Memories of snow

Memory is an interesting thing. We are so certain that what we remember is true, and yet often it is not. Memory is important because out decision making is based heavily in our memory. Yet memory of the past is twofold – the events we know and the story we tell. Often the events we recall are distorted and the story is faulty.
Enough of my preamble.
My earliest ‘memory’ is of snow. My father, brother and I were travelling in a car for a long time. The car seemed to go around and around in circles. Eventually we stopped and got out and there was snow on the ground. I remember that it was about 2-7 cm deep, mostly about 5 cm. It was white, cold and crunchy. Every foot fall was a rubbing crunchy feeling. There was not really enough snow to have a proper snow ball fight. I’m not even sure that I knew what that was. I knew that snow was rare, so this was important.
We were not wearing adequate clothing and my brother and I got very cold. There was no snow on the road where the cars drove, only on the edge of the road and between the tacks of cars. We all got back into the car and went home.
At home, I remember standing in the bathroom with my brother, watching the bath fill up with water. It was an old fashioned stand alone tub, which was in the centre of the room, the head up against the wall. My father had filled the bath tub in the adult fashion, that is, the hot water goes on first, the cold water gets added later.
I think we were supposed to tell Dad when the water was high enough to add cold.
I knew the water was very hot. Dangerously hot, in fact. I remember glancing at my brother and clearly thinking to myself “this will get him back for all those things he did to me” and pushing him in.
I don’t remember the next bit. What I know now is that he got burns all the way up his arm. They mostly healed but he still has a scar on his thumb.
I have tracked these memories down to 2 years of age (that is, I was 2, not the memories).
From this story the most likely thoughts you are thinking are
1) That Joshua guy is pretty cold hearted to do that to his brother – and he was 2!
2) What on earth did his brother do to him that this seemed like a good idea?
Of course, I allow or you to have tons of other thoughts. Mostly this is my fear of how people will judge me.
Let’s look at the events though. I remember driving in circles and it seemed to take a long time. For a long time I thought this memory was me leaving Melbourne and going to Perth, away from my father. It was only in the last few years that I more accurately placed it with going up the mountain to see snow, since travelling in circles to go from Melbourne to Perth is illogical. Is this where the memory really resides?
Another thing is, I have never got verification of the details of what the bathroom looked like. I have asked my brother, but he won’t talk about it (this is a quite frequent occurrence and I don’t blame him for turning his back on the past and making a new future). Thus I don’t actually know if my memories of the room are correct.
If the room isn’t correct, is my thought? The event that is known, independently, is that my brother got burnt in a bathtub, went to hospital and was very sore. My father was in charge since we were staying with him for a bit. No one ever accused me of pushing him. It was always labelled “an accident”. So, did I actually push him, or am I making that bit up to complete the story? If I am completing the story, did I really think “this will get him back”?
Another aspect is the memory itself. Do I remember the memory of when I was two, or do I remember the image that I recalled, and distorted, a few years ago, which was a recollection of an image, distorted more, from a few years before, and so on all the way back to my childhood? I am fairly confident that I no longer look at the memory raw – I only look at my adults understanding and perception of that memory.
How does this flavour my life? I have defined my earliest memory as vengeance on my brother. I could see this as I am a victim, I could see this as I am a warrior, or I could see myself as a martyr, trying to take the blame for an act that I was innocent of.
Very few of the facts are known and much of the story is uncertain. Perhaps I should make a new story to explain the facts.
When I was two, my father took my brother and I to see the snow. I remember that snow was rare in Australia. It was a cold but fun time. When we got back home, my father, who cared for us, was filling up the bath with hot water so we could get warm. Unfortunately my brother got burned by the hot water, but no real damage was done and he is fine now.
All the verifiable facts are present, and I like this story.

Friends

I’ve never been to good with friends. Understanding them, that is. What makes a good friendship?


When I was in my first primary school, the person I thought was my best friend was the guy who let me hang around him and didn’t know how to tell me to leave him alone. Of course, this is my perception of my past and he may tell a different story. The guy I put up with turned out to be the guy I knew for the longest time – and also the person who helped save my sanity.


