Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dad.... the man I hardly knew...

This is one of the very, very few photos I have of just Dad & I (in fact, I believe there are only 2 photos).

Dad has been gone for over nine years now & I am finding myself in the last couple of months really missing him and I guess really wanting to connect with him.

Dad was never really a strong presence in my life growing up - he was always there but not in a nurturing way - I believe Dad wanted to nurture but just didn't know how. He went to work every day. He came home every night. He did the grocery shopping every Saturday morning. He always mowed the lawns. This is how I remember my Dad growing up.

I know Dad must have tried to be a good father because I see small fragments of this in my childhood - from bringing Kit Kats home for my sisters and I one night (yep, such a small thing, yet rare so this really sticks in my mind) to Dad taking me to the movies. I thought we would be seeing a Disney film or something for kids - um, no - it was 'Midway' a WW2 film... I can seriously laugh about it now.

I always remember Dad listening to Jazz music on the weekends and even he had his own 'mix tapes' for the car - the playlists were usually Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr, Duke Ellington, Judy Garland, Glenn Miller's big bands, Tommy Dorsey's bands too  - anybody smooth from that era, I guess. He would play them in the car or we would listen to 2GB. I really enjoyed listening to Mike Carlton on 2GB, I don't doubt I missed out on a lot but must have caught the odd talk back to sit up, listen to & learn from.

I believe my love of music comes from Dad.

As a teenager, I also recall us sitting in the lounge room reading encyclopedias! We both loved reading random stuff.

I appreciate developing quirky interests from my Dad such as jazz music, general stuff from encyclopedias - there was also U.S.A & of course, beer! - I guess what saddens me is that I didn't really see how much I  had in common with Dad while he was still alive. I resented my Dad growing up because of his alcoholism. This is where I have been stuck for a few days. I was afraid from this point that my readers might start to think that this is turning into a 'Christina Crawford gets the last say'

Where I wish to go from here is completely the opposite direction.

I am struggling with this blog - I am questioning myself, 'Why do I want to write about my Dad's alcoholism'?

I believe I am trying to separate the disease from the person. Today, I was talking with someone & I was telling them that growing up, all I saw was a man that was my Dad that was always drunk.I was told that this is all a kid sees, one sober parent & one that is not. This is the reason why I resented my father so much.

Growing up, Dad could be emotionally abusive – quite a few comments thrown at me about my weight. He called me ‘Gunner’ – ‘you’re gonna do this, ya gonna do that – but you never do’ or would simply ‘not be there’. Drinking excessively every day was something that he had to do.

When Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in the late 90’s a side of him came to the surface for the first time, I was able to see a very kind, big hearted, beautiful man. It was then that we started to get to know each other & we got along. He spoke open & honestly about his drinking & he also talked about fragments of his childhood, some of it obviously quite painful for him to talk about. He told me that he knew he had a drinking problem but he couldn’t see himself getting help because he just needed the drink so badly. 

There is still so, so, so much about Dad that I do not know about. 

It was also at this time that I began to see why we never got along as I grew up. Well, this is how I see it. Dad saw too much of himself in me & he didn’t like it because he was unhappy within himself. He had two passions – jazz music and drawing. I know Dad would have loved to have been a jazz musician or a cartoonist. I doubt very much he would have got encouragement from his parents to follow these passions. He would not have had the inner strength & confidence to say ‘bugger it – I’m gonna do it anyway’. I too went down that same path.

I am at a point in my life where I believe that I am capable of doing something worthwhile. I have this whirlwind kind of a feeling flying around in my stomach. I was told that I have talent that I so want to be recognised (who am I to argue with that?). I am going to work on this & I am going to finish off what my Dad felt he couldn’t do & that is to fulfil our dream. I have a couple of dreams and I intend on having at least one of them turn into a reality. I have a long way to go & a lot of soul searching to do and a lot of work to do.

I am going to try my damn best to make something of myself for me & for you, Dad. I love you.


  1. A beautiful story, Ali! There's always more than one side to a story - what your post tells me is the multiplicity of things we all are at the same time to all these people around us... You (and I, and all the others) are many more things than we can imagine! Some we'll discover only from the distance of time - and I have absolute trust in you being / becoming what you want to be...

  2. wow, Giedre. Really lovely & heartfelt words - thank you....