I watched him as he grew. My heart was in my mouth when he spoke to police.
I was saddened that he shaved his head the night before the VCE class photos, especially as I had asked him to wait.
I cried with him and I cried about him.
But now, in 2012, I name him father of the year.
He is not a celebrity. He hasn’t built bridges. He didn’t win gold in London. But yes, he loves – especially his family.
Stephen is an ordinary guy with an ordinary job who lives in an ordinary suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne.
He epitomises all those young family men who form the backbone of our country.
They’re the workers, the strugglers, the ones who build our homes, who create beauty around them and in our streets, the ones who connect us to power and make our toilets flush. And they do all this with a smile.
These are the nation’s heroes.
And they’re always conscious, first and foremost, of the family waiting to hear the truck pull into the driveway as they shout, “Daddy’s home!”
It happened like this.
Stephen’s three-year-old son became very ill with pneumonia, and although he was hospitalised, he was deteriorating before our eyes.
While his mother remained by the bedside for two weeks, Stephen calmly spread himself between the hospital, work, shopping and caring for his other two sons: a five-year-old and a 13-month-old who, in addition to routine care, needed to learn how to fall asleep without a breast feed – not an easy task!
Who said men can’t do several things at once?
But the best was yet to come.
After the first week Stephen noticed the overwhelming stress and anxiety in his wife. Understandably, she was exhausted.
In his quiet way he asked me, grandma, to mind the children and to sit with them at the hospital for an hour, while he went shopping.
While wondering if I would manage this without having a child fall on their head I agreed, trusting that Stephen knew what he was doing. Instead of shopping, he invited his wife to go around the corner with him for a quiet drink and thankfully, she accepted.
I could not believe what I saw when they arrived back. It was as though his wife had been struck by a “happy energy” bolt. She was laughing. I hadn’t seen her laugh all week.
And on her finger was a new diamond ring – one she found in the bottom of her glass of champagne.
No drug could have achieved what this expression of love did.
It wasn’t the diamonds, it was his language of love which she understood so well. Although I did see her looking lovingly at the diamonds.
I looked at this family with pride knowing that this is the stuff of humanity.
You don’t have to be a celebrity to be father of the year.
By the way, there was no real damage to the little one when he fell off the couch at the hospital... well what could I do?
The sick boy needed to go to the loo, and I had to juggle pipes and tubes and masks as well as try to prevent a 13-month-old from escaping down the corridor?