‘Breathe, breathe in the air.
Don’t be afraid to care.
Leave but don’t leave me.
Look around and choose your own ground.

Long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be. ‘

When I was a very small girl, my Dad took all of us children up in a little Cessna aeroplane above the Mallee town of our childhood. I can only imagine our mothers trepidation, to place us into the hands of the large sky above.

My Dad, who bought his first family home with the proceeds from an antique bottle collection gleaned from a golden ghost town, my dad, who had little choice as a teenager but to leave school and take up the family trade in butchering, my dad learned how to fly.

He knew how to follow his dreams. He just seemed to lose their trail. I like to think that he only needed more time.

I never flew with him again. He didn’t continue flying. I don’t know what happened. Life got in the way, and money and responsibility, I suppose.

Years later, in Bendigo, he bought a funny little Ultralight plane. It was parked out the back of our house, on the grass, high above the creek. It was there for years, and was something of a standing joke, though thinking back, I am unsure of the punchline. Just once, he took that ultralight to Rushworth (by road, somehow) and in the gently undulating paddocks between my grandparents place and the old slaughter yards, that piece of tin ascended for one stunning – instant – before meeting the ground again.

It reminds me of the elaborate model airplanes that he used to build from kits, with meticulous care and obvious love, for weeks and months. When the plane was finally finished, perfect and beautiful, Dad would take us out to the tiny airfield above which he once flew with his most precious cargo and, remote control in hand, the gorgeous scent of two stroke heavy on the lifting breeze, he would guide the buzzing craft aloft, as we watched in rapt attention, until, each time it smashed into a hundred pieces on the ground.

Dad, not prone to melancholy, was ever philosophical about the losses.

He read books about planes, and went to the Mangalore Air Show each year. There was a great heavy leather case full of study notes for a commercial pilots licence when I was in high school, but that part of his dream was laid aside again too, for more pragmatic concerns. This was after the failure of the nursery dream.

Dad was only 45 when he died, almost 22 years ago. My husband is 46 now. He dreams of flying, just like my dad, and loves planes and air shows . Wow, my dad would have been such a great father in law to him, and would have been so chuffed to have a partner in crime for all things avian. It would have been beautiful to watch.

I wish my dad had not laid dreams aside, not lost the scent of the chase, and I know that he was chasing a different dream when he died, but if only there had have been more time, more days, more skies full of so many more days.

Across the lane from Bushies, outside Rushworth, right where you turn onto Middle Road, down which we drove to the channel where he drowned, there are those wind socks in the adjacent paddock now, and a dusty little landing strip where a neighbour flies his small plane in and out. It raises the ghost of a smile within me.

lyrics quoted are from the Pink Floyd song Breathe

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