Monday, December 21, 2009

What Christmas means to me..............

Christmas, for as long as I can remember, was Dad in a silly hat, as opposed to his usual wide brim, under the tree, handing out the presents one at a time, then retreating out the back for a nice cold beer.

It is 5 years since he passed away, from a heart attack brought on by undiagnosed pneumonia, and I still haven't found anything to ease the hurt of Christmas without Dad.

So, I am putting my Tribute to Dad here, as my Christmas post.

He lived his whole life for his family, worked a job he hated, lived in a place he despised, and did all those things so that we would have a better life. Never complained, never let on that he was miserable. He wanted the best he could provide for us, right up til the end.

He wasn't perfect, far from it, he was a stubborn bugger (he was 63 when he died) and there was no way but his way, and if you did it any other way it was going to break down. He had some funny idea at times about who should do what (he and mum conflicted a lot over that one when we lived down South). But he was there when we needed him, he loved us regardless of our flaws and mistakes, and he endured tremendous heartache to achieve that.

He showed me the importance of always being true to yourself. The last time I saw him alive, was 8 days before he died. He was at the local supermarket, it was bucketing down with rain, a Friday night. He was in line at the checkout, and I walked in. Me, not thinking, hollered 'That's my Dad' and bounced across the supermarket to where he was. The sight of his 34 year old daughter acting like an overexcited 5 year old on seeing him, with no thought for how other people might view my behaviour, told him that I loved him. And his reaction told me he felt the same. I was just being me, and he loved me for it.

He showed me the importance of just being. We could sit for hours, not say a word, but have a wonderful companionship.

He taught me the importance of being able to tell a good story. Couldn't tell a joke to save his life (neither can I) but storytelling, now there was an art worth preserving.

He inspires me in that he made me realise how important it is to give your children a solid base, one they will have as long as you draw breath, and then beyond. Being able to offer support, without bias or judgement is very important, and makes for a wonderful relationship, if you can achieve it.

He showed me that loving someone, faults and all, can make them better people, even if you aren't around to see it. He loved my mother with all his heart, and she is a difficult woman, but since he has been gone, she has changed, more to what he was. His influence on her has reached it's strongest point, after he has left her.

He made me realise that you can only live according to someone else's needs for so long, at some point, you need to put yourself back into the #1 position. He died a happy man in that he knew his children would be OK, in that we are all capable of surviving whatever life may throw at us, but broken because he was living a life that didn't make him happy. He hated living here, but did it because it was what was needed for us, and Mum, to grow.

I loved my father immensely, miss him every day, and he will always be a huge influence on me, and how I deal with the world, and everyone in it.

There is no 'moral meaning' to this post - but please, if you take anything away from it, let it be that it is important to let those we love know how we feel, be it good, bad or indifferent. And always tell them you love them, be it in words or actions. It can all be over so fast......

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cultural distances. Or not.

I have mentioned on here before that my husband has no hope of ever understanding me in terms of the background I grew up against. He is from a blue-collar Melbournian family, and I am from grey-collar Southern Tasmanian stock. If his family were lower middle class, mine were lower-middle lower class.

He spent his time with Greeks and Italians, a violent and abusive father, and a loving but helpless mother. Family heritage was not spoken of, and the only extended family he saw was when his grandmother would drag him and his sisters to see dying old people in hospitals. The family violence was ignored, and hidden - he grew up in an era where such things didn't happen, not in nice lower middle class families anyway.

I spent my time with my cousins. For the most part we were shunned by the local community, in the small town where we lived. Extended family was part of my day-to-day life. Our heritage, while not openly discussed (except by Nanna, who was To the Manor Born, and don't you forget it), was accepted as a fact of life.

Familial violence/abuse, while it never happened under our roof (gambling and alcoholism on the other hand, did) were, while not an accepted part of the culture, never far from the surface, and acknowledged as such. If a man beat or otherwise abused his wife/kids, stern words were had by his elders (often punctuated by other means) - so long as he was of a culture other than Anglo. Otherwise, it was swept under the carpet, just as it was in The Mister's world.

The movie Once Were Warriors opens up a lot of memories for us both. My family weren't like the Heke's, but we knew a lot who were, even some family members. We saw what happened, and could do nothing to change it - it was what it was. The violence and abuse of the wife and children echoes what The Mister lived through.

The similarities of our backgrounds actually drive us further apart, rather than draw us closer together. Because he experienced the physical side of the violence and abuse, he feels that he had it far worse than I did. And, in the regard of the things that were done to him, he is right. I am in no way attempting to diminish the horror of what his father did to him. The man was a sick, twisted monster, and deserves to rot in Hell for what he did.

On the other hand, The Mister has never known the feeling of coming home from school, wondering if you will be able to eat tonight, or has all the money for food gone on horses and grog? Or gone to school with holes in the soles of his shoes, because another pair is too expensive, and all the 2nd hand ones are too big/too small. Or if you will have a house next week, after the man from the bank has been around and yelled at your mother that if the mortgage isn't paid, you will be out on the street.

The same, yet different. It's all a matter of perception.