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Men About Their Boyhood

Navy dad

Jim - 43 years

What can I say about me and my Dad. He was in the Navy. My earliest memories of him coming home with boxes full of toys for we three kids. He'd be gone for six months at a time. He was a typical Aussie bloke; quiet, always doing stuff or fixing stuff. He would involve us where he could, and try to teach us how to do things, but often didn't have the patience to help us work through our mistakes. Basically he was a product of his time - he took care of the outside of the house and Mom looked after the inside, including we kids. But he loved us and always seemed to be glad to be back from sea. And he was always keen to give us new experiences - living in England, meeting him in Scotland or Gibraltar or Hawaii. I remember watching him on parade in England. It must have rubbed off on me in one way or another as I joined the navy when I left school as well.

 

The boy in the video

Ric - 58 years

For Mum

We came in the room and all sat down, on goes the video to watch the clown.

There’s the big man, sober today, he pushes the boy and the bike away.

 

The boy he is smiling as he rides his new bike. But nobody knows what his life is like.

Watching the boy ride up and down is the fearsome man lets call him the clown

The clown is a man who likes his beer and when he gets home, in rolls the fear.

He starts to shout at the little lady. The boy thinks please stop! This is crazy.

 

The lady ‘arcs up’ defending her dignity. What use is this against a clown’s stupidity?

The boy says lady, please be quiet. It’s your fault you know, you’re causing a riot. She’s thrown in the larder and he starts hitting her harder.

 

The boy picks up the phone; calling the police is what he has known. The police arrive but stop at the door. We can’t come in son, so he hits her some more.

In the end there is some peace, the clown has sat down he has a good weep. He says he is sorry it wasn’t his plan’ but he’ll do it again just as soon as he can.

The lady is blue, her body is broken, the little boy’s love is a small token.

Watching the video make me sad, I just realised it’s me and my Dad.

 

It’s forty years on it’s not over yet, Dad’s crocodile tears I’ll never forget.

Now He’s all alone, and my mother is free, but his ghost still haunts me,

 

Fuck the fat bastard, no sorry for me.

 

Copyright Rick July 2004 : used with permission

 

Reflections of Parentage

Andrew - 64 years

I grew up in the inner western suburbs of Sydney in the 1950’s and my reflections of my parents are very firm and positive. My parents were battlers of a large family where there were nine children in the family yet we did not lack anything and we did not feel we were missing out on anything. As children of the family we grew together and had a solid bond together, and it was the family relationship that very much held us together.

 

Being of Irish Catholic background our family and faith held us together. Neither was an emotional bonding but they both were sound and real bonds that held us together. Faith was extremely important and there was no consideration of being weak about our Catholic faith. We had responsibilities and we were to be loyal to our faith and at the same time it was not a gushy faith.

My Father

Family was also important and held us together, although it was very much my mother’s family background as Dad’s parents had died long before he met my mother. Dad was also extremely well accepted into my mother’s family and he was certainly respected by them.

Dad was a very private person when he came to his own family. As children growing up we very much lived to be around him but he was often working in daytime and evening shifts, and so we were much more dependent upon Mom for our first-hand family relationships. Dad obviously had a quiet life as a child and valued being around my mother’s family of brothers and sisters. It surprised me some years after Dad’s death that there was a suggestion that he may have been born out of wedlock and that he might have some aboriginal blood in him. We knew nothing of his real family background, but he was strong in our own lives and loved and respected by others.

My father grew up in country northern NSW and joined the army in World War II. He married during the war and then drove buses in Sydney after leaving the army. He worked hard and would never take time off for sickness, but the value behind him was the family that he was caring for and that he loved. He was an extremely hard worker and committed to honesty and integrity in his occupation. He would have to be extremely unwell to miss a day’s work or cut short a shift and he was extremely scrupulous about doing the right thing at work. As children if we travelled on the buses with him he always paid the fare for us.

He also had a great respect for his workmates, and they more than respected him. I remember asking myself when he was nearing retirement what would people say about Dad after thirty years in what seemed a relatively unimportant work as a bus driver. I knew I had a reasonable insight into his virtues but I quickly realised the high regard he was held by his fellow workers. In the 1960’s I was aware that he and another driver had set up a private welfare fund for fellow workers at their depot and that often he would finish his driving shift about ten at night and then he would often walk, as he did not drive a car, to the house of a fellow worker who might have had an accident or a family member had died, and he would assist them in their hour of need with this welfare fund. At retirement it was obvious that he was no “lowly man” but was someone special.

