Thirty Three Days

One of themost commonly visited pages on this blog is one I called “The Loneliness of theLong Distance Father” which was at a time shortly after my separation where mykids didn’t really want to have a lot to do with me.  

As withmany things, time alone can cure some of the angst and distress that comes tomost kids when their parents break up.   But whilst the pain eases for the kids perhapsso too does the desire to keep contact with both parents, or maybe it’s justthe classic cats in the cradle stuff, the natural pulling away as you get olderand become more independent.
We built abig house because at the time we entered into the contract we had four of thesix kids we have between us that needed a place to live.   Over the months of waiting for the title tosettle and the house to be built their needs changed and so we have a fourbedroom house occupied by the two of us and the two furkids and in an area nowfar away from where the kids mostly reside.
And that’sOK, the place is there if some time in the future they need it, but there aretimes when I miss knowing what is happening in their lives.   It seems that unless I make a call then wedon’t talk and I am left to watching facebook for updates.
Last week Iasked my two daughters if they would like to set aside one Sunday evening permonth, visit us for dinner and watch a movie.  I was actually hoping that maybe we would justsit around the dinner table and chat and just find out who they were loving orfeuding with, what books they were reading or movies they had seen, any one ofhundreds of mundane day to day things that they do.  One daughter said she heard me but it wouldhave to wait awhile because she’s working a lot of overtime and very busy but Idid find out on Facebook that she enjoyed her day at the Races and her roastdinner at her mothers in the past few days.   Daughter number two has been silent and thatusually means I am in the bad books with her.
It got methinking that if they spent 3 hours one day a month with me that would be atotal of 1 and a half days a year.  If Ilive as long as my father (and I hope it is longer than that) then I have 22years left and that would mean that for the rest of my life I would spend amaximum of 33 days with my kids, half of which I would probably be sleeping.
So if theremainder of my life was equivalent to an hour on a clock for every month thatpasses without seeing them the clock advances another two minutes and we allknow that as you get older time speeds up and the 33 days will rapidly become30 and then 20 and 5, until those last few precious minutes come in a hugerush.
And knowingall that makes me regret the times I didn’t call my own Mum and Dad other thanon the special occasions.   So maybe what goes around…
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The Scattering Again

Dear Mum

You probably already know this but I thought I’d let you know anyway.   We scattered your ashes today,as close to the place where we did the same to Dad’s back in 2004.    The river was a bit higher and running quicker than it was back then so your journey, wherever that may be will be quicker than Dad’s was.    Remember how amidst the tears we laughed back then when you said that there was some irony in the fact we were scattering Dad’s ashes in the river when he couldn’t swim.   He would have laughed at that too and we did chuckle about it again today.

Unlike back then there were no ducks around.  Remember they came in and scooped up some of Dad’s ashes as they floated on the water, eventually scattering them a bit further than we intended I guess.

You would have been proud of Deb, she read a couple of poems for you and said a small service around how we eventually return to the elements from which we sprang – from fire, earth, water and air.  I was glad that the air didn’t spring up and blow part of you up my nose because I’m still suffering a bit from hay fever and it wasn’t something I needed today.

Andrew and Gerry were there as well as Chase, Shez and Cal, Raels was home ill in bed and sends her apologies and the other Grandkids found it a bit hard to face, like they did with Dad.  Maybe they don’t fully understand how this ancient ceremony is yet another step along the way of recovery for grief.  But I know you’ll understand.   I know you will prefer them to remember your laugh and your raised eyebrow when you disapproved of something than a container of mortal remains.

Speaking of which, I carried them down from Karen’s house and I have to say that you weighed a fair bit more than Dad.  But you’ll know that too, becuase he did have a touch of the Mahatma Ghandi’s about him in the last few years,  “Fine as a sunny day” I remember him saying on more than one occasion.

We did have to keep watch because like the day we did Dad’s there were a few people around and whilst Deb was speaking Andrew, Gerry and I were keeping a lookout for anyone who may have happened along.  I remembered the time you told us about you and Uncle Phil and Aunty Nancy taking your cousin Lila’s ashes out to the cemetery and shoving them down a crack in the grave of her Mum Aunty Phyllis and Dad Uncle Perc.   You told us you were worried that someone would see and think you might be defacing the grave, but we all had a great laugh everytime you told the story.

