Reading Dad's Journals

My beloved Dad kept journals for many years. He died in 2008. And now I have to read them…

Category: Uncategorized

Hands up for wealth and success? Plus a generous, open heart? And are they really mutually exclusive?

‘Raise your hands if you want to be rich! Let me hear you say “Yeah!” ‘

‘Turn to the person next to you; shake their hand. Tell them “You have the power to achieve great success!” ‘

Clearly I’m not just doing my weekly supermarket shopping.

‘What am I doing?’ That was the question I asked myself a lot during the two days I recently attended a ‘Wealth and Success’ conference. I’ve never been to anything like that before, and had to explain my behaviour to friends and colleagues alike.

‘I’m going because  a) I got a free $150 ticket  b) I’m curious about who else will be there, and what goes on (plus I’d like to be richer and more successful), and  c) How do I know that I don’t belong there unless I actually go?’

So I went. It wasn’t hard to find the entrance:

Image

 There were a lot of ‘power suits’ there, queuing importantly for their VIP tickets. There were lots of regular Australians there too, a real cross section of society, from the retiree couples to the covered Muslim women, from the young cocky men to the well-kept 40-something women (ooh, Hello, I think that’s me).

A program of 15 speakers over two days, 9-6pm, in a massive auditorium filled with hard, white plastic chairs, (except for the VIPs, who had padding- and I don’t mean either egos or arses).

Now here is my first, and SIGNIFICANT gripe: not one female speaker. NOT ONE. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. And after sending an email pointing out this bias to the conference organisers (with no reply as yet), I raised the matter with the very nice, well-trained, well-groomed customer service manager. His response? (And I quote exactly):

‘There aren’t any good ones around.’

I can’t believe he said that. Can you? But he did. So I told him they needed to look a bit harder. And I also told him I knew several women personally who would be excellent speakers e.g. Sheridan Stewart’s http://secretsofconfidentwomen.wordpress.com/about/ and that I’d also be quite happy to do it myself if needs be; I clearly have lots of good stories in me

Image

[photo by Heath Britton (c) 2013]

Anyway, back to the presentations. Two warm-up speakers, talking about overcoming illness, and buying their Mum/Dad a car/house. Then the first serious subject: currency trading.

Guaranteed success. No one gets hurt. Investment of only $10 a week will turn into $1000 week etc etc.

A 90-minute pitch, which became a real hard sell in the last five minutes: a training course & software to learn how to do it for only $13,000…

But a conference special, for today only, for $5000- grab a form from the back of the room.

I kid you not: people RAN to fill out the joint application & payment forms. Old people, young people, fat people, tired people. And you know what? I didn’t run, but I went to the back of the room, and found myself doing this:

Image

 Why? Because I’d decided to go to the conference with an open mind and heart, and to see how it all resonated with me. I’d admitted that I DO want wealth and success, and that perhaps there is a new way to do it, as I haven’t particularly achieved either of those things (yet)?

 What I have learnt though, and this conference confirmed, was that through trial, error, and reflection, (plus thousands of dollars and/or hours on various therapies, healings, and written exorcisms), I have a good heart. ‘Good’ as in open, generous, loving, strong, active. While the focus of every speaker I saw was the creation of freedom through wealth, with a token nod to charitable work (‘probably as a tax write-off’, she added cynically), I was left with a nasty taste in my mouth about the ethics behind the program presenters. They were feeding into our wants for comfort, for security, for freedom from fear. Which is laughable when compared with someone living in the Gaza Strip, or a refugee camp in Ethiopia, or a child soldier in Africa, I know!

[But here we are: blogging and thinking and commenting and living with our laptops and our mobile phones. So don’t bag me for my status as a Westerner. Believe me, I know it, and Ben Lee’s song sums it up perfectly, we are indeed all in this together]

http://youtu.be/geZehkuUvuk

Amazingly, so often does Life offer lessons or realizations on multiple levels. Like it’s emphasizing the point, so I don’t miss it. This week, I sustained a tiny tear in the fabric of my intimate world. A romantic interest acted without due care or diligence, and caused me to take a step back from the path I was enjoying. As the conference powered its way to finale, I reflected on the importance of ethical standards of behaviour, of honest communication and trust, both professionally and personally. If I gave my $5000 to the currency trading man, would he genuinely teach and support me? Could he have a heartfelt connection with every one who signed up for his program, and enhance their lives? Would he validate them as fragile and worthy human beings? Hmmm, I’m not so sure.

