We received the news this morning that an old friend had died last night. Known familiarly as Cheng Wah, his real name was Graham Taylor. I don’t know how he got his nickname but it probably had something to do with his slightly oriental appearance or maybe inscrutable expression.
I first met Cheng in September 1979 when he moved in as a tenant to a dwelling (it was the back residential section of a dress shop on a main road in Fitzroy) I was sharing with a few other people. Here’s what I wrote in my diary at the time:
We have a new tenant – an acquaintance of Ingrid, called Graham. He’s actually OK. I felt a bit apprehensive at first, but he’s assimilated well. Rather quiet and unobtrusive, a drunk and doper, he kind of fits. He has a cat (an unfriendly to other animals creature)
That was the start of a very long friendship.
His death really didn’t come as a surprise, but the sudden onset of the serious illness that caused his death, did arouse alarm and sadness in all who knew him. This only happened in the last few months, when it was discovered that he had cancer of the liver. By the time this was diagnosed, the cancer had moved to his spine, which in an alarmingly short time had paralysed him from the waist down. And if you’re thinking his death was the result of a wild lifestyle, you are only partly right. His father recently died of something similar which leads one to believe genetics had a part to play.
And although I am here mourning Cheng’s death, I am also here to celebrate his life and the part he played in it as my friend.
Of course we were old drinking buddies, part of the old Dan O’Connell Hotel social scene and Cricket Club. Cheng was the Cricket Club treasurer for many seasons, seeing as how he was the only member who could organise the funds effectively.
Which leads me to remember that he was a very intelligent guy, with a quirky sense of humour. He was an IT expert and computer whiz from the time I met him, i.e. the 1970s. When I got my first PC in 1994, it was Cheng who came round and set it up for me and showed me how to do stuff, like install software, for example.
He had an amiable temperament; was calm and good natured pretty much all the time. When I last talked to him on the phone a few weeks ago, you wouldn’t have thought that he was at death’s door from his laid back attitude. He was joking about lasting to 60. He was 52 going on 53.
After living a bachelor existence for most of his life, it wasn’t until about 11 years ago that he found a woman to settle down with. They got married and moved to Tathra on the south coast of NSW. They were very happy together and we often met up with them for lunch when Graham came to Melbourne to attend to his business as a software/network developer.
I feel very grieved for Shelly, his wife who up until the time she got together with Graham had led a very hard life, filled with disastrous choices (in partners) and other such dire situations. I can’t even begin to imagine what she must be going through at the moment. The last I heard from her, was that Graham was home with her and their beloved dog, Tangles, for Grand Final day. Graham was an avid supporter of Collingwood, so it is disappointing that they didn’t win last weekend, the last weekend of Graham’s life. I’m sure he would have liked to go out with a Pies victory on his mind.
He was always a good friend to me, ever supportive and kind. We never fell out, always the best of mates. I have many happy memories of our acquaintance and will miss his humour and sensibleness.
So Cheng, farewell. It was a great pleasure knowing you all these years and I’m heartbroken that you are gone for ever.