Deb brought some yellow roses from her garden and each of us placed one on the river to follow you down. As the last one was placed on and the rain started to fall the sun came out giving that sense of renewal that comes with a new day.  A different day maybe, but a new one, and despite the sorrow, a reminder that there will still be many good things to come.

I hope you finished the book that we sent with you.  You were adamant that it had to go on the journey because you always finished any books you started even if you didn’t like them.  And I hope you managed to magic that toy horse into one that carried you across the fields of heaven like you said it would.

I have so much to thank you for, we all do and I’ll leave that to some future posts, but I do want to say a couple of things here.  Firstly, I remember how proud you were of Luke when he was presented as your first Grandchild.  You were actually the same age then as I am now and that’s a bit of a scarey thought because I thought you and Dad were kinda old back then.  Now I know differently of course.   And then you were given another 10 grandkids within the next ten years and everyone knew how much you loved them.

I also want you to know that Raels really appreciated the last things you said to her – that you loved her and that you told her to look after me.  She will and I think you know that.  Thanks for finally accepting her, I know it wasn’t an easy thing for you to do.  But we both are really grateful for that and Raels for being able to come to know you over the past couple of years.

Did I tell you that a few months after Dad died he visited me one night.  I felt him sit on the end of my bed just like he did so many times when I was a boy and he’d come home from work and come down and say goodnight.   We couldn’t talk but just let him know that I’m OK and I love him deeply.

I still feel you around Mum.   I know that wherever and whatever Heaven is, that you’ll watch over all of us no matter how long you have to.   I can hear you telling Dad and Nana and Grandad and the others there with you now how I “turned around and said”.   And I know that when you disapprove of something I do, and there probably will be things you don’t like before we meet again, that your eyebrow will rise and the cheeks will puff out and you’ll let me know exactly what you think.  Just like you always have.

So Farewell for now Mum.  I will always love you.

Your son
Laurie

Summer Daze

Sitting here with the wind rising and facing another day of record rainfall across the state tomorrow after two decades of drought, got,me thinking about summers past.   I’m facing my first Christmas as an orphan, if a 53 year old man can be an orphan and the excitement of Christmas approaching is tempered with the knowledge that both Mum and Dad are gone now and this is my first summer without them.

I remember the long summer days at Richardson Street, the smell of cut grass, of apples fermenting on the ground beneath the two trees in the front yard, of the wonderful scent of petrichor as the summer thunder storms rolled in.   There was no daylight saving in those days, but we stayed outside late anyway.  No air conditioning, in the house, or at school, and in the cars we rolled the windows down, didn’t press a button to keep them up and turn on the refrigeration.

Summer meant a crate of Loys softdrinks home delivered once a week, the weekend visits of Mr Whippy and chocolate coated ice cream cones.   It meant some beach visits where we’d tie meat to a string to catch crabs in rock pools at Ricketts Point.

It was hours spent in the Clark above ground pool, dragging ourselves in circles to create a whirlpool.  Dad shifted that pool to half a dozen different places in the yard.  We had no filter so he’d spend hours out there himself scooping leaves out and dosing it with chlorine that stung our eyes.

And on weekends were Dad’s BBQ’s, burnt sausages and the best hot chips you’ve ever tasted smothered in salt.

Summer meant a race with my sister Karen to see who could get the best tan.  There was no slip, slop, slap campaign in those days.  Instead we’d coat oursleves in coconut oil and lie on our towels on the footpath slowly basting in the heat.  I generally won, and have had a couple of skin cancers cut out since to prove it.

The days were long and hot, the nights cool with the chirping of crickets.  The days were simpler then before the times that meant there were too many summers to remember.

Kites

Funny how sometimes memories are triggered by unexpected things.  I was browsing some of the blogs I follow the other night when I came across a post on Gaelikaa’s diary about kites and how her son loves them and it brought me back to a time when my Dad made me a kite.

Dad was a commercial taveller – a salesman these days – for a paper merchant company and we were never short of stuff for school, pens, pencils, paper, lunch bags.  You name it and Dad would bring it home. 

I must have been around five or six and Dad decided that he would build me a kite.  He got two bits of one inch square timber, somehow fastened them together with string and no matter how tight he tied them they still moved around.    