In my second primary school, I made a new best friend, who again wasn’t really a friend, but rather someone who again didn’t know what to do with my attentions. We got on fairly well for a year I think, but then it just proved that neither of us knew what to do with the other. We drifted apart.


High school wasn’t too much better. I was a loaner for the best part of my early years. I finally started to get the hang of friends in my tenth year of school when I change to a high school full of people who I had escaped from primary school. Not a good combination. I left that high school confused and hurt.


I knew it was time to leave when I couldn’t tell the difference between what I had dreamed and what had happened. Not a good thing.


I went back to the first high school and all the friends I had made in my tenth year were gone (that’s what happens when you repeat year 12). I started making better inroads to friendship in this year, but it wasn’t ones that lasted.


University was … more mature? Again, I didn’t keep any friends I made from this setting.


So, to me, I guess, friends are people who last beyond the setting you met them in. Otherwise they are companions of convenience you don’t mind hanging around. I’ll add more to this later I guess.

Mother, will you help me build the wall?

My mother is a far more difficult thing to talk about. For a start, she is still alive and may be directly affected by what I say. Additionally, she is no longer who she was as I grew up. There are still traces and undercurrents, but a lot has changed.


Mother was conceived in Papua New Guinea during world war two. Her parents decided that the didn’t want her to be born or raised there. They had liked Australia, where they had passed through on the way through to Papua New Guinea, so thought they would move back to there and settle down to create their family.


Her parents were quite old to be starting a family, although not the oldest parents in the world. The generation gaps in my family are quite large. My grandmother was 35 when she had my mother. My mother was 28 when she had me. I was 28 when I had my daughter. I wonder if this trend will continue, or if it will be the trend of my daughters mother, who tends to have only 20 year generation gaps. Time will tell.


Mother grew up in a time of hefty discrimination. She was a first generation Australian, with a heavy East European accent trying to fit into a very white Australia who didn’t like foreigners. Her parents put her in the best schools, even though there was no expectation that she would be able to do anything with her educations. Best schools usually mean rich kids, with rich attitudes and loads of privilege. Mothers family were not rich. Mother lost her European accent at school and speaks excellent English.


Two years after her birth, her brother was born. Mostly he doesn’t play a part in my life, so I’m going to skip his side of the family. I just want to flag that he exists. He currently resides in the United States of America, near the border of a country that does not call itself American on the off chance that people would think it is the USA.


Mother was often used by her parents as the mediator, because neither parent would listen to the other. This was quite a strain on her, especially when she was dragged out of bed to do so late at night.  Her father interacted with her via the intellectual medium. She always struggled to be as brilliant as her father, but always felt that she fell short. Her mother wanted her to become a Princess Dianna clone. She struggled against this for a long time, feeling that she was worth more than just a pretty smile and a rich husband. Her mothers communication style was guilt, shame and manipulation.


When mother was 19, she moved out and convinced her embattled father to leave too. He never moved back with his wife and not too long afterwards they divorced. Mothers brother was left behind and shortly after graduating university moved to the USA. He does not talk about his life with his mother.


My mother excelled at high school and progressed to the end of year ten doing subjects such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, latin and english. After year 10, she was expected to only participate in domestic classes, since she was destined to become a house wife. This was the school model and her mother agreed with it. Mother did not.


Mother worked for an insurance company, where her skills and abilities were quickly recognised and put to use. She was placed in charge of a section, but not paid for the extra responsibility, because she lacked a male appendage. When one of the men wanted a promotion, she was demoted to fit him in, since he had a family to support. She was still expected to help him do his job, and still not paid any additional money. This was fairly typical of her employment history, even to this day. She shows promise, she is passed over, and then she leaves.


Mother grew up being taught that she was better than most people. It is a waste of time being friendly with the little people, because they just want to tear you down. What you are supposed to do is aspire to those greater than you, so be friendly to them so you can become elevated. The paradox here is that if they are like you, they will want nothing to do with you.


I, too, was taught this superiority complex. I work hard not to let it interfere with my life. I don’t always succeed.


My mother met my father at a friends party. This has been discussed in my fathers section. Mother was quite blown away by my father, but also quite wary of his girlfriend. They didn’t see each other for several years until mother went to night school to learn more stuff. Here she met my father and she would give him rides to school on her scooter. Slowly their relationship developed and they moved in together (father was no longer seeing the girlfriend, so was single). Mother says that she helped build a more complete man out of him. She describes him as brilliant in so many ways, but completely incapable in so many others.