A dear friend had a framed saying on her wall for years, which I often admired: ‘Do what most kindles Love in you’. Which is a wonderful sentiment. But now I’m wondering if I prefer ‘Do what most kindles Love in others’?

Goodness knows I don’t want to get into a ‘quote-off!’. Both are good. And while I’m in no way promoting a religious framework, the ‘wealth & power’ conference made me want to call for a heightened sense of ethical behaviour, and heartfelt action.

You see, I believe we all know when we’ve acted badly. I think we often know beforehand too. I know I’ve made deliberate choices to act selfishly, or thoughtlessly, perhaps even cruelly sometimes (oh my youthful recklessness at university). I know my teenage son knows when he’s being slack to me in our conversations- I can see it in his eyes, or hear it over the phone. I know my love interest knew he was being unworthy when he acted as he did; apologies and regrets unfortunately don’t prevent damage. However, they can guide new, more heart-centred behaviour, and offer conscious opportunities for breaking old habits and reactions.

I didn’t feel genuine warmth and heart-centred trust coming from that speaker’s stage (and not just because I was so far back on a hard plastic chair). Only one presenter’s speech touched me, and he was the token black man, selling nothing but the story of his adoption, double prostate cancer recovery, and love of God.

Why can’t we be more caring and loving without the drama of life-threatening illness, or the promise of eternal life?

Why isn’t America wringing its hands and examining its heart-based value-system after the shooting of those kindergarten children, and now at the Mother’s Day Parade? Why isn’t the UK doing the same in the light of the mass anti- Thatcher celebrations? Why isn’t India doing the same after the focus on its treatment and abuse of women? And similar questions for Korea/China/Bangladesh/insert your country of choice here.

Natural disasters are a tragedy; but deliberate, socially-conditioned or condoned ones are a NATIONAL AND GLOBAL DISGRACE.

 And we in Australia have our own complex issues: indigenous rights/refugees/Catholic child abuse/poverty. How long do the research committees or royal commissions or political debates have to drag on for?

 Those of you who came here to read about my Dad’s journals might be feeling a bit confused right now. What’s all this got to do with Lawrence’s innermost thoughts you ask? I’ll tell you. Attending that wealth and success conference made me wonder about Dad’s reactions to it. He had achieved both of those things, and retired well before 60. He went on to volunteer countless hours to valuable causes, such as the environment, literacy, indigenous programs, and cultural understanding programs. I’m very proud of him for that. But his journals aren’t happy; they are not happy reading. He has wealth and success, but a heavy heart.

Which makes him drink.

Heavy hearts make lots of people drink; I imagine my ex-romantic interest will have downed a few glasses of red, reflecting on his foolishness. We’ve all gotten ‘pissed’ because we’re ‘pissed off’. And we all know the problems or uncomfortable feelings are still there the next morning… The next month… The next year.

 My Dad drank all his life. Once, while I was living in Canada with him, after a huge argument about alcoholism, I challenged him to not drink for a day. Watching him get through his evening without a glass of wine was torture. For both of us. And I know he didn’t want it to be that way; he references his struggle with alcohol several times through his first journal.

 It seemed to me that many attendees at the conference were struggling. With finances obviously, with boring jobs, with a disconnected family or relationships. The small 60-something man I sat next to was struggling; when we shook hands, and I wanted to tell him he had the power within to achieve any success, all I could see was his dull desperation, unable to hold my open gaze or wholeheartedly wish me the same thing. He raised his hand when a speaker asked the audience who was working for more than 50 hours a week in a family business; that’s no way to live your only life.

 I’ve watched the following TED talk by Nigel Marsh several times in the last month, and if you’ve already invested 10 minutes reading this lengthy Blog post (THANKYOU), please do the same for this:

http://youtu.be/SXM7MpoVAD0

What impresses me most about this clip, apart from his fantastic clear pace and delivery, is his assertion that we, as individuals, must change our work/life balance culture. That every one of us, and there are indeed millions, can change our world– “…We can change Society’s notion of ‘Success'”.

