Thursday, July 22, 2010

DADDY DEAREST





My dad wasn’t a great man.  Nor was he even a good man.  He was a man I really knew little about.  Whether that is my fault or his, will forever be unknown.

He was an alcoholic.  A two pot screamer by all accounts, but an alcoholic none-the-less.  Depending on who you listen to, he was either a top bloke, a bum or a misunderstood genius.

My mother and father married late-ish in life.  They adopted us even later.  In fact, my mother said she was fully aware of his drinking problem in between adopting my brother and I, yet her desire for one more child was so strong, she begged him to keep it together, at least until after they got me.  

The thing is, growing up, it didn’t even occur to me when he played ‘Up there Cazaly’ 140 times a night and started arguing with himself in a darkened room, that something was up.  And you know why? Because it’s all we ever knew.  It was our normal.

But of course it was anything but normal.  Mum knew this. She knew he was drinking heavily, getting increasingly abusive and contributing zero to the family unit in both money and time.   She also knew about the incoming threats to her children from Dad’s disgruntled clients.  

Somewhere around the time I turned ten, three things happened, my granddad passed away.  He had lived with us and had dementia.  Mum was his full time carer.  He was both hard to handle and getting aggressive.  Secondly, Dad threw a plate at her head and manhandled my brother and I.  The third, was seeing Dad being busted for stealing money from the church collection plates. The same church where my brother and I had often helped him collect money, oblivious to our father’s shameful and disgraceful behaviour.   It was all too much for Mum.

Years later of course, I realised this is when Mum had a nervous breakdown.  We as children, were shielded from this in such a way, it truly is a testament to her character.

She found the strength to have him legally kicked out and apart from one family wedding, and my Engagement Party, they never crossed paths again.  As for us kids, there were intermittent birthday cards, a phone call here and there, but nothing more.

He died in 1997.  Believed to be lung cancer.  He smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish.  It was either going to be the liver or the lungs that would kill him.

That of course, wasn’t the end.  After he died, my mother, my brother, my fiancĂ© and myself cleaned out his caravan, his home for the previous 11 years.  Dad was a hoarder.  He was obviously very sick before he sought help and clearly close to death inside that caravan. 

All four of us spent a day clearing out the rubbish.  In between the empty goon casks and nuclear resistant cockroaches, we found sealed buckets of faeces and vomit of undeterminable age in takeaway containers.  I cannot describe the smell.  The fact that my husband became my husband after that day, says a lot about his character.

I know it’s sad that he lived that way.  That he was sick with a disease and addiction that is as bad, if not worse, than any other drug addiction out there.  You know, I even found a tattered, rat eaten picture of my brother and I inside of a book he had half read.  I wondered if he, in moments of clarity, thought about what he had lost due to his shitful affliction.    But fuck me if I could cry when I sat and listened to all the glowing praises he received during his full requiem mass funeral.  Not chosen by us obviously. 

My mother sat stone faced.  I didn’t cry.  I don’t recall who was there, what was said and what went on after it.  I just know I was pissed off.  Pissed off that in death, as in life, Dad had made Mum suffer again. 

I look at my own life now.  I know a couple of things.  I know I am very lucky.  I know my children will never know a world where their father chooses a substance over them.   I know that a loving and dedicated father will be their normal.

I also know Mum was stronger than I would ever have been.

29 comments:

livinglifeasme said...

Wow Bern. You are amazing. You paint the picture of a typical childhood of that era so very well. So many fathers were exactly like that. So many mothers suffered nervous breakdowns in silence, unbeknown to their children. I didn't go to my adopted father's funeral. Had I, it would have been the same scenario. I wouldn't have cried and I would have been pissed off. For very different reasons. But I know just how you feel. About that, and many things. So glad we have met here and on Twitter. I love reading your posts. xxxxx

Nomie said...

Wow. From your Mum you learnt that that strength that I always see in your posts. Always. And yes, your kids will know love from you and their father. Amazing post Bern. Amazing. x

Carly Findlay said...

Bern this was the most amazing blog entry ever. You have written with such honesty and with such detail - I admire you, your mum and brother for getting through.

Smudgeblurr said...

Hey Bern,
WOW! What a powerful story. My childhood was idyllic compared to yours and it still had some ups and downs. Thanks for sharing - I look forward to one day meeting IRL.
Wx

Michelle said...

WOW!!!!
thats all

Seraphim said...

Dear Bern thank you for sharing your story. We learn such incredible lessons from our parents and often they aren't the ones intended at all. I know it was one of those things you simply had to deal with, there was no other option but I love that you are ensuring your kids won't know the same thing.

Taryn Rucci said...

Wow Bern, you should be so proud of the reality have created for your children despite the crap you had to deal with in your childhood. Great post as always. xx

Lucy said...

Bern, I am crying snot into my keyboard here. For one, you writing about him and his addictions is so raw, and still so resigned. And the strength you evidently have developed as a result - you amaze me.