She became quite frustrated that he couldn’t keep a job. He would get them, easily enough, but would not keep them. This was generally due to him being too smart and not being able to keep his mouth shut. She told me he went for a job with IBM, who did an IQ test on him. He scored way over 150, but he refused to swear their allegiance above and beyond his family.


They planned to have a family, and soon after had my brother. They were together for a good 6 years before making this choice. My brother was born and he was bright, capable and full of energy. Mother found that fathers lack of stable employment was creating quite a strain. Also, he wanted to sit around and talk philosophy too much, leaving the burden of parenting and domestic chores to her. Not long after I was born, she left him and aborted my sister. I don’t tend to think of her much.


She moved back in with her mother and tried to rebuild her life. She spent a few years hanging around a mustached man. I don’t know why that relationship ended, but she met my step father at a party not too long after. He was a ring in from a different state and they had some fun together. He came back about a year later and they had some more fun. He talked about moving his company to the East. Mother thought he meant to do that to move to her and offered to move to the West instead.


It turns out he was considering moving to the East because that was where the business was. He didn’t correct her. We figured it out much later.


So when I was half way through my third year of life, we moved West. She stayed with him for fourteen years. The last few years were very tricky and I was used quite a few times to help her process her feelings and emotions. Deja vu? She finally decided to leave him in the middle of my mid year twelfth year exams. I said to mother “I really do understand why you are leaving him, but your timing sucks”. I stopped taking year twelve seriously after that while I supported my mother through the separation.


She still defends his lack of involvement in the family to this day. I find that somewhat challenging, although I see this more as a reflection of how little she thinks she is worth that she thought he was as good as she could get.


When I was twenty two I met this wonderful girl. She moved in with me and for various reasons I moved out of the share house I was in. We moved back to my mothers house as we were not yet in a position where we could move in together alone, or move back to her parents house (who were still trying to work out which of us was taking advantage of whom – I think it was her taking me).


I had just secured a full time position at a company I had been doing some part time work at, and still servicing the customers I had for my computer business when things came to a head. I was quite horribly sick (a man cold!), had done a full shift at work, then left to fix a computer at a private residence. I got back home at about 2 am, cold, sore, tired and somewhat cranky. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw my mothers light was on and thought “oh crap.”


I went into the house and checked in on her. Her bedside light was out and she was on the “wrong side” of the bed reading from the other bed side lamp. She said “I have been waiting for you to come home and fix my lamp. It is very late.” It doesn’t sound like much, written down, but she had implied that I was guilty for her being awake so late, that all of my hard work was not as important as taking care of her and quite a few other things. Guilt and manipulation.


I asked “Why? Can’t you change a light bulb?” and went to bed quite angry. It took about another hour to calm down enough to sleep.


In the morning I slept in. My partner had got up and was hanging washing when my mother came out and asked her to wake me up as it was time for me to mow the lawn and cut a tree down and I had slept enough. My partner, who had consoled me the night before, layed into my mother pointing out how hard I worked, how late I had worked, how sick I was and how hard it had been for me to sleep being as pissed off as I was. I woke up to this argument and separated the two. I pointed out I was too sick to do garden chores.


The next day, mother informed me she was giving me until the end of the month to move out as she didn’t have to accept that from my partner. I pointed out the end of the month was four days away. She said she knew. I didn’t talk to her again for another two and a half years.


When I did come back, she slowly began to change who she was into who she is now. I know she doesn’t see the difference, but it is there and it is enough.

I am my fathers son

My father was an interesting man.


At the age of 11, he was sent to a fishing village, somewhere on the coast of Victoria. He was sent there to become “grounded” as he seemed to have difficulties fitting in with society and was prone to strangeness. He returned to his mother, brother and sister around the age of 13, to help out since his father was missing.


Not long after this, a drunk driver, a youth with rich parents, ran over his mother and sister. They died. My father never drank alcohol. His brother and he were placed in the care of his father, who had very poor parenting skills. Sometimes they would eat like kings, sometimes they would skip meals. It all depended on the horses, or which ever other bet his father had won or lost on.


