Battle stars

June 15, 2017 at 8:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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If I seem a tad maudlin, it’s because I’m recording unpleasant vignettes with a view to putting them in their place via EMDR treatment, which starts next week.

The ultimate object of this game is to ‘normalise’ childhood sexual abuse memories. But let’s start with something a little lighter …

I was so taken with Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield that I bought the 12-inch single.

On hearing me play it in the lounge room, dad informed me that:

  1. Love was not a battlefield (indeed, far from it).
  2. The lyrics were therefore stupid.
  3. The song thus had no merit.

I was disappointed at this assessment.

I had enthusiastically embraced his music collection.

From Bach, Oompah and Zorba to Nina Mouskouri, the Red Army Choir and Scottish Pipes, I thought I might have been a colleague. But I was merely an acolyte.

On reflection, dad’s perspective made sense.

When mum’s first husband died, dad rescued her (and her two boys) from a 1960s social and fiscal scrapheap.

She was thus forever in his debt.

He used to boast that, despite their long marriage, they’d never had an argument.

This was also likely true, as Mum never dared to say boo to him.

It took her ten years of faint, nuanced suggestion to replace our frayed carpet.

And almost as long to add a humble Vergola to our crumbling terrace.

Not really battlefield stuff.

In contrast, Mum said she quite liked Love Action by The Human League.

This was handy, as I played it until the groove nearly went through to the other side.

After her death, dad announced that he’d, ‘Loved mum but never been in love with her’.

I excused myself to punch out one of the five slatted window panes which, for almost half a century, had sat high in our toilet wall.

It was difficult to eat after that.

 

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Dog gone

September 18, 2016 at 9:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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slide-001-young-paul-with-basil-dog-by-alder-tree

In harm’s way.

 

In remembering my dead father, one incident continues to trouble me daily.

I hope that writing it down will free me from it.

Note that I use the lower-case ‘dad’ to try to take the sting out.

Basil was our first (and last) dog.

dad described Basil as a ‘Heinz’ (i.e. a mongrel comprising 57 varieties).

I seem to recall Basil was a stray who simply hung around long enough to be admitted to our yard.

I have few memories of Basil other than this:

dad was proud of his garden and lawn.

He didn’t want holes in either.

Basil, being a dog, had other ideas.

But no idea of Dutch discipline.

When Basil dug his third hole, dad became suddenly apoplectic.

He strode to the tool shed and returned with a three-foot (90 cm) length of two-inch (52 mm) orange plastic pipe.

It was so thick, it barely bent.

dad then grabbed Basil by the ears, hoisted him aloft and beat the shit out of him.

I sat aghast near the Alder tree (pictured in the slide).

Basil’s screams still resound, half a century on.

The scene, dark against the summer sun, burnt into my brain.

I felt terror, then.

As did Basil.

I believe he left us soon after.

Hopefully of his own volition.

And under his own steam.

Henceforth, dad had only to look at me to strike fear and avert wrongdoing.

Mum summed up his behaviour several times over the decades as,

‘He gets wild sometimes … ‘

Being passive aggressive myself, I know about bottling things till they explode.

But I used to vent on ‘inanimates’.

Or myself.

And I’ve sought a lot of help.

Sometimes, I find myself praying to no-one in particular

that mum’s blood flows stronger

and I am not

my father’s

son.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire and Imagine Day.

 

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Footy legend

May 2, 2016 at 7:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Footy002

That empty feeling.

In 1971, when I was six, my parents went on holiday to Fiji.

Apparently, our church had a network of families that looked after each other’s children (I assume, in time of crisis).

I was thus deposited for two weeks, in a strange house, with a clan I’d never met.

They were nice enough people, but I wasn’t a happy camper.

It was an Australian Rules Football family.

The boys were early teens – a chronic chasm between us.

They were interested in nothing but footy.

My research suggests they went on to do very large things in the code.

The intense irony, however, is that my father despised footy.

Each time a team took the field, he loudly articulated his fervent wish that all players would sustain excruciating injuries and die.

I’d had years of this indoctrination.

Now, on my dad’s whim, I was accompanying future AFL premier players to endless practice sessions on cold, windswept ovals.