Thank you for putting this out there for us to share. You may have read some of my posts about my childhood situation in relation to alcoholism. So my tears are ones of absolute true empathy as well.

xx

In Real Life said...

This is beautiful writing about such a painful subject. I can relate as well, and sincerely empathize with your situation! You've done a tremendous job creating a loving, secure family for your precious children.

Wanderlust said...

Bern, wow. What a raw and honest and beautiful post. And what strength you show for building a different kind of life with a different kind of man. This moved me to tears. Why are there so many shit fathers out there and so many women who manage to pull it all together with what...? God only knows.

brismod said...

That would have been tough to write. Your Mum is a trooper - imagine all the things she hasn't told you about. Thankfully, your story is where history will never repeat. xx

Bronnie Marquardt said...

Bern, I just had tears for you .. thank you for sharing so honestly and openly. xo

Brenda said...

You are truly a gifted writer, Bern. Thank you for the share. Am sorry your Dad was a shithead.xxx

Dovic said...

Everything everyone else has said and more. You offer up real life in your posts and we are all so rewarded for the honesty, no bullshit stuff you give us.

Even though you made not one single mention of a Kingswood, I was there sitting in our old yellow canary one watching on. Because you drew me right there into that era with you.

And I watched on thinking of the many friends I had in similar situations.

My name is Dianne Draganovic and I am a Bern Morley addict.

Thankyou.

Being Me said...

I'm blown away, Bern. Am really new to your blog/you/your world, but already I'm awed by your propensity to share.

Maxabella said...

Your writing is really exquisite, Bern. I love coming here and reading your funny, raw and remarkably sensible stories. This one was different. A sadder Bern, perhaps. A prouder Bern, it's true. No matter the type of relationship, a parent is a parent. That's just the way it is.

Thea said...

Ditto to all of the above.
You're writing always, always draws me in. I feel like I'm right there with you.
I'm so glad you turned out OK, regardless. xx

Thea said...

Dammit...and again I type you're when I meant your. Must.stop.doing.that!

Cinda said...

Your writing was so raw and honesty. You drew your strength from your mum. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Lori @ RRSAHM said...

Wow. What an amazing, honest post Bern.

Anonymous said...

One plus, atleast you don't have his genes and therefore didn't inherit his addictive personality!

Kylie L said...

Oh, Bern- what an incredible piece to read- I can't imagine how it was to write. That part about cleaning out your father's caravan... you, your mother and brother are amazing, and I just want to kiss your husband. What a lot of crap (pardon the reference) to have grown up with- yet that you grew up so well is a credit to your strength as well as your mother's. You're one amazing lady. xxx

Draft Queen said...

Your mom is one strong lady.

Kallie said...

It's so sad that this was your normal when growing up Bern... I had a different normal, my father didn't drink but he had an unbelievable temper which I learned to avoid setting off. I'm scared though, that this is what my children will remember as their normal when they are older. I have to hope that their father isn't drinking, at least when they're around, nor using other substances...

Our Park Life said...

Gosh, well written. It must be something in the air Nic and I (we share our blog) have just been talking about fathers and the effects they have on us. My own relationship with my father was pretty positive but Nic had some similar experiences to you....

Thanks for sharing - it helps people to read that others have gone through the same as them. And come out stronger.

Glad your kids will have a different, better relationship

Heather said...

Bern, you write so well - Just today I was thinking about the lessons my father taught me and I can tell you it was nothing like the above.

You've done so well in life. Your mother would have to be proud.

Your children from what I have seen are angels in disguise and even with slipping halos, they remain the apple of eye

Thank-you for sharing!

Cat said...

Hi Bern,

I'm just catching up with my reading. Your Dad sounds like mine, only mine was a gambler, not a drinker ... though drinking was always a big part of it. He recently re-married and I wanted to vomit at their weddding. She is a lovely lady and has bank-rolled him opening up a new business. I have said nothing which is not my style at all but I just don't have the energy to fight someone else's battles too. Now that I type that I feel awful about it but how on earth do you even bring that up anyway? I often think about how he will be eulogised and think I will want to scream the truth but know I never will. I know I'll sit there silently and watch as his new family take over the way they have already...not that I want to be a major part of his toxicity mind you! Anyway, in a very rounabout kind of way I am trying to thank you for sharing your story. I am glad to know that I am not alone in what was normal.

nonoodle said...

Wow Bern, I missed this in July! I love the way you can share your life with such honesty & no bull shit!
I always remember my childhood as very happy, but my sister has a different view, so it's funny what we think is normal or not! We didnt' go thru any of what u did thank fully & my dad is still with us just turned 80. & love him xo

Martini Mom said...

My dad was an alcoholic as well, though an upstanding fella aside from that one flaw. He was constantly trying to beat his addiction and, though he was ultimately unsuccessful (he died of liver failure when he was 48), I always admired his tenacity to try over and over again to kick the habit. Most people would've given up. I've written several posts about him on my own blog, but this one gets at the heart of things pretty quickly: http://kbhotmama.blogspot.com/2009/06/stories-knocked-loose-by-fathers-day.html