By Kathleen Vincent-Lucas
I sit down with my father, a sheet of questions in front of me: my mind gambles on whether I should go off script, greedy with the knowledge of all the stories he can tell. When he so chooses, my father is a great storyteller, engaging with his audience and letting slip some amazing tales.
This interview is for an assignment, one I need to put into prose. I have to think hard about what I should concentrate on: would it be during his time in Vietnam, fighting on the front lines alongside his compatriots in 3RAR?
I could interview him about the time he, while on watch late at night deep in one of Vietnam’s many dense jungles, came face to face with a great tiger. Sitting still, he hoped with all his might it would turn around and vanish into the jungle. Fortunately for both of them, the tiger slipped away as silently as it arrived.
Or should I focus on one of his many stories outside of his years of service? Such as the time he, dressed like a hippy (in other words, dressed in not much at all), delivered a bus load of supplies to cyclone-torn Mount Isa, Queensland. He shook hands with the mayor, wearing a borrowed suit, reaching long on his limbs, and his feet, hidden and bare of shoes too big.
I include this because to know me and my history, you need to have some context on the amazing man who raised me. And I do mean that he raised me. I was fortunate, but I’m not sure dad would say the same for himself, having to bring up little hellion me.
I like to believe that he had a lot of fun. It would be fun, to raise a child whose first word was ‘no’, right?
I made for a contrary child, nothing was safe. For example, see that cow over there?
‘No daddy, that’s a sheep.’
‘Alright, it’s a sheep.’
‘Don’t you know anything daddy? That’s a cow.’
Dad was mostly retired while I was growing up, which meant he was always there; every single concert, every single school excursion, every single sports game. It gives him great pride and joy to tell me that I was the worst netballer he’d ever seen. I believe him: I was awful.
The cruel realities of having a father of his age and experience are the constant fluctuations in his health. A graph on his health would read like a young mountain range, with soaring peaks and steep drops to their base. We had one of those drops recently. He went from going to the gym five days a week, to having radiotherapy and chemo tablets to treat the cancer that was awash through his veins. This wasn’t the first cancer he’s had, and I wouldn’t bet on it being the last. Amazingly enough, my 76-year-old father is back on the mend and back in the gym.
When I was 27, I decided that it was time to get to uni. I had finally decided what I wanted to do, and I was ready and prepared to do so. At least I thought I was.
It hasn’t been easy, but I have been able to follow through with this with the help of AVCAT and the Long Tan Bursary.
It hasn’t been easy, but I have been able to follow through with this with the help of AVCAT and the Long Tan Bursary. Because of this help, I have been able to quit my hospitality job, complete one internship, and am currently in the process of completing another.
Recently I was elected to the 2023 team of editors at On Dit, the University of Adelaide’s student magazine. Something I am extremely excited and secretly nervous about. The whole idea of becoming an editor at On Dit would never have been conceivable if I didn’t have the extra support from AVCAT.
It’s such a relief to be able to work towards my future, one which is focused on creative writing. It’s also a joy to be able to hear my dad be able to brag over the phone to his friends about my achievements. After all, my head’s not big enough yet: it can still fit through my front door.
Kathleen was awarded the Long Tan Bursary in 2022.