As I’d been bookish from the start, this was not a great match.

Each morning, Mrs Footy would impress on me her cure-all: a large mug of boiling water.

Meanwhile, Radio 3XY played Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool over and over – fixing this tale in time.

I was so unhappy, I couldn’t sleep.

I stood in the hall, which featured garish green arboreal wallpaper.

I wept for my absent parents, home, possessions and bed.

After some time, Mrs Footy heard me and rose to see what was wrong.

We were not confidantes.

And my behaviour was as un-footy as one could get.

So despite her efforts, I remained upset in the gloom.

The fortnight dragged. The house, to my best recollection, was book free.

Fourteen hot waters and 56 Eagle Rocks later, my parents collected me.

On arriving home, my mother gave me a Fiji T-shirt and a horse of woven straw.

She also gave me a book.

Even better, it was part of the Enid Blyton series I’d been avidly collecting.

The Folk of the Faraway Tree.

I was stunned. Books were BIG gifts, reserved for very special occasions.

Why then, already in receipt of Pacific largesse, would I also be given a book?

It turned out that my dear mother, foreseeing a poor degree of fit with the host family, had given Mrs Footy not one book, but two – replete with maternal messages of love and support.

These were intended to comfort me at trying times – such as crying at night, among strangers, in a distant, forest-themed scene.

Mrs Footy, in the immense excitement of footy, hot water and Eagle Rock, had forgotten all about these precious (possibly unfamiliar) items until my parents returned.

I got the second book, Adventures of the Wishing-Chair, on my next very special occasion.

(My crisis over, Mum reverted to her customary thrift.)

The Footy family’s name echoes in our media to this day.

And while I’m not completely sure that’s who I stayed with,

the stats back me up.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire and Imagine Day.

Parkinson’s parent – a personal guide

April 30, 2016 at 11:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Bearing down.

Bearing down.

I’ve been told it may help clear my mind to write this out.

And that it may even help other people with Parkinson’s – as well as their carers.

While I find this hard to imagine, the suggestion comes from a reliable source.

You, of course, will know in a trice if it’s of interest.

Wim Report 13/07/11

Note: This report has been produced at speed and under work deadline pressure. Please forgive any typos.

Legend

Dr P = New GP.

Dr S = Old GP.

Dr G = Cardiologist.

W = Wim (Patient. But not very.)

P = Paul (Son & primary carer.)

BPM = Blood pressure monitor.

Parkinson’s

P and W asked Dr P for more ‘scientific’ evidence of Parkinson’s (e.g. MRI scan).

Dr P said that’s not how you diagnose it.

He said that, from his tests and W’s symptoms, he was 90% certain of his diagnosis.

W then accepted the diagnosis.

Dr P then offered to start treatment (i.e. medication) to reduce W’s symptoms (e.g. shuffling, falls).

W said he’d rather wait and see.

P asked W if he was still knocking over his beer glass most nights.

W said he wasn’t and that that wasn’t a symptom of Parkinson’s – merely a coincidence.

Dr P suggested another appointment in a fortnight.

W didn’t commit, as he’s going off Dr P and doesn’t think he provides value for money.

P noted that at $44 for half an hour (after rebate) Dr P isn’t all that expensive. Though he is certainly dearer than Dr S, who is free (and arguably useless).

Hypertension

W said he’d faithfully followed Dr P’s medication instructions for the last three weeks.

Though W’s slow heart rate played merry hell with Dr P’s BPM, he managed to derive two readings of 200/70 and 190/70. Both way too high.

All parties were very disappointed.

P said this could be due to W’s anxiety over getting the appointment time wrong.

Dr P didn’t reply.

Dr P modified W’s medication regime and told him to start taking his blood pressure four times a day.

P noted that last time W did that, he got into a positive feedback loop and freaked out.

P also noted that both of W’s BPMs were unable to cope with W’s slow heart rate.

P asked Dr P if he could recommend a high-quality BPM that could handle the slow heart rate.

Dr P could not.

P got the impression W will not be taking his blood pressure four times a day. Nor can P see the merit of this.

