in memorium

Ejo #119 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Natasha Jones

I remember the day I met Natasha like it was this morning. I was waiting for her, and our mutual friend Kayte, to pick me up from St. Kilda Road during peak hour so we could go and look at a share house we were considering moving into.  The famous Market Street.  At the first set of traffic lights she turned around from the driver’s seat to smile at me and properly introduce herself.  To say I was completely dazzled is an understatement.  I was instantly enchanted, and my infatuation with her has only grown stronger over the last 20 years.  Being in her gaze felt like being washed in a beautiful, warm wave of sunshine.  I never stopped being in awe of her, this golden girl.  I never stopped marvelling at how lucky I was to be friends with such a remarkable human being.

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Our golden girl.

In August of last year I wrote an ejo about Love.  I spoke of Natasha and the battle she was facing with cancer.  A few days after I published that ejo, we chatted about the idea of me interviewing her for a series I write called The Extraordinary People I Know.  She was delighted and told me she’d be honoured to do it, but we decided to wait until she was better, as it might be a bit intense.  I think we both truly believed that she would get better.  Or maybe we just hoped she would.  We continued to make plans, including a pact to travel to Iceland together, to see the Northern Lights.  We made plans for a future that, sadly, Natasha will never see.  Four days ago my beautiful friend passed away.  She tragically leaves behind an adoring husband, Riley, and their three incredible children, Xander, Ellie and Declan.  We have all lost a great friend, but they have lost their devoted wife and mother.  My heart breaks for them.

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Riley & Natasha. ♥

Living in Dubai, I wasn’t there to witness her decline in health the last few months, and even though she looked thin and drawn in some photos, and even though I knew she was in pain and not doing so great, it still doesn’t make sense to me that Natasha is actually gone.  I am still struggling to accept that she isn’t just a text away. That the cancer actually beat her. Put simply, I just can’t comprehend that she is no longer alive. Even writing the words doesn’t make sense.  As most of you know, I am still grieving my Mum’s sudden death in March, and then, the loss of my grandmother in June.  To have lost one of my dearest friends as well just feels like too fucking much.  Especially as Tasha was instrumental in helping me see some light during my darkest hours earlier this year.  Even while she was going through horrible chemotherapy she was always there for me when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through the day.  She even came to my Mum’s funeral, despite being in obvious pain.  That is true friendship.

Even though I’ve lived abroad for the last eleven years, Natasha and I always stayed in touch.  The last fifteen months, however, brought us closer than we’ve ever been.  We would joke around and say, “Thanks cancer, your work here is done. You can fuck off now!”.  I kind of always felt like I had a special relationship with this golden girl.  That our friendship was different, and unique.  But what I’ve realised, since she died, is that all her friends felt the exact same way.  And that was her gift to us all.  That is what made her so extraordinary.  She and I never got the chance to do that interview.  Instead, I have asked a few of her friends to write tributes to our beloved Tash.  But first, please let me share some words of wisdom from her that comforted me after my Mum died.  I hope they comfort you too.

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I stopped everything today having received the news of Natasha’s passing, in honour of who she was and always be for me. Natasha and I have been friends for many years and I’m so happy that our Mums became great friends because of our friendship. Life took us down different roads but our friendship was unwavering and she knew my love for her. Natasha is an ever constant SHINING LIGHT. She smiled in all circumstances and cared about others first and foremost. Her cheerful energy was infectious and one of my latest & fondest memories was having her, Riley, Xander, Declan and Ellie spend time with Daniel and me while they were here in New York for NYE in 2016. I remember how wonderful it was seeing her beautiful face at the 2nd Avenue tram stop when we met up, and then sharing a little of our lives with them. I love you Natasha as I now create a new kind of relationship/communication with you. I’m sure your gorgeous Dad has you by his side now as you both watch over Riley, Xander, Ellie, Declan & your beautiful Mum, Matilda.
Chiara S.