My father and his brother got up to a lot of mischief. Stunts like filling up bags full of water and dropping them onto the street from the top of the apartment building they lived in, onto the cars below, or taking a car to pieces, carrying it piece by piece into their apartment and then putting it back together, then starting it inside the building, only to take it apart again and put it back outside so that there was no evidence it was ever there. Without an active, participating father, they got up to all sorts.


My mother tells me he felt responsible for his younger brother and so got a job to pay for his brothers schooling. His brother tells me it was not the case, and that my father did not fit in well at school so thought he would try working instead. As far as I can ascertain, my father never kept a job for more than a year, anywhere, at anytime during his life.


He was dating a lady when he met my mother. His lady instantly disliked my mother and predicted that my father and she would end up together. She was right, however it took about another six years before they re-met, started dating and eventually ended up marrying and having kids – my brother and then myself.


My father was a classical, stereotypical, sixties hippie. That is, he took one heck of a lot of drugs, hated work and just wanted to know why the world could not just run on love, man. My mother told me that it was the drugs the messed his mind up, so I grew up fearing mind altering drugs and what they could do to me. Later I learned about his witnessing the death of his mother and sister. Many years later, I learned about his retreat to the fishing village. This leads me to conclude that his mind was already pretty messed up to begin with. Yet I still fear mind altering substances. It is amazing what fears our parents can instill in us. Losing control of my mind is the only thing I truly fear.


During my gestation, my mother hurt her back. At this point in time, according to my mother, my father was changing jobs, again, going out and partying with mates (that is, doping up and talking philosophy) and then would come home and play with my brother. This meant that all the home chores were my mothers duty, that my brother would only sleep an average of four hours a day and my father was quite unreasonable about taking part in being a responsible parent and husband. Small wonder based on his fathers role modelling. However I have heard a very different version from my fathers brothers family. Still, this was the version I grew up with, so it is the version that shaped my life. Who knows what the truth really is.


Not long after I was born, my mother left my father and returned to her mothers house. My brother blamed me for this. More about that in a later post.


I visited my father occasionally, (I believe it was every couple of weeks), and according to my mother, she would pick us up in atrocious states. She defines this is sometimes half dressed in some of the clothes we arrived in, but wearing nothing else, hungry, sleep deprived and sometimes forgotten. Again, my fathers brothers family tells a different story, but again, this was the story I grew up with.


I was also told by my mother that my brother was my fathers favourite child and I was just “put up with”. I found a different version many years later, yet my mother still tells this view.


When I was three and a half, my mother moved us to the other side of the country. I would visit my father once every year or so, but received correspondence from him in the form of cassette tapes and letters. My brother would have to read me the letters because I could not read them.


After an argument with my brother, he refused to read to me one of the letters. I took this letter to my mother to read to me and she was quite shocked at the content. She called my father up and told him that if he could not write nice letters to us, then he shouldn’t write any letters. Very shortly after that, we moved house and he was not told where we moved to. Remember, we were on the other side of the country from him.


My father disappeared when I was eight. I discovered many years later that he deteriorated badly not long after we disappeared. It may be that he was only just holding on before that, or it may have been coincidental timing. He was living with his father from the time my mother left him to the time he disappeared (about 7 years).


He and his father had an argument. It went something along the lines of this. His father asked him for some contribution to living with him. My father said that he did not believe in supporting the capitalist system and so would not do so. His father pointed out that it was because he was paying the bills for my father that he was able to live there without having to work or receive government support and at the least my father could help tidy up around the place. My father was upset with this and decided to try to live out his dream of living an artists life in Sydney. He left and no one heard from him for about 15 years.


Some time around 1996 a journalist did a piece on a hobo living in Sydney. This was my father and was the first news we had of him still being alive. The journalist had tracked down his father and brother and asked questions. My father believed that he had a separated wife and three children.


My mother aborted a child she was carrying when she left my father, so this may have been a child he was counting. Or he may have been messing with the journalist, or just plain delusional. Who knows?


Anyway, according to the journalist, he was collecting circuit boards from electronic devices and lived in a tent. He would occasionally burn the tent down trying to stay warm.