It was to his family that he was extremely dedicated. Our needs would always come before his need and I remember that each pay day one of us children would often accompany him to the depot to collect his pay and it was sent straight home to Mom for shopping and the household needs. Anything he kept would have been only to pay for his immediate needs for bus fares for getting to work and there was no private fund for himself. He also got along very well with all members of the family branch and he was fully accepted within the family.

Loyalty was very strong in him – loyal to family and friends, to work and responsibility, to religion and God. He loved having us around him as children, even though he was often working during the day. He was a regular in the weekend football matches with his bothers-in-law and with us as children. If there was a school working-bee he was there. Despite being a large family with limited means we were all educated in our faith and at Catholic schools, and we were dressed correctly.

He was a very religious man and his relationship with God was strong and personal. He was very committed to the practice of his religion and we grew up under a mantle of Saturday Confession and Sunday Mass. He had a great respect for others and a strong interest in the well being of the family. He was a strong man on the exterior but was very soft person on the inside. I remember that in the few years before he died when it was time for me to return my home overseas at the end of my visits he would go very quiet in the last day or so and that he would often be near to tears within himself when it was time to depart.

My real memory was his presence – not in any gushing way but simply his being there. When it came time for him to die I could let him go in peace. He suffered from emphysema after being a strong smoker during the war years and during the time on the buses. He remained a committed smoker till his death even though his health broke down over a prolonged period of time and he spent the last fourteen years with oxygen-breathing machines. But in death we could say peacefully that he had lived his life completely and there was not more that he could do. It was up to us to continue his life through ourselves.

My Mother

I commented that my mother’s family was of Irish Catholic background and the dominance of family and faith stood out. In the 1950’s to 1970’s my mother’s mother was the person who centred the family and she held the family together in these qualities. After her death in the early 70’s it was mother who took over this role and she had the loved and respected title of the “Queen Mother” and the extended family very much resolved around her. She was a person of love and of life.

As a child she had the privilege of gaining her intermediate certificate (Year 10) at school and this was rare for young women during the 1910’s. Her skills in the clerical field never left her and later as a busy housewife she still found ways of assisting people in completing taxation forms or writing official letters etc.

Later in life I used be amazed at Mom’s ability to care for the family. How she was able to feed and clothe the nine children in the family, always have food on hand, and look after so many wants. It was an irony that despite driving buses for years that Dad would not drive a car. No car meant that supplies for a large family had to be brought in by public transport and I still don’t fully realise how she coped.

Mom was very much a people’s person. She very much loved having people around her and people loved coming to her. Her own family and her own children were the centre. But so many other people were welcome in the house and did come to be with her to share joys and pains, friendships and needs.

Again in the centre of her relationships with others was her religion and her faith. I think it would be fair to say that Mom and Dad, and also their families, were centred in a traditional Irish Catholic faith and practice. There was no show about their religion but it was firm and strong. We, the children, caught this faith and although not all responded in a regular practice of the faith it was a foundation for our lives.

She also possessed a fighting spirit when it came to politics. Mom and Dad were both members of the Labour Party, but it was Mom who could become stirred up by political events. At one time she took on a verbal encounter with the local Bishop in the press when he made comments against the Labour Party. She enjoyed the fact that she shared her birthday with Bob Hawke, a Labour Party Prime Minister in the 1980’s. She was a good fighter for Trade Union rights and I found I could quickly get her involved into political comments if I directed a minor side-comment in the right direction.

It was not easy for her to care for Dad during his prolonged illness and she appreciated the help she received from the district nursing service. These dedicated women not only gave professional nursing care but also gave great support and friendship to her. Probably one of the biggest sufferings she endured during this time was to see Dad unable to cope and her own age being a barrier to what she could do.

Mom died three years after Dad, and her death was a fulfilment of her life and she died in peace at home. About a week before she died she announced to me on the telephone that she was going to die. Her death was an agreement between herself and God as she was worn out and ready for God. It was no accident that she died on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary as she had a great faith in Mary as the Mother of Jesus.

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