He then got some heavy thick brown paper which he drew a face on with the Derwent pencils he’d appropriated and glued it to the timber cricifix.   After punching a hole through the nose on the face he then tied on heavy twine and finally a tail made out of ripped up material.   I don’t remember what it was he ripped up but knowing Dad, it was probably a dozen pair of old y-front undies.

I swear when it was finished it must have weighed about 10 kilos.   Still, we ran up and down the street for hours and every time we launched it into the air, it crashed straight back down to the ground.     The paper tore, the frame loosened and splintered and the only time it got more than 6 inches off the ground was when we threw it as high as we could.     It was completely devoid of any aero dynamic properties and proved that a kite didn’t have to fly to be fun because it didn’t matter, he made it for me.

Dad Jokes

OK I’m a lousy joke teller with a limited repertoire and I tend to tell the same ones over if I have a new audience but there are a couple that do get a laugh, usually politically incorrect and probably very corny.   When a man gets to a certain age his kids generally call them Dad Jokes.

So here are a couple that always get a laugh and a groan.

“Did you hear about that actress who stabbed herself!? It was just on the news! Reese whatshername!”
“Witherspoon!?”
“No, with a knife.”

***********************
I rear-ended a car this morning. I knew it was going to be a really bad day!
The driver got out of the other car and I looked down and realized he was a dwarf!!!
He looked up at me and said “I’M NOT HAPPY!”
So I said, “Well then, which one are you then?”

***********************
Not so remarkably there are a number of sites dedicated to the art of Dad Jokes and here are a few of them –

Dad’s Bad Jokes
Dad Squad
Dad Jokes

And there’s even a Dad Jokes Facebook group which I would urge everyone who loves bad jokes to join.

And if anyone has any really bad ones please leave them in the comments section.

…what has gone before.

I know that a death in the family causes one to confront their own mortality.  Whilst I feel young the use of the word  “one” in the previous sentence might point to something different.  Looking through my eyes out into the world I don’t relly feel any different to how I did 30 years ago.  Sure a lot of water has gone under the bridge.  I became a father with all the responsibilities that entailed.  I got married and divorced.  I shifted house a few times, changed career 6 times, and all the while my body aged and I didn’t even notice.

Sometimes though, in the past few weeks, I’ve looked in the mirror and seen an older bloke looking back at me.  The skin isn’t as elastic as it was, the sock lines on my ankles at night seem to take a long time to disappear.  I need glasses to read.  My hair is thinning and turning white.  So the trappings of age are appearing way too quickly.

In preparing the slide show for Mum’s funeral I found photos of her and Dad with my oldest son Luke, their first grandchild, who is 26 as I write this.  And I don’t see old people in those photos.  In fact when Luke was born in 1984 Dad was only three years older than I am now and yet he has already been gone six very quick years.  And sometimes that face I see in the mirror is my Dad looking back at me, and when I look down at my hands which are starting to show the wrinkles of age, I stare at my father’s hands.

I don’t want this to sound melancholy because I know that it is way better than the alternative.  But sometimes, when I start to think about it overmuch, it scares me that there is now less time ahead of me than what has gone before.

Happy Fathers Day

My Dad died on 14th August 2004, a little over five years ago and that was the catalyst for starting this blog and in so many ways the trigger for most of the changes in my life.  It was the moment when the midlife episode hit leading to an awakening and a realisation that things would never be the same again.   There’s been good and bad since that time for me.  I have changed, in some ways becoming more honest, mainly with myself.  I have learnt where I was weak and in the process I think I have become a better person.   But you know what, hardly a day goes by when I do’t think of my Dad, when I don’t wish that our relationship had been better, that I had taken the time to spend more time with him, that instead of being just father and son, that we had also been mates.

And I sometimes wonder in looking at myself in terms of that relationship, how I might have been a better father to my kids.   I know now that my biggest failure as a person is that I am a master at keping feelings to myself.  Ironically that has been seen as a strength by many work colleagues because they percieve me as someone who is cool calm and collected and always in control.   They don’t realise that sometimes that facade is hiding a little boy who sometimes quakes in hs boots.

