OUR DAD - ALLEN DAVID WOODVINE
Like most of Dads stories; this account of his life is factually questionable
but it’s his version of the story as told by him over the years and through my eyes as a child looking up.
And since history is written by the victor - this account of his life is the way he wanted it told.
Well Mostly ;-)
Allen Woodvine was born to Grenville AND Beryl WOODVINE on the 26th of June 1954 in Northam WA.
The 2nd of 4 kids - Allen spent his childhood either in trouble or getting up to trouble like a good country boy.
His childhood stories are filled with adventure,
and capture the formation of his free spirit.
We grew up on his stories of good and bad Northam life with his many adventures based around the Avon river.
Of crude bomb-making to scare turtles in the river, of building his own canoes of corrugated tin - waterproofed with road tar, and of walking adventures along the Mundaring to Kalgoorlie water pipe.
Stories of being swept away in raging storm waters down the river to be saved hours later by a farmer who found him clinging to a tree fallen in the river. Only to return home to a belting for losing his shoes.
AND When he wasn’t off on river or walking adventures - he was off riding his pushbike.
These bicycle rides had him exploring far and wide. From Northam to Toodyay and other towns in the greater region.
Dad was always on the move; knocking on someone’s door unannounced and unexpected but always welcomed in like a son; for a cuppa, a biscuit, or a meal. A habit and skill that he would maintain for the rest of his life.
Dad's early life was a mixture of adventurousness, mischief, and a longing for a world beyond the boundaries of his small country town. It was this drive that had him packed up, leaving home, and on his way to Perth at the age of 14.
He was taken in by a Pastor's family and came to call the Sykes family his own.
While dad had learned of God as a child - Dad came to follow Christ as a teenager and started his journey with Jesus - a journey that he walked right until his last breath.
Allen found a God that loved him and accepted him Right where he was and AS he was.
A skinny blonde-haired country boy with baggage and experiences that few kids his age had had.
He was passionate about justice and compassion, and he found in Jesus the acceptance and social justice ideals that he longed for.
Allen was always a hard worker, creative, and inquisitive. These attributes lead him down several career paths until he found his true passion for horticulture.
His early work life was everything from construction, to window dressing displays at department stores Bones and Aherns,
to working in an abattoir - which he promptly quit after realising that killing animals was not something he was made to do.
At 17 he met mum at a church youth group outreach - which I believe was called beach group; down at Scarborough beach.
The 70s were in full swing and I can only imagine what a hundred or so peace-loving, flair wearing hippy Christians singing songs around a beach bonfire could look like.
If Hollywood has any fact to it I can only assume that Kumbaya featured heavily :-)
It was through this group that this ‘rough around the edges country boy’ met the sweet, innocent, and most likely oblivious; Mavis Wilshusen from “Swanbourne” or “the western suburbs”.
And surprise-surprise - he found himself all of a sudden attending Cottesloe church where mum and her family attended.
AND Not long after that he found himself regularly knocking on her family's front door - uninvited and unexpected but always welcomed in.
The details are sketchy - but apparently, soon they were dating.
But adventure called again soon after and at 19 and in search of work he hitchhiked his way north to Karratha where he began a lifetime love of horticulture as a groundsman helping to establish the gardens for Dampier Salt mines.
Dad continued his relationship with Mum by letters sent back to Perth, before inviting her to visit him under the guise of a “youth mission trip” to a remote cattle station.
On that trip, he wasted no time and proposed to mum on an isolated Pilbara beach. A few years later they married in what I can only describe as THE most 70s wedding get-ups you’ve ever seen. Please keep an eye out for the upcoming photo presentation.
Dad never feared the future nor cautiously planned for it and in true Allen style, his firstborn daughter Amber Was born exactly 9months after their honeymoon.
5 years later I was born and our family of four took on his next adventure to Coffs Harbour led by Dad to full-time volunteer work with a Christian ministry called Sherwood Cliffs.
Here dad was able to fulfill 2 passions - working with young people who were disadvantaged and disengaged AND helping to run a farm in the highlands outside of Coffs Harbour in NSW.
ALONG came SIMEON - baby #3; before we moved to Victoria and the opportunity to continue working with young people who had found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
During our time in Melbourne Allen also had one of his working life’s favorite jobs as an orderly in the morgue at Box Hill hospital. He would regale us with stories of the macabre, the hilarious, and the amazing. Death was not a fascination for dad but it certainly didn’t faze him either.
With my brother Chris, Baby #4, on the way and life in constant upheaval, Dad decided it was time to return to Perth. Our adventure, driving from Melbourne to Perth across the Nullarbor was one of the most fantastic adventures I ever went on with dad. I got to see firsthand his strength, determination, persistence, resilience, adventurousness, and love of travel in what became a 2-week journey. It was on this trip I came to learn and fully appreciate that the journey is more important than the destination.
The qualities that I had seen in dad as we ventured across the country became his strength as we arrived back in Perth; unemployed, life in chaos, 4 kids, and arriving just in time for the 90s Recession we had to have.... and of course; baby #5 our youngest sister Scarlett
While holding odd jobs dad took on the challenge of getting himself a formal education and poured all his efforts into his Diploma of Horticulture as a mature aged student.
As dad matured so did his relationship with God.
Dad found the wonder of God and a true spiritual connection with God in and through creation. The deeper he dived into the science of nature the more he was in awe of the creator.
He loved the earth and everything that grew from her. He had such a soft-hearted approach to the wonders of this world.
One of his most spiritual places was to be on the bibulmun track. I’m convinced that he thought of it as the greatest cathedral men had ever built to honour country and God.
Hiking the bibulmun track was a passion that he was fortunate to share with many others. Whether he was with family, friends, or alone - if dad was walking the track he was in his happy place.
A lifetime dream of his had been to do the entire track in one attempt. From KALAMUNDA to Albany. He was gone for 5 or 6 weeks but unfortunately, towards the last part he slipped and injured himself and had to return home -
however, he didn’t really seemed fussed or disappointed when he got home. I have my suspicions that he actually missed mum and home so much that the fall was a good enough reason to bow out graciously. I suspect he realised that going home early can be a greater reward than pushing on through pain and struggle for naught. The journey was always the more important thing, and he had had a great journey.
Dad truly didn’t care where he was. He only cared that he was with people he loved and that he had a connection with nature.
After a few years lecturing and teaching at TAFE he was excited to take on a practical role at Quarantine. He loved his quarantine family and was fortunate enough to even take on a posting for 4 years which returned him to his adopted heartlands of the Pilbara where he worked for Quarantine in port Hedland.
During his time there he got to live a somewhat bachelor's life and the retirement he would never get later.
During his Port Hedland time, his hobbies and OCD flourished. He grabbed this period of single man freedom by the horns and became almost a caricature of himself.
Growing and selling pot plants, taking up photography, learning to play the flute, throwing dinner parties, actively participating in the local church, preaching, and honestly - who know what other crazy, free-spirited, hippy adventures he got up to.
He loved his job and the people he worked with. And very much took people for who they were.
He approached work, life, and his faith with a disregard for the norm and had little time for theatrics unless it was telling his own tall stories.
He completed his career with 23yrs of service at Quarantine and worked right up until he was diagnosed with stage 4 Oesophageal Cancer.
After he was diagnosed we had many chats around life, spirituality, and also about death. Nothing was out of bounds and no macabre joke was spared. Dad and I wrestled with many ideas, possibilities, and theologies. We spoke of his desire to live but his acceptance of death if that was to be his journey.
He made many mistakes in life but I fear his greater mistakes may have been in the last year. He covered up his pain, he told people he was doing fine and he chose bravery over honesty.
6 rounds of chemo, 2 stents to push the cancer growth back, and infection after infection ravaged his body. But he always had a smile for me and I’m sure anyone that visited.
He was never bitter and he never resentfully questioned or said “why me”. He accepted his mortality with such dignity.
He never lost his sense of humour and I’m so honoured that I was able to make him laugh, OR in true Allen style; ruefully smirk as the student became the master and I served him back jokes that were truly macabre, irreverent, and incomprehensible to Mavis. While mum gasped in shock, dad and I would laugh or smirk Silently at each other if the humour was too subtle for mum.
He also never lost his sense of adventure. In his final months and with mum’s help revisited places that had always held his heart. A final walk on a short stretch of the Bibbulmun & visits to York, Northam, Gin-Gin, Jarrahdale, and Sullivan’s rock - which for the first time ever he simply looked up at acknowledging he no longer had the strength to climb but watched as his grandson, Xander, took on the adventure on his behalf.
Exactly one week before dad died we had the privilege and honour of taking dad for a 2-night stay in Dwellingup. At this stage his body was weak and his mind foggy but he said how good it felt to be there back close to the bush.
Dad was far from perfect but he always did the best he could with the skills and abilities he had.
He taught me to be strong, to be resilient, to be adventurous, to question, to care about justice, to wrestle with matters of faith, to love others, to forgive as God forgives and that a joke is just a joke.
This is not a sentence I ever thought I would say about you dad, but I am so proud of not only the way you lived but also in the way that you died.
You never complained you didn’t fight in vain, you held your dignity and when your huge, adventurous journey was over - you didn’t stick around but left us in the most beautiful, peaceful, and dignified way. We prayed over you as a family, mum said goodbye, and like that you closed your eyes, breathed your last, and were gone.
We all loved you dad - and we all had our own unique relationships with you. Each of your kids hold good, bad, frustrating, complex memories of a man who lived a big, adventurous, life filled with good, bad, frustrating and complex things.
I suspect he realised that going home early can be a greater reward than pushing on through pain and struggle for nought. The journey was always the more important thing, and he had had a great life journey.
I like to think that at only 66 years of age - you rocked up, knocking on heavens gates; unexpected, uninvited; but lovingly welcomed in like a son.