 So this post is asking you to commit, with me, to acting in a more heartfelt and ethical manner. Every day. In small ways. In how you do your work, in how you treat your boss or co-workers. In how you treat the bus driver, the shop assistant, the bank teller. In how you think about and relate to your partners, your flirtations, your long-term friends and family. Little by little, step by step, with constant practice, we can expand our generous, heartfelt place in our community. And we can still have wealth, and success (just watch me!), but not at the cost of a good heart.

 In five years time, I’d like to be one of several female speakers on the conference circuit for achieving wealth and success. I’d delight in travelling the world, walking onto stages and lightening people’s heavy hearts. I’d like the banner that shows you how to find the conference entrance to be a symbol of money, love, and success, equally intertwined.

And you, my dear blog readers, have not only witnessed the planting of this loving, ethical seed for me, but will get free entry. How does that sound?

 

Advertisements

Birthdays can suck. But not as much as Deathdays.

It was Dad’s birthday ten days ago, April 24. He would have been 78. As usual, his far-flung family and friends toasted him with a good wine (or organic lemonade at my house), and ate Indian, his favourite food. It’s become a bit of a ritual every year now, as the time passes without him.

This year my son was with me on his school holidays (hence the lemonade), so we went to visit Dad in the Adelaide Japanese Gardens where we had (sneakily) scattered some of his ashes into the lily pond in 2009.

Image

 I enjoy going there very much, ‘to sit with Dad’, along with the sadness that that inevitably brings. He and I had gone there together several times when he was visiting Adelaide the week before he died in 2008; we both enjoyed the peace, and the ordered beauty of the greenery.

Sometimes when I visit, I see couples lying on the grass, snatching a quiet intimacy in the middle of the city. I see new brides, posing in their big dresses, standing on the clichéd bridge across the pond between their old life and the new one they’re beginning- honestly, sometimes there is a queue of brides waiting to be photographed- my highest tally so far is four.

Image

 Occasionally there is a small picnic, with the glitter of birthday food being shared. I smile, but I’m envious too. For the rest of my life now, and my son’s life, there will be a Dad-shaped hollow. No phone call, no silly card, no even sillier gift. And his family all feels sad on his birthday, but enact our comforting rituals to honour him.

 So birthdays can suck. We all know that. We’ve all had one that fell flat, whether we were 6 or 36. Hell, once I even missed one all together: camping for a week in a National Park on an island near Townsville, roughing it in tents, with no time-keepers or contact with the outside world… We just sort of missed my birthday Wednesday. Not a bad place to lose one though:

Image

But Deathdays? They’re harder. I don’t know what else to call it: the anniversary of the day you lost your loved one. Is there another word for that day in our culture that I don’t know?

 In Mexico (and other countries) there is The Day of the Dead, usually November 1 & 2, a National holiday, when “… families and friends gather building private altars to honor the deceased using marigolds and skulls, and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed, visiting graves with these as gifts.” (Wikepedia)

Image

I would find great comfort in a day like that.

I could dress up and walk the streets with all the other people who are permanently mourning, yet also celebrating the loss of a loved one, while embodying the knowledge that we too will one day be celebrated in our turn by those we’ve left behind. I feel a lack of openness in my Western culture, where to refer to dying or death is almost taboo; corpses are hidden away, cremated behind curtains, buried in closed coffins. Grief is too much of a challenge if you feel it for too long; echoes of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ still permeate our social norms.

 Even more poignant for me in terms of honouring the departed are the Japanese Jizo shrines, dedicated to lost, miscarried or aborted children.

Image

 Many women I know, myself included, have had miscarriages or abortions, and even, most terribly, lost a child at birth or soon afterwards. Yet it remains so often an unspoken loss, or covered over quickly by well-meaning neighbours: ‘Oh you’ll be fine as soon as you have another baby, just try again’. If only it were as simple as that.

 I have a friend whose daughter’s birthday and deathday is the same day. I can’t imagine the profound sadness of that date. And I wish we had more meaningful public acknowledgement of the personal tragedies that can forever mark a person.

