Did you do anything to commemorate your 40th birthday? I marked my 40th with few small acts of rebellion. You see at 18, I was married with a daughter, at 23 I had 2 daughters and by 30, three daughters….much too busy to rebel back then. So on my 40th birthday I rebelled with a divorce, a tattoo and a nose piercing, … and when I looked in the mirror at the nose stud I knew I was thumbing my nose at the men in my life, an ex-husband and a father who couldn’t love me... (they both really disliked tattoos but they especially hated nose piercings)
My ex-husband said he loved me, he seemed to love beer and pubs a hell of lot more than me. And my father? Well, perhaps he was a product of his generation... but not the father of my dreams. I longed for a father that would play games. A father that would hug and kiss me, a father who would tell me stories and say “I love you, Lindy”. A father who just wanted to spend time with me.
But dad was not a father to play tickles or ball, dad was not a father to chat or talk, or kiss and hug and hangout. He was a good man, he provided for his family, he was of sober habits except on Anzac day, when perhaps he remembered things he wanted to forget. Yes, dad was good man, but he just didn’t have much of a relationship with children. Mum reasoned that dad had never actually been a child himself. An illness had robbed him of his childhood, while his brother was playing sport, dad was cloistered at home. Mum reckoned dad grew straight from toddler to adult with all haste and seriousness.
Not Much of a Talker
Dad was great with babies and quite good with toddlers but after that? He just didn’t know how to play or talk with children. Our conversations were limited to he “good evening Lindy” when he came home from work and “good night Lindy” when I went to bed. Dad never came to watch me play softball or perform in plays, and Dad didn’t come on family holidays because he didn’t like the beach, surf, camping and I thought, perhaps he just didn’t like me.
I only remember two conversations, one about tomatoes, and one when I was 39 and I told dad I was getting a divorce… “good" he said, "I never liked the bastard anyway”.
Dad had a massive stroke a few years later, and the whole family, my mum 2 sisters and brother our kids spent the next 4 days in the hospital with him. Luckily for dad he was unconscious because he would have hated the noise. And dad’s funeral was huge, they had to rig up a video link to the church hall because the church was over flowing. So many people I didn't know stood up and told wonderful stories about my father and I learnt more about him in that hour than my whole of life. it seemed everyone knew him, but me.
Dad, On a Beach?
I was a little surprised when, one day when a clairvoyant told me my father wanted to talk to me, I was a little skeptical, dad talk to me? And then she said, dad suggested I should imagine myself on a beach, beside a campfire and he would come and talk to me. My dad, on a beach, a campfire, talking with me? I knew the woman was a charlatan because she definitely wasn’t channeling my father
Still, the thought of having a heart to heart with dad was tempting….so that night, I lay in bed I breathing deeply and allowed my thoughts to drift down to the beach in front of the campfire. And the fire fanned my memories.
I was about 4 or 5, very young. I had been sick in bed for a couple of days. I don’t remember what I had, but I was in mum and dad’s bed during the day, so it must have been a real illness because mum didn’t let you in their bed if she thought you were malingering. Dad came home that night and with his usual “Good evening, Lindy” but then he sat on the bed and gave me a small parcel. Inside was a small blue plastic bambi standing on a pedestal. Elastic held the jointed dear together and dad showed me how to press the bottom of the pedestal to make bambi nod, bow and even dance. I loved it
I woke the next morning to the precious memory of dad’s gift. When I looked in the bathroom mirror I saw that my nose stud was half out of my nose, up till then, not one stud had ever fallen out. They are so tiny that if it falls out they are impossible to find. I poked it back in without thought, but all day I felt the warm glow of dad’s gift.
The second night, I drifted to the beach to meet my father. Again my memories were ignited by the campfire, this time my memories were of food. We were catching the train, mum my sisters brother and I, into Sydney to meet dad for dinner at the Cahil’s restaurant at the base of the Centrepoint Tower… … it was a family restaurant that had something for everyone, a carvery, Chinese, seafood and my favourite, Chicken in a Basket. There was something very exotic when i was eight, about eating fried chicken and chips out of a basket instead of a plate.
After dinner we stopped at Daryl Lee’s sweet shop and dad bought us each a small jar of boiled lollies, Bo Peeps which we ate on the way home. I gave dad my black aniseed ones to eat because I didn’t like those. Then the memories flowed to I Christmas. Dad made the Christmas pudding and hid sixpences in them and though I hated Christmas pudding, dad always made sure a sixpence or two found its way to me.
I woke feeling nourished by my memories. When I went to the bathroom and again I noticed my nose stud was hanging out. “Funny” I thought, that’s two days in a row, then I pushed it back in and continued my day, filling full with memories.
The third night I again breathed myself onto the beach in front of the campfire, as the embers glowed, the memories flowed. I was 12 or 13 and I at beside dad in church for the Sunday service, at the keyboard of the grand pipe organ. As dad played the organ, the choir and the congregation sang, and my heart soared for he played the hymn, the Cat Stevens version of Morning has Broken. He must have known it was my favourite.
When morning broke, I woke with the song on my lips and the warmth of dad’s music in my heart. Then looking in the bathroom mirror I saw my nose stud was gone. I checked my bed, not there, I looked on the floor, nowhere to be seen. I jumped in the shower thinking about the nose stud and what it represented, a thumbing of the nose against the men who could not love me, and I wondered if dad, had somehow put an ghostly finger up my nose and pushed it out, to make some sort of point? In the shower I asked “So dad, is that everything you wanted to say, are we good now?”
The Language of Love
As I walked into my shag piled bedroom, one beam of light shone through the window lighting up a few dancing motes of dust and that one beam of light fell on the tiniest silver sliver in that deep forest of shag pile… my nose stud and I finally understood. Dad loved me. My father didn’t speak my language of love with the words & stories I longed to hear, or the hugs and kisses I desired, or the games I wanted to play but his love had always been there; expressed simply and quietly with a small blue bambi, a few sixpences and a Cat Stevens’ song.