Chiara

Natasha & Chiara


Dear Natasha, we met in 1994. Our mutual friend Brendan said “you must meet Natasha you’d love her!”. And love you I did. Within a month we were living together in St Kilda. You, me, Myshell and Chryss. We had some of the greatest times in that little house in Market Street. You are the kindest and most generous soul I ever met. You radiated energy. Always thinking of others, giving us strength, reassurance, laughter, joy, happiness. You always had time for me. And I always had time for you. I came over to see you in February, and I held your hand by the pool. We spoke no words but we knew we were saying goodbye – for now. I will never, ever forget you. I will miss you every day. Love you so much Natasha.

Kayte A.


Dear Tash, when we first arrived in Melbourne, fate had it that you were my neighbour. Our first conversation with “our neighbour across the road” revealed you to be warm, extroverted, interested and so friendly. You eased the angst of settling in to a new landscape by always greeting us with joy, enthusiasm and gems of information that we would need to know in order to ensure that we settled in well. Both you and I frequently commented on how much we loved our Elwood village and the community that we were forming.

As I got to know you our conversations deepened. We explored the books we were reading, the subjects that fascinated us, and the ones that enraged us. We spoke of what it meant to parent and shared advice on what was currently working for us or what was troubling us. We spoke about what it meant to be a woman at this time. I felt such ease in your authentic company and always walked away from time spent with you energised and inspired.

Your diagnosis had me reeling and affected me profoundly. You were my age. A mother. A wife. A person who truly LIVED their life and the situation that you were facing was unfathomable to me. Nevertheless, you persisted. I know that you were scared, because so much was at stake. But you were optimistic and determined and we all marvelled at your ability to show strength through such unbelievably challenging times. With each new update from Riley my heart sunk a little further. Despite your conviction, this illness was taking hold. And yet you persisted.

You persisted until the very end and then last night you exhaled, and you are now at peace. This is our only consolation. This morning I woke to a world without your physical presence. Already you are so dearly missed. I know this because your friends are speaking and grieving together, and this is just one of the ways you will live on in us. This morning I woke and felt your presence amidst your absence. Because of you, each day of mine will count. Because of you I will not take a conversation, an encounter, a hug, the opportunity to kiss my girls goodnight for granted. You will live on in us all through our memories of the wonderful human being that you were, through the connections you have forged between people, through the special places we shared time together. You will live on. How loved you were. And how lucky I was to get to know you.
Much love,
Bronwyn I.

Bronwyn

Bronwyn & Natasha


One of my fondest memories of Natasha is her ability to be truly honest in almost any given situation – it wasn’t brutal, it was often just her observational and self-deprecating honesty that cut through. She was funny, would often put her foot in her mouth by saying things that were maybe a little too honest. She would say kind of awkward, often deep, but always honest, things – I loved this about her. I loved that she never held back. 
This short moment is about her honesty. A large group of us went to a rave at the Docklands. I was dancing next to her, and she had her eyes closed, smiling from ear to ear, bopping away to the tune that was being pumped out. I leaned over and said, “Natasha, you look like you’re having fun – how are you going!?” She opened her eyes, turned to me, smiled even bigger, and said, “Chris, I’ve just had about 17 orgasms in the last two hours, I’m having a very good night – this is great!” With my jaw on the ground, and not expecting that response, she kind of left me speechless. It just makes me smile thinking about her at that moment – eyes closed, smile on her face, not a care in the world. Honesty was her super power.
Chris D.


I first met Tash days after the Jones family moved into their house, only a week or so after we had moved in right next door! I popped in to say “Hi” and ended up staying for about a half hour, in which time she managed to tell me nearly the whole Natasha Jones history, which as you all know is quite a long and convoluted one. I honestly do not know another soul who could pull this off and get it right. Basically what I got from it was:

“Hi I am Natasha Jones. I am putting myself out there and I am telling you all of this crazy stuff because I want you to know that I am a genuine, caring soul who will be here for you even though I don’t even know you but you have intersected with my life and that is, right now, the most important thing in the world”.