Prof Rob Whitbourn’s Magical Operation

P and W asked Dr P for a referral to St Vincent’s for the procedure flagged by a family member.

Dr P said it wasn’t that simple.

The procedure, called a sympathectomy, can only be done if a battery of tests indicates W is a suitable candidate.

It’s possible these tests have already been done by Dr G. If they have, and they point to W being a viable candidate, much time and effort will be saved.

P asked if the extensive medical history W delivered to Dr P three weeks ago might mention these tests.

Dr P gave the impression he still hadn’t read W’s history (a large folder of papers).

P asked Dr P if he could glance at the file in case what W needs is in there.

Dr P said he would do so at the next appointment (two weeks hence).

W and P were not impressed by this and decided to cut to the chase by going to the source (i.e. Dr G).

To find out if these tests have been done, P and W will see Dr G on 14/07/11.

With luck, Dr G will refer W for a sympathectomy.

Dr P noted that one of W’s medications is supposed to emulate the effects of a sympathectomy. Dr P suggested that if this pill isn’t working, the operation may not either.

P explained that W is heartily sick of his hypertension symptoms and is extremely keen to make something significant happen very soon.

Dr P said that one thing W could do immediately to reduce his hypertension is to avoid salt completely.

W said he was already doing this.

P noted that while W is indeed avoiding salt from a shaker, he is surrounded by it at home – in his food.

On returning to W’s home, P determined that W, unable to buy unsalted nuts, had bought salted nuts.

P then showed W the high salt content of the many packaged foods he eats (e.g. pasties, dim sims). W did not agree these amounts were high.

P reiterated his offer to deliver fresh, home-made meals to replace W’s packaged food diet.

W did not respond.

Home Assessment

W got a phone message from Peter James Rehab. When W called, however, he was told his contact had gone on leave for 18 days.

As W’s contact has no back-up, there is no Plan B. We must wait.

All in all, an extremely frustrating day.

Fingers crossed for better results tomorrow.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by MsSarahKelly.


If you found this post interesting or useful, you may wish to:

Your smallest kindness will keep me going strong. With many thanks, Paul.


Dead letter

July 3, 2015 at 5:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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The folk at Births Deaths and Marriages are thoughtful.

When their middle letter hits your box, there’s not much to alarm you – save the unfamiliar address and unusual envelope thickness.

When you open it, you find a second envelope.

It says in big red letters that it contains a death certificate.

And that you might like to have someone with you when you open it.

When you gird yourself to slit this envelope, there’s another gentle touch.

The certificate is folded shut.

And when you unfold that, you see the back page first – which contains only your address and a discreet reference number.

With BD&M having done all they can, the final truth now lies in your hands.

Only you can turn the page.

Regret a garbo

July 2, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Dad and I were chatting on his terrace.

Having put a smashed concrete planter in his wheelie bin, he worried the ‘garbo’ wouldn’t take it.

As heavy vehicles approached, he wondered if each were the garbo.

I said that in the good old days, the garbo always came at the same time every week, and that today’s outsourced contractors were all over the joint.

Some time later, a deep roar murdered all other sound.

‘That’s the garbo’, said dad.

A leviathan hove into view, its dwarfed driver leaning out to peer at dad’s bin.

With a shriek, a mechanical claw swooped, plucked and tipped the bin into the bowels of the beast.

The speed and force were so great, I expected the bin to vault the road and slay a knot of schoolchildren opposite.

‘Well, dad’, I said. ‘You needn’t worry about bunging that bloke’s back with your blocks!’

Dad replied that in the good old days, there were three men to each truck: runner, tipper and driver.

I added that when I was a child, our garbos recognised me and were friendly.

At xmas, Mum left cash and a thank-you note for them.

In our letterbox.

Overnight!

‘That was before the drugs came’, said dad.

And though Doncaster wasn’t a noted 60s hotspot, I knew what he meant.

Driving home, I listed conditions that would have to exist for the good old days to return:

  • Public ownership of sanitation services.
  • Job satisfaction.
  • Job security.
  • Reduced (or no) key performance indicators.
  • Trust.
  • A sense of community.
  • Egalitarianism.

