed grandfather to Carmella’s sister, Pearl, for the first time (not too many years ago), Pa turned to Carmella in mock surprise: “She’s not as bad as you said she she was … she’s got all her own teeth.” Great laughter on all sides.

At Christmas Pa would forego his normal social efficiency. Delivering the presents from under the xmas tree to the grandkids would always take a long time … for some reason he could never find the child for whom the present he had in his hands was addressed. Even if the addressee was standing right in front of him: “Where’s Laurynda?” “I’m here, Pa, … I’m Heeeere!!!” On the odd occasion that the 4 year old was no match for the frustration … tears would flow. Pa would sort that out with a big ol’ cuddle and all would be forgiven.

Many would recall the xmas that all the grandchildren were given instruments of death as their xmas present. Much to the displeasure of uncles and aunts who were averse to the mix of violent AND Loud toys. Technically speaking only cousin Tommy got the official trademarked ‘Tommy gun’. The rest of the grandchildren were given customised replicas with their own names inscribed on them. A piece of xmas present giving genius. We spent the rest of xmas day playing out noisy massacres of each other in the fading half light.

Pa was also a well known counter of toes. His previous work in accountancy meant he was eminently qualified to ascertain whether one or other of your toes had gone missing in the night. These encounters usually resulted if Pa felt that you had wallowed in your bed longer than the time that was right and good.

In contrast to that playful Pa, from a young age I also had as an impression of my Grandfather, Business Pa: a serious and important person. For a start Pa always dressed smartly, and his hair was parted immaculately. To my mind with his biros and leather folders I thought him a model of efficiency.I remember Pa bringing home from work hundreds of colour pencils wrapped in rubber bands, and long reams of old school printers paper, which we were allowed to practise our own ‘business work’ on.

It was a big deal too, hearing of Pa’s work in organising the 1980’s visit to Australia of then Pope, John Paul II. It was only later that I realised that this work meant much, much more than the emergence of Papal merchandise distributed at the Family picnic. My first interactions with the visual novel genre was via the cartoon pamphlet Pa provided that described Pope John Paul II’s spiritual journey and ascendancy to his role as Pope. This interest in the coming and goings of Rome was continued in cartoon form by my exposure to ‘Asterix and Obelix’ (a purely historical interest).

Pa had a dizzying array of clipboards and stationery. He had lists. He made notes. He wrote letters in neat handwriting. Whenever we came to visit, or Pa would visit us, there would serious business to be discussed (particularly during that period when Mum owned a merchandising craft shop). I understood from a young age that Pa worked in an important financial world. With Numbers.

In my youth I had always equated his accountancy and business connections (either via financial advice that he assisted people with, or his driving of bargains with local businesses and particularly through the shady connections to the PROBUS community with some as yet unknown secret service department such was the seriousness and importance with which it was accorded.

I was impressed by his adding machines – they were enormous, had large buttons, and rolls of paper, the spewing forth the hieroglyphics of numbers and symbols. Under Pa’s experienced hands they behaved like possessed monsters – the paper streaming out long across the floor as he tapped out long calculations of the days takings — it was like a digit stream of consciousness.

Along with my older siblings, I was lucky enough to work under Dave Ditty, who worked for Pa from earlier in Pa’s Campion days. Dave, who is sadly recently departed, had what I would call the dubious honour of working in the book business with 3 generations of Cahir Family representatives. At lunchtimes Dave would speak to us about the old days when Pa was a big wig at Campion. Dave always had a healthy respect for Pa. I certainly felt accorded us, as his grandchildren, special time and interest. Dave would always ask after the health of Mr Cahir and I understand visit Pa from time to time long after Pa’s retirement.

This leads to the final part that I want to cover in this reflection on Pa from a representative of his grandchildren. I don’t think any summary of Pa’s life would be complete without some reference to Paddy Edwards. Pa has always taken the legacy of Pat’s sacrifice very seriously. Looking across the family and its generations there is a consistent contribution to community service, through paid and volunteer work in areas of community welfare, education and health, as well as those that are in active service, either military or police force. Additionally there is a full and active interest in history (both personal and general) demonstrating that this interest has survived across generations from our great grandfather, Frank through to Pa and his brothers, through their children to the grandchildren and second cousins and so on …

All his children, and his grandchildren (and many of his friends and acquaintances I imagine) know the story of Patrick Edwards. Many have visited the sites of these and other sacrifices. The Cahir family is large. The fact that representatives of all the families are here from across distances I think speaks very highly of the care with which Pa’s life story is accorded and shared across the family, and to the respect with which these stories are held. This is more than a celebration of Pa’s 90 years. Its a celebration of the legacies and values that Pa has been able to impart into his family. 90 years is more than luck. Filling a room of this size with good will with more from those that are unable to make it today takes a lot of hard work. Congratulations on your achievements Pa.

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