I was sold!!! (It helped that it was actually very interesting too!!)  Our lives had nearly connected in the past many times – she and I both grew up in Geelong, came to Melbourne to go to uni, married and lived in Fairfield/Alphington with our three small children before moving to Elwood!! We felt it was destiny that we finally met living side by side. In Elwood, Tash and I had parallel lives with traveling husbands, busy kids etc. so having each other next door was the perfect scenario. As well as brave, Natasha was generous. She would give everything she had, if she thought it would help. She gave all of herself to her family and her friends and that is why she is so missed and has broken all our hearts. It is also why we are all better people for knowing her and certainly why her children are the wonderful people that they are.
Andrea J.


I am struggling to put words together that can adequately capture what Tash meant to me. I don’t think I can do her or the depth of our friendship justice! Tash told me the first time we met in our daughter’s prep class that we were going to be friends, she decided! And she certainly meant it. How lucky was I?! We bonded as ‘wog mamas’, Slovenian and Greek/Arab raised in Geelong and Frankston. We were wog bogans at heart, raising our kids in middle class ‘burbs of Bayside. We got each other, our roots so familiar, we held hands tight and marched into the primary school years together, laughing, sometimes crying, and loving life together. I have never met anyone who invested so much of her energy and love in the people she cared about, and in the extended community around her. I would tell her off, “Tash you give too much to people!” And she would always say no, she got so much from everyone, a raison d’être, loving and supporting others was what she lived for, it lifted her spirits to be a part of her wider community. I feel so privileged to have been her friend, a bestie and soul sister. My children were treated as her own, her kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness were unsurpassed. She loved and supported me through thick and thin, and always had words of praise and encouragement, admiration and gratitude for me, my kids and our friendship. She was an angel, cheeky, fun, funny, full of love and empathy, and knew what was important in life – family, friends, supporting each other and living life to the fullest. She loved fiercely and fully. Even in her passing, her words of encouragement and love ring strong in my mind, as if she is here now speaking them. I hope I can always hear her like this, it is unfathomable to imagine life without her.

Alex P-R.


Tash and I met in Grade 4. We were ten years old. It was a bond that has never broken. We would spend weekends together playing in her parents driveway on roller skates and stilts made by her dad. In Year 8 we went to our first gig together. It was Hoodoo Gurus and Boom Crash Opera in Geelong. We had boozy nights at Bec’s place at 15, our first loves and heartbreaks. Tash and I grew up together. From kids, to teenagers, to adults and although our face to face catch ups became fewer than what we would have liked, when we did see one another it was like no time had passed at all. My memories of Tash expand over 30 years! 
So many wonderful times to cherish and draw on for comfort but out of all of those memories, my most favourite thing about her was her smile. She would smile with her whole being. She would make you feel safe, loved and important with one beautiful smile, the smile that would light up the room. I am going to miss that smile for the rest of my days.
Jade K.


This is classic Tash. Writing a thank you note to me whilst going through chemo. I wish I had written to her to say thank you for being apart of our lives. Tash was a ray of sunshine that made everyone feel special. I own the local Bakers Delight in Elwood and not only was I devastated to hear of her passing, it’s been tough to tell my staff who have been devastated by the loss of the beautiful Natasha. I cannot begin to imagine the devastation that Riley and their beautiful babies must be feeling at this time. She was the best and will be missed.

Denise C.

Denise

Natasha’s thank you note, to Denise.


Tash would always be my Wonder Woman, as I called her, during the brief four years that I got to know her through our daughters at school. Her energy, enthusiasm, warmth and big heart will always live in our memories. She was one in a million.

Chialing C.


Natasha and I went to Clonard College together. Her kindness and inclusive nature meant that this kid that just rocked up fresh off the plane was befriended along with the rest of the girls like Myshell, Jade, Bryanna and Rebecca. I spent my formative years with a super cool girl who I will always remember as having an amazing singing voice, who loved and worried about her brother in Slovenia and was always up for having fun. 
About ten years ago we re-connected via Facebook. I had an amazing time hanging out with Tash and Riley when they opened their home to me in 2013. We spent a day shopping, catching up and it was like we were back in high school again. I will miss her so much but her big smile, so very infectious, will always stay with me when I think of her.
Melissa H.


