A month ago today my father, Peter Groenewegen, died at his home in Australia. It was in the early hours of the morning after my mother’s funeral. Due to illness he hadn’t been able to attend, but I had recorded the eulogies and he had listened to them. Mum and Dad had been together for 55 years. They had their ups and downs like with any partnership, but they had it sorted and their relationship survived. More than survived, it flourished.
My father was a leading academic in his field, the history of economic thought. He had a long association with the University of Sydney, so it was fitting that Professor Colm Harmon, Head of the School of Economics, officiated at Dad’s funeral. Professor Tony Aspromourgos and Associate Professor Peter Kriesler both spoke of Dad’s professional life, but also his friendship with them. Their eulogies included comments and notes from academics around the world who couldn’t be there at the funeral. There will be obituaries and tributes to Dad in journals and at conferences. Those I can link to I will add here.
Two other friends also spoke about Dad’s involvement in various groups throughout his life, and his youngest brother spoke of Dad as a kid in the Netherlands and then in Australia.
I didn’t speak at Dad’s funeral as I did for Mum. Too much and too much of a shock. While Dad had been ill, his death was unexpected, so I’m writing my blog about Dad fresh.
When I was at university and later at work I kept running into people who would hear or see my surname and often ask: “Do you know Professor Peter Groenewegen?”* Yes, I would reply, and explain the relationship. They often would say they were grateful for his lectures or tutorials, and sometimes confess their fear of his intellect.
Dad was fiercely intelligent, but as my father I can’t say that I feared him. I know when I was a school student I disappointed Dad, but he still encouraged me to read widely. To think about things. My alma mater was the ANU, not Sydney, and Dad again supported me in my choices even though he didn’t always agree with them on an academic basis. I treasure the many discussions we had about politics of all sorts over the decades.
I discovered SFF as a kid and devoured SF novels as a teenager. My love of Doctor Who in particular has not waned, and outside of my work (of which Mum and Dad were extremely proud) I have been slowly developing a writing career mostly in that amazing universe. Even though both Mum and Dad tolerated my love of SFF, and when I was younger would encourage me to expand my interests, Dad still supported my endeavours. It’s because of him that in the early 1980s I wrote to Johnny Byrne about his Doctor Who story The Keeper of Traken and Vere Lorrimer about Blake’s 7. Why? Because a friend, my brother and I were starting a combined fanzine about those two shows and Dad was keen that we wouldn’t fall foul of copyright. Mum and Dad were able to read my first novel, a spin off of Doctor Who, and they both enjoyed it.
Both Mum and Dad loved to travel, and I caught that bug from them. I treasure all the trips I took with them both as a kid and as an adult, and also the time when Dad travelled to the Netherlands for a conference and I happened to be working there. We took a week off and travelled to lots of places, including the family home in Utrecht. I understood more about Dad from that week.
It’s incredibly hard to comprehend that my father is, like my mother, no longer with us in person. I miss them both terribly, but I know they live on in our memories.
* Occasionally it would be my Uncle John (a teacher at a school in Sydney), or my Uncle Hans (a university librarian in Melbourne), or my Uncle Michiel (a minister in the church), or my Uncle Guy (an architect), or my grandfather (also a minister in the church), or very rarely a Groenewegen not of my immediate family.