Perhaps if we all gathered, united in our physical experience of the ceaseless cycle of birth, life, and death, there would be greater social cohesion and empathy?

After all, everyone’s tears taste the same when we weep.

 Still, I’m grateful that I enjoyed my Dad for over 42 years of my birthdays before I had to learn a new way to acknowledge loss on his deathday of October 30.

 Thus even though April 24 is now forever bittersweet, it is still a day of celebration for many of us who knew and loved Lawrence…

 Happy Birthday Dad xx

 

Margaret Thatcher died yesterday, and I wonder what Dad would say?

I grew up in England from 1973-1986, and Margaret Thatcher was in power there ’79-90. She had a profound effect on the society around me; it wasn’t until today that I realised just how much. On hearing she’d died (while I’m normally a compassionate and sensitive person), I felt gleeful and relieved! And I wanted to talk about it with Dad.

He was an entrepreneur and sharp businessman. He thrived in the eighties, and travelled the world while he built up his company in France. He was from solid working-class stock; his Dad had owned corner stores and milk delivery runs. But he had a sense of fairness that I always admired, and was a positive person who made friends wherever he went.

In contrast, as I reflected today on how damaging I believe Margaret Thatcher’s policies were to the UK, I realised that in essence she took away my Hope. When I was sixteen in 1982, and should have been full of excitement about what I could do with my life’s path, instead I had felt defeated before I even tried.

Britain was full of a lost generation in 1985, as I saw it and felt it. Tens of thousands of young people who couldn’t get jobs, couldn’t get better education, couldn’t aspire to success on any scale.

There was my brother’s friend Pete, who stopped training in soccer because the scholarship he’d dreamt of was cut. I used to see him kicking his ball against the wall outside the Amusement Arcade, smoking cigarettes and getting drunk to give him something to do.

There was my sweet friend Anthony, who wanted to be a carpenter, but lost his apprenticeship, so his only option then became to join the army. He wanted a wage, and structure, and a sense of purpose. Fair enough. After three months training he got sent out to the Falkland Islands, which Maggie had decided to go to war over (we had never even heard of them before), and then used to send me letters home about how scared he felt. He came back in one piece, yes, but his eyes had a new hardness that saddened me, and he wouldn’t talk about it.

Tens of thousands of little stories like these; of dreams wasted, of minds damaged, of lives restricted forever. Yet I was lucky: my Dad stepped in, and offered me a return ticket to Australia for my eighteenth birthday. I landed in this new, bright, hot country, and suddenly realised Life had possibilities, and potential… I felt the freedom to re-invent myself, to dare to dream, to try and succeed, and it was exhilarating. I felt Hope. Australia gave me Hope, and still does. I still live every day here feeling grateful for my life. I still have hope that my son will grow up happy and fulfilled, that my best friend will win the Oscar he deserves, that I will gain funding for my latest puppetry performance, that I will publish the first of my books, that I will find True Love. I hope that I will catch up with my family in Sydney again soon, that dear friends from Melbourne will come to visit, that we will all grow veggies and ride bikes to work, create world peace and marriage equality… My list of Hopes goes on…

But it didn’t in England in the Eighties. I vividly recall the mood of despair that fogged my local school and streets. The only good thing to come out of Margaret Thatcher’s rule as far as I’m concerned were all the protest songs written, especially around her treatment of the striking miners!

Image

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlkXQm7tSCY

And I’m sure Dad would be upset at this entry of mine. He’d want me to be more compassionate, to practise some Buddhist detachment and generosity. I’d love to have been able to call him as soon as I found out about her death. We were together in Vancouver when Princess Diana died, and we sat glued to the television in disbelief, along with everyone else, tears rolling down our cheeks. Dad kept shaking his head, and saying ‘I can’t believe it, poor woman, and in Paris too, oh the French are never going to hear the last of this from the English, poor woman.’

We were together again (sort of) for another monumental world event: Barack Obama’s election as first black US President. Dad had died 3 days before, on the island of Kuauai, and we had all flown over; I sat in front of the television, tears rolling down my cheeks, shaking my head and saying ‘I can’t believe it, how amazing is this, Dad would have loved it, I can’t believe he’s just missed this.’