Riley’s mum Vonetta is my Godmother, I’ve known the Jones’ my entire life and met Tash via Riley. We’ve gone through phases in our lives, from seeing each other a lot, to not at all for years, but our connection with them has never changed. I’ve shared a lot of gigs with them, mainly at The Prince in St Kilda and when I think of Tash, I always think of The Pixies and Regurgitator. What I loved about Tash was how genuinely interested she was in everything, how she asked questions and really listened whenever you told her something. She made you feel really important and that you mattered and that whatever you were talking about was the most interesting thing she’d ever heard. We shared a common dislike of reading electronically and she understood how it’s vital to hold a book, smell it, feel it, crease it’s pages and wear it down to fully enjoy it. She cared and she was a lover, that’s how I’ll remember her.

Emma R.


Tash, thanks for being YOU! Back in 2003, Tash offered to care for my new rescue puppy, Mocha, as I was going away for the weekend. At the time, Tash & Riles lived in their second storey flat in St. Kilda. I explained that this was a challenging location to care for a newly house-trained puppy who still needed regular visits outside, even throughout the night. Also, at the time, Mocs still had those razor-sharp puppy teeth and was teething so she constantly wished to chew on something soft, like your fingers! 
Despite the level of care needed for such a young pup, Tash still offered to care for Mocs while I was away. She even made out as if I was doing her a favour by helping “prime Riley for parenthood!” Mocha lived on for another 14 years and she always got excited whenever she saw Tash. I know Mocs was a great judge of character!
Lisa C.


Our friend Riley introduced us to a gorgeous girl at ‘The Nott’ pub one night many years ago! She was stunning and funny and immediately shone into our lives! It was obvious Tash and Riles were soul mates from the beginning.. They were so in love and thus produced the most gorgeous offspring! We spoke only occasionally but it was always with that connection mamas have! It was a privilege to know Tash (and Riley!). RIP BEAUTIFUL GIRL!

Kaz P.


When I first met Tash, I felt instantly connected to her. She was so easy to chat to, like an old friend you had known for years. Tash made you feel instantly at ease when you were around her. She was vivacious and so effortlessly herself. It was easy to develop a strong bond and friendship. Tash was so big-hearted and generous. She would always offer to help you out in anyway and would help with the kids whenever she could. Tash embraced everyone around her with gusto. She didn’t judge. She always saw the good in people and that amazed me how she did that sometimes. She would always make time for people. She sensed when you were having a crappy day and would listen intently with compassion and empathy. She knew when to give you a beautiful embracing hug when you needed it most. In her presence she made you feel special and important. She supported me with so much love and kindness through a challenging time and I will be forever grateful to Tash for that.

Tash was also a lot of fun to be around. I loved her sense of humour and shared lots of laughs and sometimes also tears. I will so miss her laugh and her beautiful smile. We had some fun nights out and she did great Halloween parties. I remember the first one I went to, her greeting me at the door as Bat girl! Tash loved music. I remember how she organised a group of friends to go and see the Dior exhibition. But we were too busy chatting and catching up that we didn’t get much time to see everything. We rushed through the exhibition so we could get time to see the live band performing and have a dance!!

Kids were also drawn to her warm presence. I loved how she would embrace her friend’s kids. She would always make gorgeous compliments about your kids and to them. You would see their faces light up when she did that. This last year has been so difficult to see Tash endure this awful disease but she has done so with such incredible grace and strength. It seems so unfair that she has been taken from our lives way too soon but I am so grateful to have known her. She was such a special friend. This world won’t be the same without our gorgeous Tash, but she has certainly left this world a better place because she was in it! RIP my beautiful friend
Lisa D.


