As my parents’ only child I often attempt to explain my relationship with Dad by saying I only have one team to barrack for. Whatever he does good or bad, he’s all I’ve got left in the way of parents. This gets him away with a lot. Dad can be infuriating & amusing, randomly & concurrently. The longer you’ve known him helps, sometimes, understand him but not necessarily. Often you are just perplexed. He doesn’t operate on a past, present, future basis. It’s all thrown in a time-sack and he randomly selects or invents whatever fact or memory he requires for the occasion. Grasping many of his quirky-come-peculiar conversations & behaviours requires some familiarity. I’ve seen acquaintances look at him quizzically, refocus, bravely nod and continue listening, which is really all that is required. As the year approaches its close, a few anecdotes from 2011 can be universally appreciated.
It started with the first dinner during his holiday at our house in January, where we’d gone to some trouble with a nice fresh seafood meal, commenced with a version of Dad’s customary pre-dinner grace of “I suppose I’d better eat some of this shit”.
In July, a verbal request to me regarding his “final wishes” after his almost fatal heart attack in 2010 and my advice to him to also convey those wishes to others, culminated in the agonising occasion of Dad announcing to an extended family gathering, apropos of nothing, his intention to be cremated and buried with my Mum, forty years dead, in complete disregard of his wife of 30 years and 3 other children – all present except one.
In November, the day after my birthday, I gripped the edge of my work desk to stop myself falling to the floor while chatting with Dad on the phone in my lunch break, in stitches & tears while he conveyed to me a late birthday gift of the story of his efforts to evict the rat which had invaded my stepmother’s car in search of food. Initially he baited a rat trap with raisins and set it inside the car. When the rat took the raisins but the trap didn’t take the rat he consulted with mechanically minded colleagues and adopted the suggestion of connecting a hose to the exhaust & feeding it into the car interior [I’m having trouble typing this as I’m still laughing…] to conduct an assisted rat suicide. That not working, he backed their camper van up and connected the hose to its far more potent diesel fume emitting exhaust. That didn’t work either. Apparently you can call the insurance company and make a claim for vehicular rat infestation. Who knew?
In December, somehow inspired by his brother’s Movember facial hair growth Dad took the trouble to suggest to him at a special family dinner at a fancy restaurant that he would have been better off getting a transplant from his nether regions to his [bald] head. At the same dinner he visibly and audibly couldn’t comprehend the non-availability of oysters kilpatrick from the kitchen when clearly it wasn’t much of a stretch from the natural oysters being offered on the menu. At least he didn’t start off with his version of grace.
So, that’s the highlights this year. We’re staying the night and having dinner with him later this week pre-Christmas. Must go and pack the wine.
Postscript: Why would I expect there not to be a postscript? To put his finishing touch on the year, Dad sick as a dog with a flu and having had a few beers, didn’t manage to negotiate the thank-God-plastic-not-quite-full wine glasses on the dinner table, rearranged them onto the floor and then only slightly embarrassed & contrite sat at the end of the now damp & sticky dinner table with my sister’s 8 year old stepson and in solidarity protested any sort of vegetable eating just because he could.
Back in the sixties as a pre-schooler my Saturday mornings were spent in the company of my mother doing her domestic duties. Dad worked five and half days a week. We lived in a country town. As was usual, Mum was a housewife. She and I had seven days a week but those Saturday mornings had a particular ambiance, and soundtrack: AM radio – sixties music and wedding calls. That period is a tactile memory. Many Saturdays I call it up. My partners have generally been six day week workers. I’ve always worked five days so my Saturday mornings are gold, awakening to a desk free day. In the past I channelled what is now termed my “Domestic Goddess”, whipped through housework, followed by a grocery shop and cooking. Now and then I still do. However, a move to a smaller apartment where housework is covered off day-to-day, a thankful lessening of my housekeeping standards, and online shopping unfettered my schedule. I now listen to FM or digital radio from my inner-city kitchen via internet streaming. Even free to choose my activities, old habits die hard. I usually put on a load of washing: the thrum of the machine resonates back to days when it was a reassuring backdrop. I burn incense, drink coffee, eat toast in bed, write, read a book or whatever is on the ‘net, take recreational excursions to shops or markets. On Saturday mornings it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do or where I am: somewhere I’m still four years old in our little house on Scott St, sliding on Handy Andy mopped floors, smelling Mr Sheen polished furniture and chocolate cake baking. Perhaps the clearest memory I have of my mother. Thanks Mum for the gift of Saturday mornings.
I’ve been reading my stars compulsively. Sure they were speaking to me. The winds of change breezed around my shoulders. I was waiting for things to happen that didn’t happen and then did happen but not the way I wanted them to. The horoscope fairytales led me on flights of fancy, believing my dreams would be fulfilled by an eclipse in Sagittarius. It was my own sign, fiery and beholden to the truth, not some other untrustworthy watery or airy sign. It wouldn’t let me down. It let me down. I felt like I did when one of my early boyfriends abandoned me for a night at the greyhound races. After 2 days I peeked again at the Sagi stars, reasoning it’s not the same for everyone, maybe it wasn’t my time yet. The horoscopes concurred with another eclipse signalling life transformation. I watched that eclipse from the balcony of the hotel room we were staying in on the coast. The path of moonlight glimmered a promise across the bay. The eclipse passed and other than the artifical hiatus of a night in an unexpected suite upgrade at a resort hotel, the life we were hoping to escape continues its groundhog day-like existence. I tried to stay away from the horoscope pages. But it’s so easy, enlightenment is so close, just a couple of clicks and the promises appear, teasing me like a stripper on stage in a dim, sticky night club. Today I read “You need to make your wishes known to the Universe”. For God’s sake, the Universe must be bloody deaf, or has me on hold with all the other sad Sagi’s in the queue waiting to voice our humdrum petitions. So here it is in writing… “Dear Universe, Get. Me. Out. Of. Here. Best Regards, EllaDee”.
Nanna, you’ll be impressed I hope, that you were responsible for leading me to the avenue via which I could start a blog, something I’ve been long thinking of. Your page http://nancyhuntart.wordpress.com/ prompted me to create my own. And many times you asked me why I wasn’t writing when I said I wanted to. Among the reasons why I don’t write are: absolutely no motivation and headspace before, during or after work; tired; bored; unmotivated; unsociable; nothing to write about; not seeing what there is to write about; I’m reading something; busy with the rest of my life; need to cook, clean, eat, shop, sleep… This is not the exhaustive list and none of the reasons are good ones. So, true to say I’m not a writer but I like to write, and enjoy myself when I do. Right now, and for the last quite a few months, things have been a little slow for me at work, so to keep myself sane and amused I have started writing… again.