A few years later, at the end of 1998, I received news that my father was dead. He had been killed by someone near where he slept in the park. Because my father, in his current incarnation, was known by the police as a peaceful man, they knew that his death was unprovoked and so they investigated quite hard. It turns out he was the second victim of the star light killer, who is believed to have five murders attributed to him. My father was known as the umbrella man and was living under a pseudonym, which made finding us quite difficult.


My father was called the umbrella man because of his solution to his housing problem. He had given up on tents and had constructed, from found materials, a shack on the beach near the botanical gardens in Sydney. His shack was demolished by the counsel as unfit for human habitation and he went back to sleeping on park benches. This caused inconvenience when it rained, so he began collecting umbrellas. He had a spot in Domain Garden near the Robert Burns statue, under some bushes, where he stored his stuff and slept the night. He would erect umbrellas in the bush, such that the wind could not blow them away and the rain would fall off them and around him. This kept him dry and somewhat warm.


I went to Sydney to learn about my fathers later life. He never did work for money, or accept any government payment. He did not beg for cash. He would go to soup kitchens and accept food from them, but always turned up early to help set up, stayed late to help clean up and would take some bread away with him for later. He would also accept unfinished meals or mistake meals (you know the standard “that isn’t what I ordered” meal?)  from restaurants near Domain Park. He was known as a peaceful man. Most people I met said I looked and acted just like him. An uncanny resemblance.


I met up with his father, who was dying of prostate cancer. His father at first mistook me for my father and apologised for arguing with me. I accepted his apology. Later, he realised that I was not my father and talked to me as myself.


I met my fathers brother and his family for the first time that I remember. I had met with them many times before I moved across the country, but I could not remember these times. It was the first time that I didn’t feel alone or completely alien that I can ever recall. It rocked me. It is not possible to describe this strange feeling of knowing there is a place that I can feel accepted and understood. It is a pity they forgot who I am in their misconstrued memories of my side of the family. That hurt and again it is impossible to describe that feeling either. I was again alone, but this time I knew that people existed who might understand me, yet refused to do so rather than that no one existed who could.


Sometimes it is better not to know that paradise exists, than to know it exists but you are barred from it.


So, that is my father in a quick nutshell. 

A Beginning Part 3

I don’t know anywhere as much about my paternal grandparents. I know that my grandmother was from England, but I don’t know what part, family or other miscellaneous information. What I do know is that she raised two boys and a girl without a husband present. She worked three jobs to make the money to clothe and feed them. This is going to launch into a slightly feminist rant.


In those days, women were looked after. They were either at home, being looked after by their fathers, or they were married and looked after by their husbands. Either way, they didn’t need a real income and so they were paid at two thirds, on average, the wage a man got for the same work. If you couldn’t get a mans job, you got a womans job, which paid even less. If you did get a mans job, then you got passed over for promotion and responsibility, because you don’t really need the job. The men, after all, have a family to feed. Thus three jobs.


My grandfather was missing in action. Not to do with a war, such as world war one or two, but more to do with the war on alcohol, which he was loosing. He also had a gambling war, which he also tended to loose at to. And his attitude to women stank.


My grandmother and aunt were killed when my father was 13. They were run over by a young, rich, drunk driver. He was never prosecuted, I was informed, because his father knew the right people. My grandfather was left with two boys to look after, and had no parenting skills. It was difficult to do as he still had a strong gambling and alcohol addiction.


My grandfather was the kind of man who really enjoyed hanging out at chess cafe’s, drinking and playing chess. Why don’t we have those here anymore, I would like to know. Sitting down to a nice soy chai late and playing an embracing game of chess, or something else, sounds like a fantastic afternoon to me.


My grandfather did have some troubles with the war around the time my father was born. He was in a business, a grocery business, just as the war broke out. His surname was very Austrian-Jewish, so his business dried up and no one would by vegetables from him. His solution to this was to change the name of the business to something more English. Business boomed. At this time, my father was born, and was given this new name. As the war ended, my grandfather changed his name back and my uncle was born. He got the new old name, while my father got the old new name. This made it quite tricky for me to find my grandfather in hospital one time, as I thought he still had my fathers surname.


That most of what I know of the history of my paternal grandparents.


The next bit of history is my parents. You may be surprised to here this, but I have two parents, and some other add in’s on the way.