I met Tash in London in the early 2000s. I honestly don’t know what my life would look like had I never met her. I live in the flat she and Riley had on Beaconsfield Parade, numerous jobs came my way either directly or indirectly through her. She was pure delight and kindness. I have been thinking of how best to describe Tash to friends of mine who hadn’t met her and the best I have come up with is this. Outside of being an outstanding example of how to live life, Tash was like a mirror that only reflected the best of yourself back to you. She will be sorely missed.

Tori F.


I first met Tash through Riley when he was at uni, and was immediately drawn in by her Amazonian beauty, beautiful heart and caring nature. Those two were made for each other. She has always been there for me in my time of need, whether it be text messages every year on the anniversary of my mum’s death to stretching herself to make an appearance at gatherings when she had so many other things on that day. I honestly don’t know how she kept her energy up (even before she got sick) to be able to be there for so many people as well as her beautiful family. Our ‘Ladies Lunches’ will be a memory I will cherish forever – just kicking back with the girls, drinking a few wines and shit talking about anything and everything. I will miss her terribly, I feel like there is an actual hole in the world that can never be filled. You didn’t deserve to go so soon – you had so much more to give and life to live. Love you forever Tash. xx

Carolyn G.


I met Natasha in our shared linguistics tutorial at Monash Clayton. Tash shone more than anyone with warmth, beauty, confidence, and happiness. Her spirit was so light and free. I was blessed to get to know and love Tash really through my friendship with Riley when she became the love of his life, and I could see she was perfect for him from day one! Everyone loved Tash and she loved everyone! What a gift! This picture and the comments and hearts drawn here were from Tash for our engagement party & they show her big loving spirit. An angel and inspiration of how to fully live and love for us all always

Cate S.

Cate

Natasha & Cate


The first time I met Tash she asked for my mobile number so she could make sure I got home safely. Of course, a few minutes after I got in the door she rang to make sure all was well. Tash was great fun to be around, laughing and always thinking of others. Some favourite memories include Meredith Music Festival and Golden Plains, hanging out at their shopping container and our ladies lunch series, held at different houses with different themes. The overwhelming similarities was all the laughs, hugs, wines and catching up on everyone’s news. I will miss Tash greatly but am very thankful for the incredible memories I have. She was a great friend.

Meredith Williams


I met Natasha on her 21st birthday when her parents took her on a cruise on the Fairstar for her birthday. I don`t know why they chose the Fairstar given it`s reputation. I was on there with a group of friends and she started to hang with us much to the chagrin of her parents. I stayed in contact with her after the trip and we used to catch up a couple of times a year. Tash was one of the kindest and most beautiful people I have known and I feel that she made me a better person just for knowing her. She believed in me even when I did not believe in myself. She was always there whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on and she was one of my oldest friends (even her parents liked me after first thinking I was a bad influence). The world has lost one of it`s most exceptional people and she will never be forgotten by all that knew her.

Gareth Price


Tash was the sort of person that had a real energy to her; always smiling and fun. The last time I saw Tash, before she was diagnosed, she and I spent hours sipping wine, sharing our stories, laughing and solving the problems of the world! The thing that really stands out about her was that she always made me feel good about myself. She had a way about her that was positive and empowering. 
Since she was diagnosed we spent time messaging each other and I couldn’t believe how she managed to still devote time writing such beautiful messages when she had so much to deal with. I can tell from reading all the wonderful tributes about her she made everyone feel this way – special and important. What an incredible way to have lived her life. Some of the wise and insightful things she said to me will replay in my mind and make me think of her long after she has left this world. Her memory will be forever in our hearts. My heart goes out to her beautiful family and devoted husband that she loved so much. I can’t imagine the pain and loss they must be feeling.
Sarah E.


The first time I connected with Tash we sat on the bus together on the way to swimming class. She was a shy girl of migrant parents but with a sweetness and curiosity that was magnetic. We soon discovered we had lived in the same street growing up but that a major road had separated us. We’d always known each other as “that girl that lives across the street”.  A few months later, when I was just 12, my mother died of cancer.
At the funeral Natasha stuck by my side the whole time. That pretty much became the pattern for most of our lives. She was my champion.

