Reading Dad's Journals

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

Tag: writing

Trigger me to write, why don’t you?

It started with a cracked brown jug. Under a grey sky, chirping birds, and a homework deadline. Or did it start with the flowers I put in the jug? I guess it’s hard to trace back the precise moment an emotion is created; slowly expanding down neural pathways, triggering related connections, sparking life into old circuits. Whatever the moment, it came into focus on Dad’s old jug, sitting on my timber shelf above the sink. I’d inherited it from his home in Canada, and this was only the second time I’d actually used it:

jugBlog

It can be an insignificant moment, putting flowers into a vase. Some people do it every day, like florists for example. Or nurses in hospitals. Just an ordinary act: trimming the stems, removing an errant leaf, perhaps adding a pinch of sugar to the water.

Or it can be profound. The first bunch of flowers received from a new beau. A souvenir wedding bouquet for the lucky bridesmaid who caught it. A spontaneous gathering of wildflowers by a visiting grandchild. These posies seem more important, more valuable. Worthy of a grander vase perhaps?

My flowers smelt beautiful; Singapore lilies, mixed with various green leaves. They looked perfect in Dad’s old jug, and it felt good to dust it off. Then I thought about how often he’d used it, taking it down from the top shelf behind the door in his long kitchen. I remembered filling it with water, and once, with homemade lemonade that was a bit too tart, but I was trying to cut down on sugar.

I remembered peeling off the bubble wrap that had delivered it to my door in Australia after he died, praying that it wasn’t chipped or broken. I’d double bubbled it for the drive from Adelaide, and had kept it in the car with me and the meowing cat all the way up North to our new home.

Now the jug sits on my table, full of flowers, and I’ve been filled with memories of Dad. I haven’t written this blog for ages- months and months; I’ve been wondering if its time had finished? But this entry feels easy, a nice gentle return to the blogosphere. A reminder that inspiration can come from anything, at any time, and all we have to do is be open and ready for it. Plus, we need a good soundtrack:

http://youtu.be/RzMHMWjVZc0

 

It’s good to be back! Now what’s the last thing that jogged your memory about a lost loved one?

 

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Red tape liposuction

I haven’t blogged for a couple of months because my life expanded so much that I myself was almost squeezed out. I felt like an A4 page whose margins were set too wide on the formatting palette. The causes of the spread? I was successful with my arts grant so had 6-weeks to make a new puppetry show, which included 2 short films, and I decided to move 2500kms interstate. I therefore had to pack up my home of 4 years, including all my worldly possessions like Grandma’s tea set, Dad’s 3 art deco vases, and various antique glass-framed pictures.

I had to give notice on the most stable job I’ve ever had (five years of teaching Pilates in the same gorgeous studio), including leaving many wonderful clients, colleagues, and the greatest boss. Most importantly, I had to say goodbye to the friends and connections I’d established during 6 years in Adelaide, which meant a certain amount of grieving and letting go.

To say it was a big couple of months is an understatement.Image

Something had to give. And I’m afraid it was you, my dear Blog readers. And Dad’s journal reading. Also my short story writing. As well as my work on my book of interviews. Heck, even my Morning Pages journal got dusty, or else only had pages torn from it at midnight to make lists of stuff I had to do so I could actually get to sleep.

Instead, I worked long and hard creating a new solo puppetry show called ‘Puzzle’. It only runs for 12 minutes, but is easily the hardest thing I’ve done. At one point I had a panic attack for a few hours, trying to step up to the challenge of incorporating critical feedback, and struggling dismally. Thank god for my three wise friends, who could listen to me rant and wail, making gentle suggestions through my distress, and pushing me to push myself. We all knew I’d get there in the end, but it was indeed like a labour and birth re-enactment.

Simultaneously, I culled over 6 packing boxes of papers into just one, burning and cleansing. That felt so good. Who needs bank statements from 2004? Or those mouldy university notes from 1995? Sure, the essays are good, and the topics interesting, but really… Am I ever going to ‘need’ them again? Well I hope not, because I’ve burnt them. I got on a bit of a roll actually, and became the Cull Queen. Old daily diaries, folders of magazine clippings, defunct product manuals, unimportant red tape archives- all gone. So liberating. Love letters from irrelevant exes, boring photos I was keeping from a sense of duty, even old show programs and flyers. I knew I was treading a fine line between being pragmatic, and being callous, but seeing as the only victim was me, I went ahead anyway. I’ve thus been ‘administratively liposuctioned’. I highly recommend it. It can come at the cost of some sleep deprivation, but provides the perfect opportunity if you’re avoiding working on a new project, or packing up your house. And yet you can trick yourself into believing that it’s kind of connected to those activities, so it’s OKAY TO CONTINUE LATE INTO THE NIGHT. Image

Now I’m in my new home, my new show merely awaits its promotional packaging, and I feel bureaucratically trim, taut, and terrific. I have survived the big pack, the big quit, the big farewell, the big drive, the big hello, the big unpack, and the big ‘starting all over again’. So here I am: I’m back, and I’m delighted xx

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.  🙂

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.

 

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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