That little boy tends to reflect on days like today.   I remember going to the local shopping centre on Saturday mornings and getting a hair cut with Dad and then sprinting along the street to the milk bar for a milkshake.  I remember him sitting on my bad at night smelling of beer and cigarettes and fetching me a glass of water.  I remember the cubby houses we would build out of sheets of masonite he would bring home from work, and the days spent setting up my cowboys and indians and farm yards on the lounge room floor.   I remember playing marbles in the backyard.

After I separated from my then wife and whilst I was living alone in a flat no one came to about two years after Dad died he came to me and sat on my bed.   I know I was more than likely asleep but it was a very vivid dream and I was once again that little boy who got comfort from that nightly visit by his Dad.

I expect to see three of my four kids today.  I fear it’s not because they want to but because they think they should and maybe that is a reflection of the type of father I have been.  My ex did tell me after I left that they kids had discussed things and thought that I was never there when they were growing up.  And it’s true I worked long hours but I never missed an event or any of the many games of sport they played.  I didn’t play cowboys and indians with my sons, nor marbles, nor did we build cubby houses, but we played basketball and built lego towns and I read them stories at night whilst they fell asleep.  Could I have done more?  Undoubtedly.  But I was what I was and that is all I was.

For anyone who is interested I have looked back over the posts on this blog and found some familiar themes in older posts.

Bad Jokes Good Father?
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father
Things I miss
Cats in the Cradle
Parents and the Damage Done
Josie’s Interview Part 2 – A non-sozzled Loz

So if you happen to be lucky enough to still have your Dad, make sure you contact him today and tell him you love him.   Don’t end up with some of the regrets that I have.   And if you happen to be a Dad make sure you also tell your kids how much you love them, that if at times there have been some cats in the cradle moments, that is a weakness most fathers have.   We carry that burden of provider, pre-programmed into us and for some of us it is something we will bear till the end of our days.  If we’re lucky our inevitable midlife episode may give us a shake and awaken us to some of the other possibilities.  Maybe that’s why some of us make far better grandparents than parents.   Perhaps being that little further down the road means that we can choose to live the moment differently.

Fatherhood, loneliness and what happens after the cliffhanger ending.

Of all the posts I have ever written “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father” is the one that consistently gets hit through google.  And I am sure that is because it is usually the father who gives up parts of his contact with his children when a marriage fails.   Maybe fathers are searching for those of us who experience the same pangs.

Whilst my relationship with my kids is a good one now, there were times when I was gripped with despair about what may eventuate.   But even now, there are times when I wish I saw them more often.  It is that daily contact, or lack of it, that makes things hard at times.  

Sometimes I just wish for a phone call from one or the other of them, just to ask how things are, what happened at work or school today, how are their relationships with friends going.  I miss the fact that they don’t just drop in.  That it sometimes feels like it has to be a formal invite or an occasion for them to turn up.  And the standing Thursday night date is sometimes overlooked if other offers come along.

I miss not having the regular interactions with their friends and finding out what they are doing, or just sitting and watching as my kids interact with them.

The football season is coming up soon and I know that will provide opportunities for me to just hang out with my kids.  It’s something to look forward to.

I think part of the melancholy is that when you no longer live in that original family unit, that your kids grow up and grow older in episodes.  It’s like watching a soap opera rather than being part of it.   And sometimes you miss how the cliffhanger ending turns out, the drama and laughter happen in places where you don’t exist.  And when you are able to catch up with things it is often passed off as not important anymore, so it seems that you only get the echo from distant mountains rather than the full on quadraphonic experience of the origin.

But there is also the knowledge that sometimes these things were going to happen anyway, because they did with me.  

I left far too much unsaid to my Dad, didn’t take the time to know him, or give him the chance to know me.    I’ve learnt that fathers don’t complain, that we accept it when our kids cancel on us, that we hide the hurt more often than not.    It’s easier that way.   And I’ve learnt that kids don’t see that, that fathers are often too good at hiding things.    And with that I’ve learnt that a father can be lonely even if he’s surrounded by crowds.  

Loneliness is a fickle beast.  It hides in circumstance, in ritual and in occasion.   And if you find your self experiencing this lonely father syndrome, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every aspect of your life is lonely.  Just sometimes, when you miss your kids, it can grab you and squeeze you till it hurts.