Before emails and iPhone we shared a journal we would write in nightly and swap at school. In those messages we poured our hearts out, gave each other advice. In some ways we raised each other, both having an older sibling not living at home.  I have so many stories of Tash I could share. I hope to write them all down one day for her children to read. But the greatest stories involve them and their dad. There is Tash before Riley and then Tash after. She found her purpose in love.

If you were her friend at the end, a part of the Tash Tribe, let me tell you this: She loved you. She saw your light. She chose you. Not just because you knew her but because she believed in you and your goodness.
Shell M.

Myshell & Natasha

Myshell & Natasha

 

Ejo #46 – I Love My Dad; The Life And Times Of Kon Stathopoulos

 

Ten years ago, today, my father died. I’ve been wanting to commemorate him for some time, but when I sat down to write, only words of sadness and grief and mourning slipped out. Words of loss. Just because a decade has ticked by doesn’t mean that I am “over it”. I haven’t “moved on” from losing him. My loss is constant. A friend of mine who has also lost a parent, recently likened grief to a piece of clothing that you always wear. Sometimes it is a tiny little broach, or a shoelace, and you barely notice it’s there. Other times it is like thick velvet cape or a woollen scarf that wraps around your head. But whatever its shape, or size, it is always there. And I miss my Dad, every single day since he’s been gone.

 

But I don’t want to write about my father in a sad way. I want to celebrate him. It’s the things that I miss so much that I want to talk about! So instead of banging on about why it’s so awful to lose an adored parent, I am going to talk about how awesome my Dad was!

 

A Lifetime Of Hard Work
From a very young age my father had to work very hard. He was the oldest of six children born into a very poor family and was expected to help support them by doing hard physical work in the fields. In 1964, at the age of 23, he immigrated to Australia, hoping to make a better life for himself. He worked wherever he could, getting jobs as a factory worker in a glass factory, collector/seller of copper, a real estate agent and a builder/labourer.

 

After marrying my Mum and moving to Adelaide, my Dad bought a 50% share in an 18 wheel big-rig! But driving a truck meant that he was away for weeks at a time, leaving my Mum at home alone with a young baby (that’d be me). He hated being away from us but he sacrificed that time to make a better life for his family.

 

Ten Four.  Over!

Ten Four. Over!

 

While I was growing up I remember my father having a very entrepreneurial spirit. He bought and ran a fish & chip shop, and he also drove a taxi for many years. But regardless of his day job, he always had ideas about how to make extra money. For many years we had a stall at the Royal Melbourne Show – sometimes selling light-up yoyo’s that we would assemble in our little flat in Elwood. Other years it was hand-painted ceramics that we’d bake in a kiln in our backyard. He also went into business making and selling such disparate items as bowties and reflective silver screens for car windshields. Remnants of these enterprises are still packed away in boxes in my parents’ basement. A reminder that not making a million bucks from an idea is not failure. Failure is when you don’t try. And he always tried.

 

A very well dressed chippy!

A very well dressed chippy!

 

Rebuilding the fireplace was one of a zillion renovations he made to the house.  Also, check out that ceramic plate on the wall.  Do you see the bathos?

Rebuilding the fireplace was one of a zillion renovations he made to the house. Also, check out that ceramic plate on the wall. Do you see the bathos?

 

His most successful career was when he started his own solid plastering business, called Plastercraft. He succeeded because he always put in 100% effort and took enormous pride in his work, and as a result his services were in great demand. While working in the building industry, he practically rebuilt the family home. In fact, I clearly remember being mortified at the rather grandiose wall he built around the house, not to mention the working fountain he put in the middle of the courtyard. But c’mon, I was a teenager. I am not at all embarrassed that his skill and craftmanship were so recognised and renowned that he was commissioned to single-handedly build the same fountain, on a much grander scale, on the grounds of Government House in Melbourne. I am so very proud of that. And I am thrilled that he was able to leave a lasting legacy of his work. If I had kids, I would probably drag them to every Australia Day open-house to see the fountain that Grandad built. I always love to hear that my youngest sister and her partner visit every year.

