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Canberra Today 2°/5° | Sunday, May 22, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The scary (non) mystery of Stan’s missing cards

Rugby League cards of ’74… “that set is pitiful – still have only nine of the 115 of them,” writes Di Dio.

“His 12-year-old brain travels from confused to suspicious to frankly murderous in the same nine seconds it takes my seven-year-old self to hurtle from fake innocence to guilt to liver-melting fear. His suspicions of the thief are entirely correct, my fear for my life equally so,” writes “Kindness” columnist ANTONIO DI DIO.

FOOTY season is upon us and a certain number of things will occur. Spring will chill into winter. 

Dr Antonio Di Dio.

The Raiders will give joy and despair in equal measure, and the home-game snag rolls will be magnificent on a chilly night. Tick. 

Ricky will blow up on our behalf, and the Tigers will win friends but not matches. Tick. 

Boofheads sin, Storms win, Panthers choose, Dragons lose. Tick. 

And football cards will be issued with albums and foils and parallel fancy issues, and, like a drunken front rower on a Mad Monday, I will say “yes” to everything. 

For the Freudians who reckon everything stems from a childhood event, I’ve picked it. It’s a Sunday before the Macksville Sea Eagles take on the grain-fed barbarians of Bellingen or some nearby lovely town, a year or two before the hippies arrived and brought a different, slightly more herbal vibe. 

My wonderful older kinda brother Stan asks his mum Mary where his missing footy cards are. Not to be found. Big Jim and Little Johnny tell him to serve customers in the milk bar, and his 12-year-old brain travels from confused to suspicious to frankly murderous in the same nine  seconds it takes my seven-year-old self, next to him at the counter, to hurtle from fake innocence to guilt to liver-melting fear. His suspicions of the thief are entirely correct, my fear for my life equally so. 

Eventually, I slipped away with Stan’s treasures and promptly lost them, somewhere between the glorious feast of Samboy chips and steel-canned Passiona consumed in the interregnum parting the Under 18s and the reserves match, and never thought much of them again.

That first-grade game later featured an outrageous penalty count against the home side, with the local ref caning us. He was, I’m told, sweet on the Bellingen halfback’s sister. 

Down and grim, gnashing teeth, our skipper spoke to the team after a final Bellingen try, with anger so controlled he could have bottled it. “How’s it feel boys?” he asked, three times, to the lads in a huddle, five yards away from my dish-sized eyes. 

To their rage he replied, this time only once: “Let’s not sook. Let’s not whinge. That’s for them on the sidelines to do. We are here for one reason. To play.” 

And play they did. An extraordinary comeback, of such skill and precision and teamwork that the visitors and the ref were helpless before their righteous fury. 

How many times has brutal circumstance kicked us and we allowed ourselves to be frustrated and give up? The philosopher Marilla Cuthbert once said: “To despair is to turn away from God”. Well, whether you believe in her or not, it’s a great way to live. 

More importantly, the boys did not give the referee the importance to justify giving up. They forgave him. He was an immovable force of nature, like the floods that had ravaged the town a month earlier, and there was no point railing at the sky, when the clean up was there to be done.

You know what happened the next day? That beautiful guy Stan, in response to my fear of a deserved execution, made me a milkshake. Helped with my homework. He’d moved on!

My life, Stan’s life, the town’s life after that match, was better that week because forgiveness frees us all. If you think you’ve done nothing worth absolving I congratulate you. 

I’m still trying to forgive myself for a thousand stupid things. I’ve spent 40 years collecting rugby league cards (there’s a sentence that needs forgiving right there) and have most, but that 1974 set is pitiful – still have only nine of the 115 of them, and desultory purchases they were. 

I suspect, deep down, I feel unworthy to buy them, and that I never deserved them in the first place. Stan, wonderful fellow, forgot his anger the next day. Forgiving yourself takes a little longer. 

Do you have something you are stopping yourself from doing, or you feel unworthy to do? A treasure you don’t deserve? It may be that the only person who feels that way is you. Kindness is forgiveness, and as with all kindness, the greatest beneficiary is the giver. Best wishes, Antonio

Antonio Di Dio is a local GP, medical leader, and nerd. He is missing some 1968 Scanlens cards, and buys them on ebay when the Brumbies match is over and the Justice League comics are sold out. There’s more of his “Kindness” on citynews.com.au

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