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  • Writer's pictureJessica Taylor Yates

Conversations at brunch: Did you hear about Jess's dad? | Part 3

Updated: Jan 17

My dad doesn't get sick. Other people's dads get sick. My dad is Keith Richards.

Jess and her dad
Looks like we both loved weddings - Dad had three. Image: Supplied.

A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows of the conversations you have at brunch.

This is Part 3 of a series. For a recap of Part 1, click here.


In mid-2020, my dad gave me a call.

"Hi beautiful. Look - it's not good. I've just been told I have liver cancer. And it's terminal."

I sat with my ear on the phone, shocked.

My dad doesn't get sick.

Other people's dads get sick.

My dad is Keith Richards.

My dad is the guy who partied through the 60s and 70s, smoked through the 80s and 90s, ate bad food through the 2000s, and was annoyingly going to outlive us all. He was 69, but looked and acted (and said) like he was in his late 40s or early 50s. He went to gigs and movies and shows and trips and restaurants and bars.

This is... my dad. My mum and dad were going to live they were 158. I hadn't even contemplated the idea that they wouldn't.

My dad, who only went to two restaurants, one for Italian and one for Hungarian.

My dad, who taught me about The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Beatles, and ended up teaching the whole neighbourhood when he would blast his music through his giant retro speakers on Saturday mornings.

My dad, who would drive us to school in his dressing gown, as if he was in an accident, he was 'ready to go.'

My dad, who told stories of going front row for The Eagles, partying with Glenn Wheatley and Michael Gudinski, working the kibbutz in Israel at Christmas and joining the girls basketball team at school to meet chicks.

My dad, who wore the same cowboy costume to every party, cooking chicken shashliks and provided cowboy shots for underaged teenagers at every single one of my fabulous high school parties.

My dad, who would sit and rate outfits on Fashion Police and always pick Sigourney Weaver when I would make him play celebrity crush.

My dad, who made sure we always called our auntie Vera, saw our Babi Ishka, went to synagogue for high holidays and broke the fast at Falafel Kitchen on Acland Street (early).

My dad, who would squeeze four kids in the back of his two door Honda Legend on a suspended license with no insurance to take us to the pool or movies at high speed smoking out the window.

My dad, who took my on the Big Slide at fetes even though I found out years later he was completely terrified of heights.

My dad, who actually played with us, like whale rider at the pool, robots at home and loved some Saturday morning Looney Toons just as much as we did.

My dad, who forbade us from seeing any Harry Potter film at the cinema with anyone else, who wouldn't let me watch Charmed when I was 8 but allowed me to stay up watching Sex and the City when I was 13.

My dad, whose nickname for me was Beautiful.

My dad, who when he was sick of talking on the phone, would simply say 'I want to get off the phone now Beautiful, goodbye.'

My dad, who was fun, frustrating, hot-headed, emotionally stunted, insightful, strange, clever, silly, embarrassing, infuriating, rude, witty, stubborn, hysterical, crazy, wild, and incredibly loving.

He couldn't go, unfortunately.

I needed him to make the best Bolognese in the world, to take my future kids to weird attractions like the tiny train museum that opens just once a month for like five customers and is somehow still in business, to act out the Ace Ventura rhino scene, to replay the same god-awful VHS of The 10 Commandments he had 'edited' off TV in 1993 to show at every. Single. F*cking. Passover, to get me places that should take an hour in just 20 minutes with the fear of death the whole way, to tell me I'm beautiful and everyone who upsets me is an idiot (My partner would disagree with me needing the last part...)

There must have been a mistake.

"No," I replied.

"Yes Beautiful, that's what I said," he said dryly.

"I'm gonna beat this Beautiful, don't worry," he said. They were going to throw everything they had at him. There was even talks of him featuring in a new clinical trial that seemed to have good results.

It was a hard blow in the cold winter of deep lockdown, and it was only a few years after my mum had survived cancer after a life-saving transplant herself.

We joked a bit on the phone, as we tend to do, until he was ready to go ( usually with something like "The Voice is on Beautiful and I don't want to talk anymore, goodbye.")

I laughed with him and told him we had this, and then we just talked shit about Fashion Police and Britney Spears and other celebrity gossip and entertainment.

But when I hung up, I got in the shower, sat down, and cried and cried until I couldn't cry any more.


Me and dad at the 60s exhibit
Cowboy costume not pictured. Image: Supplied.

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