 

The infamous wall (which was the bane of my existence at the time) and the fountain.

The infamous wall (which was the bane of my existence at the time) and the fountain.

 

The fountain at Government House.  DAYUM!!!!  My Daddy built that!!!!

The fountain at Government House. DAYUM!!!! My Daddy built that!!!!

 

The last business endeavour that my Dad was involved in was probably the one that actually could have made him a million bucks, if he’d lived to see it through. He started a three way partnership exporting Australian steel to Europe for the purposes of steel-frame housing. Unfortunately, after he got lung cancer he couldn’t keep the business going. After he died, his two partners attempted to continue without him but it had always been my Dad’s brainchild. His baby. Without his passion, energy and knowledge, the business just died with him.

 

The Life Of The Party
Just like my father, I am a very serious person. I don’t take my responsibilities half-heartedly and sometimes that can come across as being overly solemn or grave. Perhaps even humourless. But that’s OK. Because also, just like my father, I do know how to let my hair down. In certain situations, with the right group of people I’ve been known to… well, we’re not here to talk about me, are we? Let’s talk about my Dad. Yes, he was serious about work and his responsibilities, but he also loved socialising. He loved being with friends and family, convivially plying everyone with food and drink, singing and making music and being merry.

 

Whole spit roasts were a common occurrence growing up.  Hell, every damn chance we fired up the barbecue and had a sing along.

Whole spit roasts were a common occurrence growing up. Hell, every damn chance we fired up the barbecue and had a sing along.

 

But most of all, he loved to dance. He was straight laced at work, but on the weekends his spirit was set free by the rich, resounding rhapsody of the bouzouki. I remember many festivities in which my father would try to persuade me to join him and the others carousing on the dance floor. I’d cringe in my chair and shake my head. Sometimes I would actually run out of the room to avoid the humiliation. As a 15 year old, I could think of nothing worse than being forced to participate in a round of Greek dancing (except, of course, living in a big white house with a big Corinthian fence around it and a fountain, spewing ostentatiously, in the front yard!!!). Of course now, I would do anything to grab a hold of the other end of that handkerchief and dance a rousing tsifteteli with my Dad.

 

LOVE the shirt.

LOVE the shirt.

 

Dancing man.

Dancing man.

 

Sharing the handkerchief with his sister Toula.  Excuse me, but the man can KICK!!!!

Sharing the handkerchief with his sister Toula. Excuse me, but the man can KICK!!!!

 

One of the few times I allowed myself to be dragged onto the dancefloor.  Like my dancing nightie?!!

One of the few times I allowed myself to be dragged onto the dancefloor. Like my dancing nightie?!!

 

Too much dancing?  Toss in a tumble for variety!

Too much dancing? Toss in a tumble for variety!

 

An Adventurous Spirit
Kon Stathopoulos was a man of contrasts. He had an amazing work ethic, yet he loved being the life of the party. He was very responsible, yet he also took (calculated) risks. I think for him, one thing fed the other. Life would be unbalanced without both, in equal measure. As a result, my childhood had constant exposure to the two extremes. He always paid the bills on time, but as a family we put together light-up yoyo’s after dinner for goodness sake! He always made me do my homework, but when I was six years old we up and moved to Greece for three months in the middle of the school year. I had been selected to skip a grade at school that year, but because of the trip it never happened. You think I give a shit?! I lived in Greece for three months! That kind of life experience is priceless.

 

We were gypsy girls in Greece.  It was a tremendous and unique lifetime experience.

We were gypsy girls in Greece. It was a tremendous and unique lifetime experience.

 

Taking his gal for a ride in Greece.

Taking his gal for a ride in Greece.

