Life with you has always been an adventure. I am amazed at how many freedoms you gave us to explore the world around us as we grew up under your care. Looking back it is instructive to contrast the way the ‘Two Pams’ each approached life. Murray and Jonno Shanks always seemed to need to look for ways to hide things from their mum, whereas you seemed to encourage transparency and rewarded us with opportunities to show that we could be trusted.
You always seemed to be pretty fearless – not sure now whether this was more perception than reality, but it helped me to take life by the horns. Neil and I had pretty similar mums and consequently approached the world in much the same way. I’m sure this is one of the reasons we became and have remained such good friends.
I am thinking now about an acrostic your friends at FFBC recently did for you. From memory, one of the words associated with the ‘R’ in Dart was “rebellious” (Pam Shanks’ contribution?). I laughed out loud when I heard it, they seem to know you pretty well!
For example, I grew up believing that a sign reading ‘DO NOT ENTER Authorised Personnel Only’ really meant ‘Proceed With Caution’! Much to Belinda’s distain. Even now I find myself asking; “Authorised by whom, and to what purpose?” Perhaps this is why I have never been afraid to question authority; although I have learned a greater respect for it over time. Nevertheless, I’m sure we always got to see a little bit more of life than everyone else.
From my perception as a child, your life with Dad seemed to have its ups and downs. Despite this, I always felt secure in the knowledge that you were absolutely committed to each other, and to us. My (distorted?) recollection is that you always managed to argue over where to set up camp. Mercifully, the caravan parks that actually insisted on an allocated site number saved some of the arguments, but then there was the issue of the positioning of the tent, further compounded by the relative slope of the ground, coupled with the direction of the toilet block, (all critical issues!) that still required resolution; not to mention where to set up cooking facilities, further compounded by the fact that we had usually been driving all day, it was dinner time when we arrived, and the light was either rapidly fading or had long since disappeared!
There are so many childhood recollections, most of which seemed to involve Carey, I guess because we were so close in age. The time Carey fell off his bike and stood bleeding in silence while you “finished peeling the spuds”. The time I fell off the back of Tim Cooper’s bike in Carnarvon Drive and was knocked unconscious, and you came rushing down in the car to pick me up after Tim arrived back home very pale announcing “Wesley’s got blood on his head”. The time I fell out of a tree at the Brew’s place and ended up being taken to RNS hospital to have not one, not two, but five splinters removed from my eye; it’s a wonder I still have sight in that eye. The phrase “there but for the grace of God go I” immediately springs to mind. The time you had to virtually stitch Carey’s leg up after he buried a tomahawk into his shin while we were collecting firewood together on the Great Ocean Road. I remember Natalie(?) saying as you bandaged Carey’s leg using a disposable nappy as a dressing “It’s OK Carey, I’ve already used that one” .
Having just finished the above paragraph I find myself wondering why all the above memories seem to involve blood and injury? I’m sure Freud would have a theory.
I also remember being unceremoniously dragged by you in front of the Woolworth’s store manager to give account and an apology for stealing a padlock you had discovered among my possessions. I learned a useful life lesson that day.
There is one other turning point in my life that is worth noting. You may not even remember it, but I always will...
It was a school afternoon, I was probably in year 7 or 8 and was supposed to be going to a Bible study at the Shanks’ place run by Brian Edwards, but I couldn’t be bothered. You could have let me off (unlikely scenario given that we usually needed a near death experience to get even a day off school ), but instead you said “Wes, sooner or later you’re going to have to make a decision, you can’t live off Dad’s and my faith forever”. It wasn’t long after that conversation that I made my own decision to follow Jesus, this eventually leading to Baptism.
I have never regretted, even a moment, my decision to follow Jesus.
I also remember how you opened your heart to Belinda when she arrived in my life. You welcomed her as a friend and eventually a daughter in law. I would however dispute your claim that you were the ‘matchmaker’ who brought us together; although it’s fair to say that the SAO/ABWAid connection was very important in the overall love story.
Proverbs 31:28a says;
Her children respect and bless her (MSG)
Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) (AMP)
Her children stand and bless her (NLT)
Mum, I do rise up and bless you. I know your weaknesses, but that just makes me love you all the more. It also reminds me of how far I’ve got to go myself.
Thank you for your love and your prayers over the years. My dear wife says that probably the single most important reason all your children are still walking with Jesus today is because you and Dad have so diligently prayed for us.
With love from the one who “never caused his mother any heartache”.
Wes X X X