Happy 70th Birthday Dad

A trip down memory lane

Today is your birthday. You would have turned 70.

It's been 5 years since you left us. I know this because my 5th wedding anniversary is only a few weeks away and I also know this because, my niece, your first grand daughter turned 5 last month. These 2 major events in our lives are what you missed by a few months. I remember that day because I was shooting a friends wedding on a Saturday in October, knowing that the phone call would be coming very soon as there wasn't much time left. I couldn't pull out of the wedding shoot so I pressed through the sorrow growing within me waiting for that phone call. I finished shooting the wedding, got home and the phone rang. I stood by your bedside an hour or so later and said goodbye. It's hard because every time my friends celebrate their wedding anniversary, I'm reminded of that night. It was only a few days earlier that I came to visit and I knew within me that it wasn't long now. I made a real conscious effort to tell you "I love you, Dad" as I left. I never said it often enough, it wasn't that kind of relationship, we just knew. I still remember your last words to me, "I love you too, Son". They're the most precious words I have of you and I tear up each time I think back on them.

I found it very hard looking at photos of my dad since his passing. The hurt was too much too soon to bring up memories that I'd never get to experience again. As a photographer, I make an effort to document my families gatherings, whether it be a special occasion or just a weekend visit to mums. When a family member passes, all you are left with is your memories and any photos to help you remember them. I came to a point a few years ago, probably about two years after dad was gone, that I asked mum about digging up anything and everything she had in terms of family photos. Every few weeks she'd call me up and tell me she had found another plastic bag with some old photos, or a cardboard folder with some loose negatives or even a lone polaroid just sitting on top of an old cupboard. Pretty soon I had nearly 2 large boxes of photos and thus began the quest to digitise as many as I could for archival purposes. Little did I realise I would be going on a journey through time tracing back my fathers footsteps from young boy to old man.

The point of this post is to share some of these photos, and stories, with friends and family, to share a little about the man I called "Dad" and to remember him and his funny ways and to just share this special day in a way that we would if he was still here with us. You may not be sitting around the kitchen table at mums house, or the table out in the backyard next to the garage where he spent many a day with the daily pop ins from the relatives, but if you've ever met the man, you know exactly how the story would go and a few hours later you'd be full of food, you'd be crying from laughter, and you'd be going home happy. That's as simple as he kept his life and he did so for decades.

We start the journey in Greece, in a small village called Metaxada, just outside the capital of Kalamata (yes, where the olives come from), where Peter "Panayiotis" Koukoulas was born in December of 1944. He was one of the middle children in a family of 11 kids. There were 2 sets of twins in that family and he was part of one set with his brother Kostas. Back in those days, village life was pretty much the norm and with so many mouths to feed my Grandfather John "Yiannis" Koukoulas would need to provide his own livestock and crops whilst my Grandmother Maria Koukoulas would do the cooking. I know how simple times were back then because even decades later dad would still cook the same simple meals that he grew up with. I guess nostalgia is a big part of our lives. Even from this young age Dad would be very active with the local church. It wasn't a choice back then, it was simply the lifestyle afforded to people of the village. I never quite understood all the religious traditions growing up, but it clearly meant something to him living in Australia, far away from the world he once knew.