Reading Dad's Journals

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

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.

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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.

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Stepping-stones? To where?

 Or tombstones perhaps:

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 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!

Four years of waiting

My father Lawrence died in October 2008, aged 73. He had kept meticulous daily diaries, plus more personal journals. Three weeks ago, a box finally arrived which contains the journals. I’m calling it The Box. His writing spans relationship breakups, childhoods, romances, world travel, family losses, and his most private thoughts and responses. I have to read them. But I’m scared shitless of what I’ll find. This Blog is going to follow and support me in this process, and document the journey. I hope to use it to feed the book I am working on about losing my Dad, and to exchange insights and comfort with others. I will also try to be funny. So I’ll be back, and look forward to your comments as we go…

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