So instead of waiting for them to contact you, pick up the phone, say hello, tell them you love them and that you’re looking forward to seeing them whenever that may be.  And when you do see them, listen to what they say, engage with them while you can, because that loneliness is only a short time away again.

So I leave you with this song.

Fatherhood, loneliness and what happens after the cliffhanger ending.

Of all the posts I have ever written “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father” is the one that consistently gets hit through google.  And I am sure that is because it is usually the father who gives up parts of his contact with his children when a marriage fails.   Maybe fathers are searching for those of us who experience the same pangs.

Whilst my relationship with my kids is a good one now, there were times when I was gripped with despair about what may eventuate.   But even now, there are times when I wish I saw them more often.  It is that daily contact, or lack of it, that makes things hard at times.  

Sometimes I just wish for a phone call from one or the other of them, just to ask how things are, what happened at work or school today, how are their relationships with friends going.  I miss the fact that they don’t just drop in.  That it sometimes feels like it has to be a formal invite or an occasion for them to turn up.  And the standing Thursday night date is sometimes overlooked if other offers come along.

I miss not having the regular interactions with their friends and finding out what they are doing, or just sitting and watching as my kids interact with them.

The football season is coming up soon and I know that will provide opportunities for me to just hang out with my kids.  It’s something to look forward to.

I think part of the melancholy is that when you no longer live in that original family unit, that your kids grow up and grow older in episodes.  It’s like watching a soap opera rather than being part of it.   And sometimes you miss how the cliffhanger ending turns out, the drama and laughter happen in places where you don’t exist.  And when you are able to catch up with things it is often passed off as not important anymore, so it seems that you only get the echo from distant mountains rather than the full on quadraphonic experience of the origin.

But there is also the knowledge that sometimes these things were going to happen anyway, because they did with me.  

I left far too much unsaid to my Dad, didn’t take the time to know him, or give him the chance to know me.    I’ve learnt that fathers don’t complain, that we accept it when our kids cancel on us, that we hide the hurt more often than not.    It’s easier that way.   And I’ve learnt that kids don’t see that, that fathers are often too good at hiding things.    And with that I’ve learnt that a father can be lonely even if he’s surrounded by crowds.  

Loneliness is a fickle beast.  It hides in circumstance, in ritual and in occasion.   And if you find your self experiencing this lonely father syndrome, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every aspect of your life is lonely.  Just sometimes, when you miss your kids, it can grab you and squeeze you till it hurts.

So instead of waiting for them to contact you, pick up the phone, say hello, tell them you love them and that you’re looking forward to seeing them whenever that may be.  And when you do see them, listen to what they say, engage with them while you can, because that loneliness is only a short time away again.

So I leave you with this song.

Sliding Away

I’m scanning some old slides which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time and I’m up to 1978.  My 21st birthday in fact.  The photos were taken on a Pentax K1000 SLR which unfortunately was stolen in a burglary in around 2001 and was a present from Mum and Dad for my 21st.

What has struck me looking back is the number of people who have now died – family, friends – some way too young.  And it is also funny to look at these images from so long ago through eyes that are way different from what they were then.  Older and wiser – maybe.

Certainly I had no idea at that time how things were going to unfold and what direction life would lead me in.  Despite the porn star moustache, I did not become an actor.  I am glad that tight turtle neck sweaters are now way in the past because, whilst I’m not as bad as some, the roof over the tools shed has grown a little since those slim and taut days of the 70’s.

There were some things that occurred on that weekend that I had totally forgotten about until I looked again at the photos.   In this one, take not of the envelope on my mates lap.   It says “Ërection Instructions” and I was greatly amused by that at the time I got the slides back and realised what it said.    All of my mates had banded together and bought me a hiking tent and we had spent that afternoon erecting it.

I used that tent a fair bit over the years.  I never actually did a lot of hiking but we did camp every year and that was the thing we used until kids came along and we needed something bigger.

And in the next photo you will see a blanket hanging on the clothesline.  That was from my bed and it had been washed because a mate of my Dad’s got blind drunk, was put to sleep in my bed and he wet it.    I know why I hadn’t thought about that incident for years.   It was the middle of winter and pretty difficult to get the mattress dry.   That wasn’t the thing that turned me off drinking but it helped keep me from it.

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