By the standards of the day, my parents were considered quite old when they finally married. Although only 26 years of age they were already way behind their friends & siblings who tied the knot at much tender ages. 17 & 18 year old brides & grooms were not uncommon back then. As young adults my mother loved my father immensely. He was a handsome man, dark, rough around the edges, a bit rebellious. He rode a motor bike, slick rockabilly hair & sideburns. He loved Elvis. They were from very different backgrounds. Mum was raised by a close knit, kind, adoring family. Although poor, they were rich with love & her brothers & sisters were loyal, easy friends. My father was raised in a very dysfunctional family. His mother bore 6 children that I know of. She produced both a girl & a boy each to 3 different men. She had many skeletons in her closet. It is hard for me to imagine my frail, now deceased grandmother ever being capable of such wanton behaviour. My father never knew his biological dad, he was led to believe that his step-father was his in fact his real father & I believe when the truth was discovered, it scarred him deeply. My dad was uneducated & unfamiliar with the warmth of most ordinary families. Perhaps these events helps shaped the type of man my dad was to become. It is hard for me to imagine their courtship. Hard to imagine their conversations, their dreams & hopes. Dad was the first man my mother ever loved. My maternal grandparents were no doubt wary of this union but none-the-less accepting. My darling Grandmother never voiced her disapproval, never discouraged my mother's choice of husband, even though it was obvious even back then that Dad was an unusual type of man.
My fathers gambling problems & whimsical ways with money meant that their attempts to purchase their own home were shelved. Dad loved to buy cars & sell them just as quickly. A trait that he maintained throughout the years. Land was bought & then sold to recover debts. Investments were dabbled in & abandoned when the gambling & drinking bug hit. They settled eventually in a Housing Commision house, low rent & a roof for Mum & her 2 small children. My brother & I, born but 17 months apart.My mother still lives in that house.
Thanks to my mother & her family I had a very, very happy childhood in general. Although I find it incredibly sad that I cannot recall one single happy memory of my father. The years had turned him into a very intimidating man. A bully. He ruled with menace. I learnt to fear him before I could ever learn to love him. He was anti-social & soon closed a circle around us. We attended family functions with relish. Always overjoyed to mix with our grandparents, aunts, uncles & many cousins. But he always overshadowed these events with his disdain. We would often go without him only to return home to his wrath. He was not a violent man toward his 3 children, but on occasion his violence was turned toward Mum. Usually after us kids had been ordered into the backyard. We couldn't see it, but we heard it. Mum tried her best to protect us from her sadness. She was unable to escape the unhappiness of her marriage. She did not leave him even as the hardship escalated. Dad did not play with us. He did not display love or affection, he did not spoil us or make funny jokes. He did not take a huge interest Birthdays or Christmas. He did not read to us, offer to drive us around or encourage us to invite friends over. You walked on eggshells around him, careful not to encourage his temper. On reflection he missed out on alot. But for everything he missed, my mother gained. She was the centre of our universe & her kindness, mischief & devotion kept the balance. Our friends adored her. We adored her. After many hard years, my mother's spirit was on the brink of breaking. Abuse, disappointment, unhappiness & constant struggling had worn her down. We used to talk about our future pact. My brother's & I would talk with Mum about when we grew up & we'd move away from dad & then we'd be happy. Just as soon as we grew up we told her, we'll all escape.
A miracle came about one Christmas when I was 12 years old. My mother defied my father & packed us kids up during the school holidays. We were going away to spend 6 weeks with her family & she was not going to listen to his warnings. "If you go" he said "I will not be here when you return." He assumed that his stangle hold on us was water tight & that her fear & his perception of devotion to him would hit a nerve. Surely she wouldn't risk losing him. He made a fatal misjudgement. I completely admire the courage it took her to go & I completely rejoiced in him sticking to his word. Sure enough when we returned, he was gone. A note left behind informed us that when we were good & ready to be obident to him, he would gladly return. He was never welcomed back. He was stunned. Incredilbly, he couldn't believe we didn't want him back. Our new lives began that day. The four of us blossomed in our new freedom, my mother regained her confidence, our lives were finally free of terror & those were possibly the happiest days of my life. We never sought to re-establish our non existant relationship with dad & we moved on & up. The chasm between us only grew over the years & although we occaisonaly had contact with him, he never attempted to right his wrongs. He never attempted to meet his new son & daughter in laws, never wanted to met his grandchildren. We didn't ever recover from the trauma of our childhoods & we didn't seek him out to share our adult pursuits.
I learnt this week that my father died. He was 60 years old.
The emotions I felt were very strange. I cried. We all cried. We were sad for the loss of so many things. The times I spent with my Dad were sad, but now they felt sadder.
His sister, my Aunt who has been a part of our lives buried him without even telling us of his passing. A decision that has rocked us. We were denied the choice of attending the funeral. Denied the chance to find peace with him. Denied being his children, despite of the unhappy history. Time cannot be changed & we move on without regret But I need to tell my father that although I will never understand his lack of love for us I will always remember him.
Rest In Peace, Dad.
And I forgive you.