Image

[Dad’s ashes, facing his last sunset on Kuauai]

Now I’m shaking my head again, thanking Dad for getting me out of the 1980s UK so that I could live this life full of adventure, creativity, and most importantly, Hope. I have no sympathy for the woman who took so much of that away from so many people, even though I know Dad would be prouder of me if I could. But I can’t.

 

Sorry Dad.

 

I ran away for a month, and followed myself. Funny how that works.

I haven’t blogged for exactly four weeks today, which is strictly against my self-imposed discipline- obviously I’m a good rebel, but to be fair, I was also slaving away on a grant application for funding to finish my latest solo puppetry show:

BOY and OLD MAN waiting for funding

BOY and OLD MAN waiting for funding

I was also enjoying much theatre-going as part of Adelaide Fringe and Festival (‘Mad March’ we call it). To be honest, I needed a break from the churning process of reading Dad’s thoughts. I was getting too teary, too often, and writing about crying too much! I don’t want casual passer-bys to stumble on my blog and feel like it’s a vale of sadness. Many commenters have expressed their envy of my gift from Dad, of this unique insight into his inner world. And I agree. It’s just that it’s a weighty present; nothing superficial or easy about the process of discovering this new landscape.

I’m grateful for everyone’s support. I’ve discovered some lovely blogs in the month I’ve been away from posting, and my Reader is slowly filling up as I follow more and more that have caught my eye. I realised I’m a little jealous of writers who share daily events and their reactions to them; who can be a bit more ‘in the moment’ than me. Or of bloggers that are clearly very funny, vibrant humans, who have also completely nailed all the tricks of the blogging trade, winning awards left, right, and centre (http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/ more than just another wiseass) and http://gojulesgo.com/about/ comedic chipmunk enthusiast). Then there’s the quiet blogs; the musings of young folk, the musings of older folk, the musings of undead folk (http://undeaddad.com/ explorations of mindful fatherhood). I enjoy them all, and their eclectic viewpoints (http://shamanicpath.wordpress.com/about-2/). I have connected with them all by following a thread of ‘Dad-ness’, or of journaling, or from a sense of being on a journey. And some I follow just cos they are following me 🙂

My break for freedom helped me have fun on WordPress, yet also realize that there is a responsibility on my shoulders with these journals, reflected in my blog, and a sense of commitment to a process that in some ways is not just my own, but is Dad’s too.

I shared the first paragraph here https://readingdadsjournals.com/2013/02/08/1st-book-1st-page-1st-paragraph-oh-crap-i-dont-know-if-i-can-do-this/

Now I’d like to share the last:

 “3/12/88 So here you are at the very last page of your very first journal, but this will not be your last journal, not by a long shot. Feeling good about this newfound freedom of talking with myself, about myself, and how I feel about all the things that are happening to me. Wow- what a bright new world it really is, and it will continue to be so- that’s what feels so extraordinary! I love and approve of you Lawrence- you’re an OK guy!”

So at least we all know that Journal #1 has a happy ending. Phew.  🙂

Valentine’s/Schmalentine’s. But still, where’s my card?

After hours of exhaustive research  clicking on Wikipedia, I found this:

“The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”).[1][3] Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[11]

   So on this day of Western social programming around the commodification of romantic idealism, I admit I class myself as a ‘cynical romantic’. This means I have loved deeply and lost several times, been proposed to twice (were they really serious?), and had seven serious partners in the last 20 years. I love the idea of my perfect ‘soulmate’, but think I’ve definitely met more than one already… And while contentedly self-sufficient and happy, I do still sometimes long for my ‘perfect match’…

    Therefore, while some of you out there are celebrating with a partner (of any gender), or feeling sad/relieved/neutral that you do or don’t have one, I’d like to offer up this little story:

    Every year since I was 16, my Dad sent me a Valentine’s card. No matter where he was working in the world, or later on, where I was travelling, a red or pink envelope would turn up in my letterbox. The year I turned 34, and gave birth to my son at home in Australia, he didn’t send one. And got into so much trouble! He explained he thought it was a bit silly now; he was quietly pleased (I could tell) when I kicked up a fuss and insisted the ritual continue.