I seem to recall these used to exist in our society.

Yet time can colour our thoughts.

I also remember that dogs, kids, rust and wind wrought havoc with old tin bins.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Dad’s eulogy

May 7, 2015 at 7:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments
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Thank you all so much for coming.

Fonnie and I are deeply grateful for your kindness and support.

Dad’s life had a pretty rough start.

And a pretty awful final phase.

But, by all accounts, his last moment was one of peace.

I think he’d thank God for that.

In between dad’s beginning and end, he packed a whole lot into life.

And that may be his greatest legacy.

To turn nothing into something.

And to grab life with both hands.

The big parties on King Island.

The endless summers in Doncaster.

The myriad world adventures on land, air and sea.

Friends by the dozen.

Books by the hundred.

Beers by the thousand.

Culture by the tonne.

Wall-to-wall music, singing, laughing, playing and dancing.

What a life!

Australia was kind to dad – as if to make up for the past.

An interesting and meaningful career.

And when that petered out, an early retirement.

With good health, great company and funds to enjoy life on his own terms for decades.

Who could ask for more?

This was no accident.

Mum and dad worked, scrimped, suffered and saved for many lean years.

But it all paid off.

Those of you familiar with my emails will know that dad drove me crazy in the ‘micro’ (day-to-day) stuff.

Thank you for enduring my rants and raves over the last 18 difficult months.

But in the ‘macro’ (meaningful) stuff dad was different.

When the chips were down, he was around.

Dad played Scrabble for keeps.

He gave me books to read that were just beyond my reach.

He rammed a rigorous work ethic into me that serves to this day.

So I’m very grateful.

I hope dad is in heaven, for his sake.

As a child, I thought he was flawless and immortal.

When he went to confession, I asked him why – given he was ‘perfect’.

He replied that he was ‘far from perfect’.

As the years passed, I saw him trying to work on his game.

He taught me critical thinking, and to be objective and scientific about things.

The more I learnt, the more my faith fell apart.

I asked how he, a man of science, could reconcile the gaping chasms of logic our religion contained.

He said that ‘he prayed’.

‘Prayed for what?’ I pursued.

‘I pray, to have the faith, to believe.’

Unlike me, dad kept this up to the end.

So I figure that, if God were listening, he’d have to be impressed.

Impressed by a man who, despite being torn between seen and unseen all his life, kept striving to meet his Maker. Perhaps halfway.

I therefore think (logically) that dad may be eligible for his ‘reward’.

And if you have a religious inclination, you may wish to join my hopes with your prayers.

That dad is finally.

Truly.

Home.

My father’s war

April 25, 2015 at 8:38 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments
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Not my dad. See Chris' comment below.

Not my dad. See Chris’ comment below.

In 1939, my dad was a kid in The Netherlands, just a few clicks west of the German border.

World War II had a profound effect on his  life – and mine.

Unlike many combatants, dad related his war stories often.

Probably better out than in.

At the start, dad chatted to Axis soldiers invading.

At the end, his house hosted Allied soldiers liberating.

One of them accidentally fired his rifle through an upstairs bed containing three of my young (lucky) uncles.

In between, dad saw a Lancaster bomber flying low – ablaze from nose to tail.

A Messerschmidt fighter out of fuel – gliding, gliding, gliding – only to crash in a local quarry.

During an air raid, a German solider snatched dad to the safety of a slit trench.

A shrapnel fragment sliced the head off a neighbour’s prize rooster.

Ravenous from rationing, dad once approached a group of soldiers boiling something in a cauldron.

On their invitation, he peered in … to see a cow’s head leering up at him.

Such stories, and more.

At war’s end, dad’s country was shattered; his prospects very poor.

He wanted to escape to Canada, but Australia was offered instead.

He arrived, built a new life, and helped give me mine.

Boat people.

Our house was full of books about Hitler and the war.

Dad seemed obsessed with the subject, and it rubbed off on me.

I once asked why he read and watched so many things about such a dreadful time.

He said he was still trying to understand how and why it all happened.

Now I’ve read every book and watched every film and documentary too.

And I don’t get it either.

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