Sunday, April 6, 2008


I remember being surprised - often - at the age of my parents or how long they'd been married. My dad did the same job from the time we moved to that town until he retired. Every morning at 6.30 am he filled a flask with sweet black tea, made plum jam sandwiches and left for work by 7.00 am. Every morning before he left for work he'd come in and wake me and my sisters and tell us to get ready for school. He'd leave bowls for cereal on the kitchen table and sandwiches in smelly tupperware containers sitting beside them. Every afternoon at 4.05 pm he'd come home.

That sameness was comfortable and reassuring but I think it allowed me to ignore the passing of time. It was a shock when he retired and I realised he was 60. I hadn't expected that, even though I'd grown up and married and had a child, he would be getting older too.

I still have the small pine table we had in the kitchen as I was growing up. I look at that table and can almost see me and my sisters sitting underneath it. One would grab the jar of peanut paste, another the jar of vegemite and another the jar of honey. The fourth would get teaspoons and we'd sit under the table and scoop portions from each jar to lick off our spoons. I can remember the sound of 'ssh, Dad's coming' floating around the room, punctuated by the sound of Dad's slippers flopping on the floor, coming closer, stopping just inside the kitchen. We could see up to his knees. We always figured if we couldn't see Dad's face, he wouldn't be able to see us!

He never once let on that he knew we were there.


Jim Harris said...

Very nice.

To be the father of four girls, that would be a story too. I wonder what he thought about looking at the pine table with his kids playing underneath. My mother was one of five girls, and this makes me think of my grandfather. She grew up in the 1920s and 1930s out on a farm in Enid Mississippi - very rural and very poor.

It's too bad that blogs weren't invented in 300BC so we could read our ancester's thoughts.

Does Lois keep a blog? Would you like to read thoughts like this from her about you? Does she read this blog?


glediar said...

My father was gentle and kind, with an indulgent twinkle in his eye, but I never knew what he thought about a lot of things. While I always knew he loved us he wasn't always the most approachable man. I think raising four daughters pretty much single-handed (my mother lived away from home for a long time) in the 60s and 70s would have been difficult. It's difficult now, but back then there was no support either from family, friends or government.

We never had a lot of money but we never went without. I remember in primary school I worked out how to tell how rich people were. It's all in the shoes. I owned two pairs of shoes: school shoes and one other pair, for most of my childhood. During my later high school years another pair was added. Some kids I went to school with in primary school were always barefoot. Others had so many shoes they didn't all fit in the bottom of their wardrobe.

I have more than two pairs of shoes now but I'm very careful when I buy them. I buy quality - shoes I expect to last more than one season. And I buy for comfort - you never know when you'll have only one pair of shoes to wear day after day.

Lois works two jobs, studies, manages a share house, and maintains a relationship with her boyfriend. She barely has time to ring her mother twice a week and have dinner with her once a week, let alone keeping a blog! I think she has her priorities right - I should definitely come before a blog :). But to answer your question, yes, I'm always interested in how Lois sees me. We discuss it from time to time but it would be good to have it written down so I don't forget it all. It would also be good to see how her attitude changes over time.

Jim Harris said...

Did you see the movie "Dan in Real Life?" It's about a man raising his three daughters after his wife died. It was a good story about miscommunication between the generations.

My father never talked to me much either. He died when I was nineteen, and for most of the years after that I have speculated about how he thought about things.

Sometimes I find clues, like old photo albums, but for the most part he is a real mystery to me. He always worked two or three jobs, partly to take care of his family, partly to pay for his drinking, and partly not to be at home with my mother.

When I was a very little kid, starting around four or so I'd sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and he'd be out watching the all night movies and he'd let me stay up with him. We both love westerns.

I think women communicate better with their daughters. I think you and Lois have a much better relationship than I ever had with my parents. However, it would be cool if they had blogs back in the 1950s and 1960s and my father would have left some notes for me to read.


glediar said...

I would agree that generally women tend to communicate better. We're brought up to listen to feelings and discuss them - men aren't. I don't agree that that means women have better relationships with their daughters.

My relationship with my mother was built on her demands that I meet her criteria of what a good daughter should be. Anything deviating from that resulted in VERY loud denunciations - emotional attacks that impacted self esteem. Even now our relationship is fragile. While I'm no longer intimidated by her possible reactions to me (I know who I am and like myself as I am), I have to be careful what I discuss with her and how I approach it. I don't like conflict (I much prefer open and honest discussion with no fallout) and have long given up trying to get her to understand that just because I don't agree with her doesn't mean I devalue her as a person.

I've worked hard at building a relationship with Lois. I haven't always been the kind of mother I think she deserves but I think my honesty about that and my determined efforts to be better (as well as her unconditional acceptance of me as a person) have led to a very honest and extremely caring relationship - for both of us. I am aware and grateful every day that she is the person she is and that she's part of my life.

A lot of it is about acceptance and respect. We accept each other as individuals and we respect the other's right to be different. That's not an easy place to reach and it's not always easy to maintain. It takes effort, but it's worth it.

I'm not sure knowing what parents thought would make a lot of difference to who we are. Children respond to what they see, hear and live with - not intentions or thoughts. You carry a part of your father with you - the part he felt comfortable showing you and sharing with you. No one else holds exactly that same thing. I think that can tell you a lot about the person. The fact that he had a lot of difficulty dealing with his life impacts that but it doesn't change the life you lived.