   I have had my favourite one stuck to the outside of my bedroom door in each house I’ve lived in, and it’s on there now:

Image    Inside the inscription reads: “Stay away from all the pricks”.

    Thanks Dad, I will. Sage advice for us all hey?

    I miss you Lawrence.

    Let’s celebrate Love today, not just between two people, but between us all   x

 

1st book. 1st page. 1st paragraph. Oh crap, I don’t know if I can do this.

  I re-arranged my work shifts for 2013 so that Friday became my ‘Stay at home and Write’ day. I have banned myself from making appointments or social engagements on Fridays, and sometimes I don’t even raise the garage roller door that leads to the outside world. I am committing myself to a ‘creative cave’; an essential discipline in my writing quest.

   But now, this journal-reading process is making me feel like Fridays equal a trip to the dentist. Just for the record, I didn’t go to one for 8 years. Only when food got stuck inside my aching back tooth every time I ate, and one day I realized there was an entire piece of long grain brown rice caught in there, did I go (six times that year).

   Sorry Dad, but opening your first journal really sucks. It’s like a dental appointment, but knowing you’re going to have a root canal through your heart.

  So here goes with the first paragraph:

Image

 “Still suspicious & mistrustful, how can that change, not sure it can, and if it can’t no point in carrying on, that’s not how I want to live- being suspicious and mistrustful…”

    Oh crap. I’m so scared. I have no idea how to handle this. It’s very confronting to know that I’m going to discover more sides to my Dad now that he’s dead than those I knew when he was living. I know there is a gift in that, and I hope I will feel grateful one day, but right now I’m just scared.

    Every post on this Blog has upset me, either before or during writing it. But today was the worst. I feel like I’ve cracked the top off a volcano, compelled by a sense of responsibility, creativity, adventure and love. What a damn stupid idea. I am a very small human being, and a volcano is a potentially very destructive mountain. What was I thinking??

    How do I deal with writing about these emotional experiences, on this world wide web? What about privacy issues? I know the people mentioned in these pages- do I need to ask their permission to read about their interactions with my Dad, as a courtesy? Not to mention my plans to write about them all. I know it’s 25 years ago, but still… Is there a statute of limitations on diaries?

 

Help, please. All advice or references gratefully received.

 

I opened The Damn Box and survived to tell the tale

After all this drama and procrastination, you’d think the process would be full of pomp and ceremony wouldn’t you? But no. Just me, on a regular Wednesday afternoon, crouched on my back lawn, blades of grass tickling my ankles as I lifted the lid. No fanfare, no blinding light, no sigh of relief. Just a mess of Styrofoam pieces protecting a man’s innermost thoughts.

Image

I sat quietly with the open box, warm sun on my neck, and let feelings rise up to announce themselves. First came Sadness of course, holding hands with Loss and Longing. Adult Anger marched in beside the little girl of Rage who wanted to tantrum and get her Daddy back. A slice of Defeat carried in the awareness that we will all too be gone one day, despite our mammoth carryings on. I sat and sat, feeling and watching the Emotion Chorus wind its way through me, while my cat wound his body round my legs.

Finally, it felt like time to move on. So I took a deep breath, and laid out the journals one by one.

Image

Stepping-stones? To where?

 Or tombstones perhaps:

Image

 But their symmetry made me smile: Dad had bought the same brand, year after year, once he’d started with that cheap blue one from his local supermarket in Paris.

It seems like a good point here to reveal that I too keep private journals, and have done so for about 10 years. It became a more committed part of my life after I read ‘The Artist’s Way’ in 2005, and now I can’t imagine life without them.

BUT, (and this is a huge, capitalized, boldly-coloured ‘BUT’), I write under the assumption that no one will ever read them– hell, I don’t even want to re-read half of the whiny, small, sad crap I get off my chest! I write whatever I want: death wishes against bad motorists/rampant ambition for world domination/lists of things to-do today/dream contents/career complaints/romantic fantasies/financial worries and money-making schemes/positive affirmations/creative drives/child-rearing struggles, and of course relationship highs and lows. It’s all there, over and over and over, in 200-page spiral-bound A4 notebooks.

