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Sunday, 6 September 2015

About my father

This is one of the family photos mum had framed back on the Coast when we were living there, and somehow this one ended up in mum's room in the nursing home. From memory - and there were so many things happening at the time, I can't be perfectly sure - it was me who chose which photos were to go in her new room in the nursing home. This is a photo of dad.

The photo was taken just after he broke his neck, when he was still just 16 years old. He has written about that event and the impact it had on his life, in his memoir, which (again, from memory) he finished in around the year 2002. I published the memoir on my personal website. It ran to about 150 A4 pages in Microsoft Word and I converted the whole thing into HTML after proofing it. Grammar wasn't dad's strong suit. He made up for his poor spelling when writing the memoir by having my mother proof each page after he had written it. He started writing the memoir after retiring from his employer and I guess it took him the best part of a decade to complete. So there they were, I imagine, the two of them, roaming around the world. And while mum cooked and cleaned and shopped for groceries dad was writing his memoir and researching the family tree. He was not a man to remain idle. I believe he preferred Toshiba laptops.

When I was a child he was always there and even after I left home when I was 18 he was always there. It would not be accurate to say I have - or ever had - an unalloyed fondness for the man. It's possible that my general reluctance in the gift-giving department was because of my unwillingness to give him presents  - those concrete tokens of affection - for all those years. I gave him some beauties, but I think it was usually with reluctance that I did so. So now I never give presents, and rarely even cards.

Dad was strict and I was a dreamer. I was also scrupulously obedient, and always eager to do anything possible in order to maintain harmony within the family, which was not always easy because my brother tended not infrequently to get into trouble with our parents. So when the opportunity came for me to leave home I took it eagerly. Apart from a brief lapse in my final year as an undergraduate I never went back until he was no longer living in the home. I finally returned - to Queensland, to look after my mother - in 2009, but even then it was on condition that I have my own apartment up there to live in.

When I think of how it was sometimes galling to give gifts to dad, and how often I felt like a hypocrite when I did so - again, to maintain peace it was sometimes necessary to lie in this way - I am reminded of how scrupulously I have attended to my duties as my mother's carer. When we lived on the Coast I would go to her apartment each evening and cook dinner, before walking home to my own place and my own pursuits (such as writing this blog). There is something different in the way my current duties find no obstacle in the performance, compared to the giving of paternal gifts back in the day when I was a young lad.

Of course dad had his good points. He always provided for the family exceptionally well, and for this I have always felt gratitude. There were never any problems with gambling or drinking or family violence. He loved a quiet house and, like him, I love the same thing. Now that my son is living with me here - he flies back to Japan tonight, in fact - I can see similarities endowed via genes that probably also belonged to my paternal grandfather. That sometimes odd predilection to silence. Those short responses. An unwillingness to express emotion. So that's what I imagine anyway. I imagine four generations of men with similar characteristics. And I hope that my son will in actual fact be well-disposed toward me. I prefer to have honest respect than dutiful gifts.

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