Tribute to a good father

One benefit of bearing an unusual name is that anybody I meet who knew my father is liable to ask, “Are you any relation to Vaughan Roughan?”

Though he was a primary school principal whose career was spent in Southland and Canterbury, his former pupils and colleagues are everywhere.

“He was a nice man,” they would always tell me, “a good man.” He really was.

Forgive me if everybody feels this way about their father but I cannot shake a conviction that my brothers and sisters and I were exceptionally and undeservedly lucky.

As the oldest I’ve often worried how I could possibly do justice to his qualities when it came to his funeral. The worry became more urgent late last year when, aged 89, he began to go downhill and went into care.

He lingered until Thursday of last week. My siblings in Christchurch were called to the rest home in the early hours.

His breathing had become laboured and he could barely speak but his eyes had lit up briefly at my arrival from Auckland.

Between us, we never left his bedside until almost 8pm when we went to a nearby room for a bite to eat. That is when he let go. We were gone barely a minute when a nurse summoned us.

I don’t know whether someone in the terminal stage of congestive heart failure can make the decision to let go but if so, it would be typical of him to wait until he was alone. He would be thinking of us, sparing us the alarm of his last gasp.

Considerate is the word that comes closest to describing him. He was considerate not just in the thoughtful way of anticipating other people’s ordinary needs and wishes, which he did constantly. He was considerate in conversation.

Like most people of the generation that grew up without television he knew how to make conversation, and when you were with him he was not comfortable unless there was conversation. For him the art came naturally.

He was interested in everything you thought and everything you were doing. He was not interested in talking about himself. Continue reading

  • John Roughan is an editorial writer and columnist for the New Zealand Herald.
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