 

When I was 11 years old, my parents bought some rural land with some relatives. It was a 5 acre hobby farm in Cape Schanck, with dirt road access to the back beach which was about 1km away. I do believe that this investment is one of the greatest things my parents ever did. The memories from the farm are amongst my favourite. Ever. Nearly every weekend of my teenage years was spent running wild on this land with my sisters, friends, cousins, neighbours’ kids and the dog from the farm next door. We ran down monstrous sand dunes, quad-biked, rode horses, swam in deep rock pools of crystal clear water, fished and hunted for abalone (probably illegally, but don’t tell anyone). I learned to drive a manual in an ancient Land Rover, chopping across hillocks and sand dunes.

 

What's the point of having kids if you don't put them to work.  Here's my sister Mari mowing the farm.  All 5 acres of it!!!!

What’s the point of having kids if you don’t put them to work. Here’s my sister Mari mowing the farm. All 5 acres of it!!!!

 

AND Teddums!!!

AND Teddums!!!

 

Adventure Dad!

Adventure Dad!

 

One of my all-time favourite activities was being woken up at 2am and driving down to the rock beach at low tide armed with gum-boots, buckets and torches to go crab hunting. Then, when the buckets were full of flailing, salivating crabs, we would drive back to the farm and cook them up and eat them. Around 5am we’d all go back to bed, stomachs full of sweet crab meat and heads full of amazing memories (including almost losing Uncle Paul when a particularly large wave almost washed him off the rocks and out to sea). Was it reckless, allowing young children out on dangerous rocks in the middle of the night? Probably. Was it one of the most incredible things you could ever do for those children? Absolutely.

 

Family Comes First
No matter what business my Dad built up from the ground, his proudest achievement was the family that he built with my Mum. Every family goes through ups and downs, and of course ours did too. I went through a period of hating my parents passionately. Then I went through a period of not giving them a second thought, taking them for granted. And then… then I grew up, and I realised that the greatest gift my Dad (and Mum) ever gave me was unconditional love. Yes, he really bugged me sometimes. Other times he was a real asshole. And sometimes, OH MY GOD, he embarrassed the hell out of me (honestly, you have NO idea how much he embarrassed me). But, he was also my greatest fan. He supported me when I gave up hope. He encouraged me when he knew I needed it. And he believed in me, no matter what. My mother nurtured me, but my father shaped me. He was the benchmark for how to live my life and the kind of person that I want to be. My father’s devotion to my Mum also set the bar for the kind of man I looked for in my own relationships. Not always with the greatest of success, but I feel confident that Dad would fully approve of my choice of husband.

 

Devoted parents to a little butterball.  Aw!!

Devoted parents to a little butterball. Aw!!

 

Feeling a little left out here!!!

Feeling a little left out here!!!

 

One of the many outdoor excursions we made as a family.  Dad loved the outdoors and he loved exploring Melbourne.

One of the many outdoor excursions we made as a family. Dad loved the outdoors and he loved exploring Melbourne.

 

Proud parents at my high school graduation.  Even though I've never been an amazing scholar, my Dad instilled the importance of a good education.

Proud parents at my high school graduation. Even though I’ve never been an amazing scholar, my Dad instilled the importance of a good education.

 

Proud Dad and his three Goth daughters at my ATC Graduation dinner.  That was one of my proudest moments because I knew how proud Dad was of me.  I think I cried.

Proud Dad and his three Goth daughters at my ATC Graduation dinner. That was one of my proudest moments because I knew how proud Dad was of me. I think I cried.

 

I’ve left out a lot. I could honestly write a whole book about my father and what he means to me but I’ll stop here. It’s been ten years today since my Mum, and my sisters and I, lay beside him on my parents bed, in the house that he built, as he took his last breath. Comforting him and trying to ease his passage into the unknown, into death, was absolutely the most difficult thing I have ever experienced in my life. But I belonged there. It was where I simply had to be. With my Dad.

 

Father and daughter.

Father and daughter.