Elegy for Chris – For Christopher Sims (1957-2012)

Geoff Goodfellow

Hey Chris it’s curtains mate
and I’m not talking about those bloody
truck curtains you knew so well
nor the curtains you and Wendy
hung to make your Highton house a home
rather I’m speaking in the
colloquial champ
that language you always used so well
another way of stating it would be
to say we’ve had to let you go
but mate that’s not to be confused with
you’ve got the sack
been given the flick
got the arse
or been told you’re down the road ––
fair dinkum
there’s not a boss in Australia
who wouldn’t have wanted you in
their drivers’ seat
we’ve all been thinking you’d be around
for another thirty years champ
jeez we’re going to miss you Chris
who’s going to make us laugh now
who’s going to send us filthy text messages
who’s going to put on the Father Xmas suit
who’s going to post bike videos on You Tube
who’s going to sit the grandkids on y’r vroom-vroom
and who’s going to listen to us when we are lost
mate we all thought you were invincible
we were told hard work never killed anyone

Chris we were lied to.

The late Chris Sims was the husband of my cousin Wendy. Chris worked as a truckie most of his life, driving out of Geelong on the Brisbane run, interspersed with a spell as a fly-in/fly-out, dump truck driver in Western Australia. He and Wendy had two children, Lauren (29) and Jack (25). Lauren, a social worker, married and presented her parents with three grandkids to love and enjoy. And Jack, a greenkeeper, won a month internship at a prestigious golf club in Florida, USA. Wendy and Chris both felt proud of what their kids had achieved.

With the mortgage close to paid off, Chris had begun to work locally inthe truck depot in Geelong, avoiding overnight absences to be close to Wendy, and at fifty-four, to begin winding down to enjoy life with his much loved wife. However, the idea evolved that they should fly to Florida, meet  Jack when his contract was complete and hire a convertible – whereby the three of them would drive across the USA on Route 66. Chris thought that another stint as a FIFO dump truck driver could fund their dream as wellas get rid of their mortgage.

With only a few more shifts to go before heading overseas, Chris was thought to be up on top of the truck washing the windscreen down in the early hours of the morning when he suddenly slipped and landed head-first onto the roadway. He was subsequently flown to Perth where he was given a craniectomy. He remained in Perth in a coma for 12 weeks with Wendy and his children at his bedside before being flown home to a hospital in Geelong.

Chris was a solid, tough man, and many of us thought he would pull through. But the brain damage was so severe that after further consultations with specialists the difficult decision was made to turn off his life support. Going to work shouldn’t have such consequences.

Geoff Goodfellow is an Adelaide-based whose lengthy career in poetry has taken him as a writer-in-residence to various universities, touring Cuba, the USA, Canada, the UK, Europe and China, and he has been a guest at many major literary festivals. Geoff has been a guest on the ABC TV poetry program, Bush Slam, and has published several collections of poems starting with No Collars No Cuffs (1986), now in its 9th printing. Eight books have followed, most recently Punch On Punch Off (2004). His poems detail the lives of seemingly ordinary people and, with a poet’s eye for the micro, rather than the macro, he focuses on and dramatises a single crucial moment or situational aspect, to suggest much more the extraordinary.

poetforhire@picknowl.com.au www.geoffgoodfellow.com