 

And the one person in the entire world that I would most hate to read any of them? My own child.

 

Launching into this New Year

So it’s already Jan 14, how did that happen? I was in Hobart, Tasmania for New Year’s Eve, performing on the waterfront location of a Gourmet Food and Wine Festival, staying in a five star apartment with king-sized bed. Tough gig yes, but someone had to do it. Now I’m back home, and thinking about my Dad, remembering how he always liked to wish me Happy New Year, with a certain happy lilt in his voice. That’s one of the hardest things about losing someone you love I reckon: not hearing their voice again. Or smelling them. That particular smell we all have, undisguised by deodorants or cologne, cigarettes, food, or wine. My Dad used to smell of all of those things sometimes, with his tickly moustache and almost bald head, fringed by white hair. One of my favourite smells in this world is my son’s hair (closely followed by horse sweat and baking cake); he rang me at 12.01 in Hobart to wish me Happy New Year, bless him. If only Dad could have called me too.

The other thing I personally find most evocative about those we love is their handwriting. I remember watching Grandma’s getting more spidery as she aged, and can see that change now in my Mum’s. I’ve enjoyed watching my son’s scribble mature (he’s 12.5), and dearly remember my first real boyfriend’s incredibly neat lettering in my first real love letter. I myself have about 5 different scrawls, depending on demand. And this week, I am going to open The Damn Box, and look at Dad’s beautiful curly text…

It’s Xmas: time to unwrap myself for you

I’ve had a quiet Dec 25th, mainly by myself. A few phone calls and texts, plus a pancake breakfast with friends to start me off. Last night I read a few Blogs, wandered around WordPress, and realized I need to introduce myself a bit more!

So ‘Hello’. I’m Gabrielle. I live in Adelaide (for now- bit of a gypsy), and I’m 46. Do these facts matter? Perhaps.

My Dad died suddenly when I was 42 (it was definitely NOT the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, thanks Douglas), and it threw me utterly and completely. He’d just been visiting my son and I here, then Dad and I had flown to Sydney to see the rest of the Aussie branch of the family for the weekend. He’d insisted on getting up at 7am Monday morning to walk me to the bus stop for the airport shuttle as I returned to work in Adelaide. We’d walked sleepily through the still-partying Kings Cross nightclub area, not talking much, but feeling the oncoming sadness of saying goodbye getting closer. He lived in Canada, on Vancouver Island, and I hadn’t seen him for three years; that was the usual time between visits. We spoke every fortnight on the phone though, and I looked forward to our chats very much. He was the one who called everybody: our far-flung extended family members (USA/UK/Oz/NZ/Norway/France) plus old friends/neighbours/business colleagues. He loved to keep in touch, and keep us all in touch with each others’ news.

On this Monday, we’d walked quietly to the bus stop, and I’d been a bit grumpy I recall (not enough sleep + no breakfast yet = not my best mood). But as always, he’d given me a big, tight hug, and patted my back, and told me he wouldn’t leave it so long between visits next time. That made me feel good. And I hugged him back real tight, because I loved my Dad.

Four days later he was dead.

And this Blog is going to help me process the daunting task I face of dealing with his 20 years of personal journals that I received 3 weeks ago. My dear friend Shane can’t understand why I haven’t ripped The Box open? I admit it’s fear. Fear of triggering more deep sadness and loss, as well as fear of what I’m going to find out about my Dad.

Phew.

So that’s my layer off for the 25th, while the majority of my countrymen and women sit with over-stuffed bellies on plump couches, pecking and clucking at each other like fat hens.

I hope you all felt Love today, whether in realtime, or via blessed communication networks, and shared a smile.

It’s nice to meet you, gg x

Ladies and Gentlemen: introducing The Box

Contains over 20 years of personal journals. Yikes.

Contains over 20 years of personal journals. Yikes.

In a moment of enthusiasm and bravado, I admit I cut through the outer cover. But that was too much. It’s going back under the stairs for now, where it can hum at me as much as it likes- I ain’t openin’ it any further!

%d bloggers like this: