Happy 35th Anniversary to My Parents!

My parents are honestly couple goals.

On this date 35 years ago, my parents got married. And what is amazing about this is that each day, they fall more in love with each other. If you hear that old trope that “marriage ruins relationships”, then let me be the one to tell you that is false because my parents are living proof of this.

This was taken exactly two years ago, when my sisters and I crashed their anniversary dinner. What legends.

In their time together, they’ve had five children, – one obviously better than the other and I am definitely talking about myself here – countless amounts of homes, about five dogs (correct me if I am wrong), and one hell of a journey together.

As a sort of present to them, and a way to celebrate their coral/jade anniversary, I gave them both a quick questionnaire to answer about the other. Here is what they had to say:

Mum
1. When and where did you meet dad? How old were you and how old was he? He was 14 and I saw him at a basketball game. I was 16.
2. What was your first impression of him? Didn’t think much of him.
3. When and where was your first date? At the movies on Queen Street in November 1976.
4. What did his parents think of you when they first met you? I never met them (when we were dating).
5. When and where was your first kiss? At the movie.
6. How did he propose? What was his first reaction? He proposed on the step of my house in November 1982.
7. What were your first thoughts when you saw him at your wedding? Grey. He was wearing grey.
8. How many kids did you plan to have? At least two.
9. What is your favourite memory with him? When Toni was sitting on the bed, she was sitting on the bed in her white dress and it took his breath away.
10. What is your favourite thing about him now? He is the most handsome man in the whole wide world.

Dad
1. When and where did you meet mum? How old were you and how old was she? Newmarket in Auckland, New Zealand. I was 16 and she was 18.
2. What was your first impression of her? I had no impression.
3. When and where was your first date? Movie on Friday night in Auckland city
4. What did her parents think of you when they first met you? I’m not too sure. They were very open and friendly.
5. When and where was your first kiss? The movie in Auckland on our first date.
6. How did you propose? What was her first reaction? I asked her in front of her home. She was happy.
7. What were your first thoughts when you saw her at your wedding? I’m getting married to her.
8. How many kids did you plan to have? No real number.
9. What is your favourite memory with her? In the temple when we got married and had Toni and Stacie sealed to us.
10. What is your favourite thing about her now? Her support for me and the family.

Besides some slight miscommunication on question one (looks at dad), and also I’m pretty sure both of their favourite memories together was having their fifth and final child, they are truly the most perfect couple! Happy anniversary mum and dad! I love you a bunch!

– by Noah La’ulu

The Everyday Hero

As children, though we throw the words around a lot, there are very few things that we really want and only one thing we really need; our parents. We want Daddy to be there to scare away the monsters at night and Mummy to kiss our skinned knees and paper cuts; we want these heroes to be in our lives whenever we need them. The trouble with being the child of a Paramedic is that more often than not, in the most crucial years of our childhood, our parents are too busy being someone else’s hero to come and be ours, to help us.

My Dad ad I at the last rally we went to.

My Dad and I at the last rally we went to.

I’d like to take a moment to clarify that in no way do I resent my father for his career. I am incredibly proud to be his daughter and –if it’s possible- love him more for the work that he does, however I will not deny the impact that shift work had on my family growing up. Like all Paramedics, Dad was forced into nightshifts that, already unpleasant by their very definition, were made worse by the knowledge that he was leaving his wife at home to cook for, clean up after and basically be mum and dad for three young children. Forced overtime caused him to miss helping us with homework, going to the park, tucking us in at night and games of street cricket. He missed Easters, Christmases, birthdays and camping trips all in the name of work but rarely did he complain. Worst of all though, above missing the holidays and the bed-time stories, Dad missed out on so much of the everyday, seemingly insignificant moments that took us from who we were then to whom we are now. We are three independent young adults who grew up while our father was speeding, lights and sirens, in the other direction.

As the youngest of the three children in my family, I hardly noticed this happening around me. I was more concerned with romance between our pet dog and the Labrador next door than the counting the hours my Dad was at home. Don’t get me wrong, this was not being selfish- I was six years old and oblivious to everything. Looking back now though, I know why riding in the back of the ambulance was such a novelty and why seeing Dad in uniform always seemed so cool- it was simply the fact that he was there so rarely that made those moments so special.

In this instance, my family is not unique. We are not the rare exception to an otherwise perfect system. There are thousands of children every day who are missing time with their parents and by the same token, thousands of parents who are missing out on watching their children grow up. Missing first steps, first words, first days of school and football games. They are the parents of children whose defining moments happen in front of crowds made up of other people’s mums and dads and never their own. It paints a bleak picture and despite the devastation and hurt that Paramedics see in their world every day, I feel confident in saying that missing out on time with their children and spouses causes more lasting pain than any of it. I know this to be true because I have seen it on my father’s face when he looks as us, and hear it in his voice with each apology he should not have had to make for the time he has lost with us.

More and more often as we get older, my siblings and I put on old family videos, look back and play the old “remember when…” Dad is missing in so much of that footage, and sadly shakes his head and apologises, saying “I missed so much when you were growing up.” This is true. But the guilt he carries with him every day should not be his burden- his guilt is a product of the hours of overtime he worked to cover the crews who spent all day and night banked outside hospitals. His guilt comes as a result of his commitment to working for an organisation that is under-resourced and undervalued by the Victorian government.

Over the years, I have watched Dad struggle more and more to live within the sanctions of Ambulance Victoria, trying to juggle his roles as station manager, driving instructor, union activist and mentor (to name a few) and my heart simultaneously breaks and swells with pride to see how hard he has to fight, knowing that there are paramedics all over the state in the same fight. People who are literally giving the service their blood, sweat and tears to the point where days off are spent sleeping or resting acquired aches and pains. Our parents grow old before their time, exhausting both mind and body to compensate for the staff the service does not have, to work through resourcing problems every day that AV and the government say do not exist.

In addition to this, there is a disturbing increase in the number of suicides in this industry. These people who, every day, worked tirelessly to save the lives of others no longer felt they could continue with their own. What message does that send their families? Are we not enough to fight for? Going from seeing a loved one in the fleeting hours between school pick-up and a six p.m nightshift to never seeing them again is a pain that no child should ever know but sadly, more and more are faced with it.

As a Paramedic with more than thirty years on the job, Dad has lost too many colleagues and too many friends. His own stresses and struggles caused by the corruption of AV are worsened every time he learns of the loss of another paramedic. Every child fears losing their parents but for me, and for my brother and sister, the possibility is made so much more real by the toxic environment in which our Dad works each day.

I am not naïve enough to think that the issues within Ambulance Victoria can be fixed overnight. I also know that nightshift and overtime are inevitable, however there is still an obvious solution; increase government funding to Ambulance Victoria, in a tied grant ensuring the money goes towards more staff and resources rather than the pockets of the AV CEO and his managers who are inhibiting CODE RED efforts, rather than supporting their staff and colleagues.

A real investment in Ambulance Victoria would allow paramedics more time with their families – time in which the only coloured lights are on stage at the school musical and the only sirens are those for half-time at the footy. Time to just sit with their children and watch the world go by, not their lives.

– by Blaire Gillies

My Daddy and I

As it would be appropriate being Father’s Day (in Australia at least), I wanted to write about my father and I, and also about the other father figures in my life. All day at work, all I’ve wanted to do is go home to my Dad and hug him, and when I eventually did hug him, he pushed me off and said “Where’s my present?”

Me and my father in our matching Queensland Maroons gear.

Me and my father in our matching Queensland Maroons gear.

My father, Ma’atusi La’ulu, and I – if you can’t tell by the picture of us – are complete opposites (I demanded he take a picture with me in our QLD gear and he just continued watching TV as if I wasn’t there). He is quiet and reserved and rather introverted when catapulted into a social situation, whereas I am loud, outstanding and demand attention when with other people. He hates the idea of contemporary men’s fashion, constantly stating that “skinny jeans are for women”, while my whole wardrobe is pretty much as tight as spandex.

I find it difficult to maintain a lengthy conversation with my father even though I have the ability to talk until the cows come home. My father is more of a listener than he is a talker. Despite being often annoyed by my “Noahlicious” antics, the one thing that I have found my Dad gets really animated about when talking to me is rugby league; he’ll often sit with me when I am watching (yelling) at a Broncos game on TV and will tell me why he thinks a certain player is great and why a certain player is overrated and will go into great detail. It fascinates me how passionate he is.

My Daddy and I have one of the most unique father-son relationships I have noticed – it’s not the usual “take my son out to throw a ball” relationship. It’s more of a “I drag my father out to places he would rather not be just to keep me happy” and, now that he’s softer in his old age, I often get sassy with him if things don’t go my way and he just sits there and quietly takes it in. My mum doesn’t like how I speak to my Dad sometimes but I say “That’s how we communicate; I yell at him and he calls me stupid”.

My father is the hardest working man that I’ve ever met; the one thing that has been drilled into me since I was born was happily giving service to others. Daddy’s always helping people who don’t ask for the help but need it and never expects anything in return. He is half the reason why I am the man I am today. He’s not the perfect father – as no one in this world is perfect – but he’s pretty damn close to it.

The other fathers I would like to mention are both of my grandfathers, Koloti La’ulu and Rueben Paraha, the latter of which I was unfortunately never able to physically meet, and my oldest brother, Dane La’ulu, who is celebrating his first father’s day this year with his wife and baby boy.

As a “control-freak Princess” that I’ve been described to be, I am used to getting what I want, so when neither of my parents would give me what I want, I’d run to my granddad Koloti who would cave in just because of his gentle nature. And then I’d be like “IN YO FACE” to my parents. My father has this inability to tell people that he loves them so I’m always elated when Granddad tells me he loves me on the phone. After which, I tell my father “AT LEAST GRANDDAD LOVES ME”.

My brother Dane lives in (the better state) Queensland so I don’t see him as often as I’d like, but the last time I did, the change I saw in him was enormous – he is a fantastic father to my first nephew Drake and a great husband to my sister-in-law Jamie. It’s what fatherhood does to you, I’m guessing.

It may seem weird or unbelievable to some but I’ve always felt that I’ve had a special connection to my other grandfather Rueben, real name Taruna. While he passed away before I was born, I have a strong spiritual connection with him where I sometimes see him and speak to him in my dreams. Our connection is so strong that when I watched my parents wedding tape where he was present, I bawled my eyes out like I really knew him.

I’d also like to quickly make mention of the other father figures in my life who have treated me with such kindness in my life, Charles Leota, Vince Giuliano, just to name a couple. And also to the single mothers who take on the role as father for whatever reason, you women are amazing.

I’m going to wrap this up quickly so when my Dad gets home, I can give him his present he so desperately wants. Happy Father’s Day to all the hardworking, amazing fathers out there who have done incredible work with their children, and also to the single mothers who have the privilege of wearing both mother and father hats for their children. Enjoy the only day your kids will go out of their way to appreciate you!

– by Noah La’ulu