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So Close… Yet So Far

Brendon Smith writes about Vaughan, a dedicated, hardworking and considerate workmate, mate, and father. It wasn’t until he won tickets to a concert however, that his real fathering side came out.

Dirty rotten lucky sod.” I said, “Take me, take me!” But Vaughan, with his two prized tickets to the Foo Fighters’ concert, said calmly, “I’ll think about it, I’ll think about it”. Sure he would, after the young girl with “The Rock” (a radio station) van, the cute girl down at the Post Shop and his latest cell phone-girlfriend, he’ll think about me all right, sure!

“The Rock” van had visited our work two weeks ago, Vaughan had registered with their website and they were checking to see if we really did play the Rock at our block yard workplace. Only everyday!

We not only sell rocks and stones, we play “The Rock” loud in our yard. This lucky draw was a big one, open to newly “The Rock” registered listeners. The prize-two tickets each week for four weeks.

All other “The Rock” registered fans were invited to “do something” for tickets. Some listened to ghastly CDs (like “Crazy Frog”) for hours, busked or had special tattoos inked.

Vaughan’s name was put into the last draw, along with all the unsuccessful entries for the month. Would he be lucky? Was he deserving? I thought so, definitely. Since then, in fact for some time, Vaughan had been quietly going about his business, no panic, no worries.

Work had been slow today, rain was predicted but it hadn’t landed yet. Slow can be good though, we got to have lunch together. We chatted over the Herald, bragged about our sports team. We gloated over the Aussie league coach admitting, “This is sport, there will be losers…”

Traci had brought in some kawhai, which her husband Ted had smoked, lovely! Toni also shouted morning tea, she was coming back soon to work part-time. Crikey, I’d have to save my sandwiches for afternoon tea, how much can one workplace eat?

We had been sweeping the yard, putting old blocks and odd stones back in their place. A customer had said “tidy yard.” Mike had been busy cleaning too, so that made our day. Colleen came out with a make-up, to get ready before the truck arrived. Sure, something to do, and Colleen always asks so nicely, we like that.

Barry came out for a cigarette, had a quick chat about spud bombs and thunderbolts. “Ahh, those were the days”. Yeah, those were the days all right. Vaughan had once lived just across the road, he used to start early so he could pop home for morning tea and lunch, help with the kids, make sure everything was OK. He had built a big sandpit for their buckets and spades..

The rocking horse bought at the local school fair was based on a couple of old suspension springs. Vaughan’s little fella was on it before he had turned one. He would look at Vaughan with a cheeky eye, then climb up, hold on and rock it hard. That was then, before the big bust up with his child’s mother.

Vaughan should have seen it coming, his friends sure did.

They couldn’t believe how much he did for her, and how much he put up with and tolerated from her. But he just wanted to be a good father, provide whatever it took to keep things going. Even when he was embarrassed, when his mates laughed and called him a sucker. He stuck with her though.

She was the one, mother of his kids. If she didn’t do much it was OK, she’d come right. Sometimes though, it was like she was two people, one minute his loving one, sweetest thing, other times a complete stranger, no energy, not seeming to try. He would go into overdrive, do everything.

Was it too much, should he have told her to snap out of it? Maybe. He was the one who had snapped. He didn’t see it coming, though he could see it clearly now. She had always been close to her family and he thought that was good. Her sister was like that too, always checking in with their Mum & Dad, whether they needed anything or not.

He had taken her away, sure, but he would always be close for her now. They had friends and when the kids were a bit older they would visit the grandparents heaps, he’d be sure of that. But it was not to be. He had come home one day to a mess even he couldn’t understand.

The situation had snapped.

She had packed up, shifted with the kids back near to her parent’s place. Her sister still lived in the area and they still visited their parents all the time, like they still lived with them. Vaughan did his counseling, changed his ways, paid child support every week.

They had been gone for over a year now (to Australia), with hardly any contact, only when she wanted something. Occasionally he glanced across the road, knowing, never forgetting. As I came back from lunch that day, Vaughan had a huge big grin on his face though. Ah, “The Rock” van was back.

This time they parked outside the yard and put the word out. “We’re here in the main road for half an hour, visit us and score tickets to “The Rock” birthday bash.”

Oh yes, they had NZV8 magazines, free passes to a Hot Rod show, all sorts of goodies. But they had no more tickets to the Foo Fighters, no sirree, probably none left in New Zealand. Vaughan had the last two in his hip pocket, safe and in more ways than one, sound!

So I stopped, pestered him until nearly annoying, and told him how I’d been lucky once, getting to see Nirvana years ago when it seemed like all the tickets had gone.

It didn’t work though, Vaughan just kept smiling, with that faraway look in his eye.

He’d been working real hard lately, doing it tough. A few months ago he twisted his ankle and had to learn the office side of things, I’d been called in to help cover the yard. His nice car had been broken into, rear window smashed.

Pain in the butt and an excess to pay even though it was insured, then earlier today a stone had cracked his windscreen. Only a few hundred metres from work, as he passed a bridge by the stream.

Having used his lunchtime to lodge a claim, and a little bit sad at his misfortune, Vaughan had returned to work and noticed “The Rock” van waiting for him. One name had been drawn. One winner for those last two tickets. Two lucky people would enjoy one special concert.

Having conceded that one of them wouldn’t be me, I suggested, “Bet that made your day!” thinking it would have made my month, maybe whole year.

“Nah, not really.” Vaughan had replied.

“What do you mean?” I asked “What else could have happened?”

“I had a call from the missus,” he went on. “She was all nice, like she wants something.”

“What could it be?” I wondered aloud, “How could that be better than this?”

“Well…” Vaughan said, “She mentioned that my little fella was calling for me.”

“Calling? Why, is he sick?” I asked.

“No, just calling, it seems like she might let me have contact.”

He looked at me. I could see in his eye that this meant more than the tickets, more than anything.

“What are you going to do?” I asked. “I’ve got my sister going around,” he said, “she lives close and can see them this week.”

“What about you?” I asked.

“I’m writing the kids a big letter, and sending some books, but I’ll get to see them soon.”

“That’s cool.” I said, noticing that Vaughan’s faraway look had gone. He was right here, in the moment, his grin had grown bigger. “Good on you!” I said.

“It’s a start” he said calmly, “It’s a start.”

Next: Section 59 Exposed

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