Friday, December 4, 2009

The Apple didn't fall far from the Tree

To give you a bit of background, allow me to describe some of Dad’s background to you. My paternal grandmother – let’s call her Jade, married a man named Frank. Jade and Frank were married at a young age, as was custom in that time and had two children, Sasha and Kent. Frank died of Brain Cancer a few years later. Jade then married Kyle a number of years later and had my Father, Cindy and Martin. Kyle took Jade’s children as his own, however I believe that Kyle was a womaniser, a manipulator but a good man. When my father was five years old, Kyle and Jade bought a farm about 3 – 4 hours away. They loaded what little they owned and their five children into a small car and drove to their new home and the farm on which my brother and I grew up on. Kyle was close to my Father and they spent many hours on the farm with them. Kyle died of Cancer when my father was 15. He was still at school and seeing as his only older brother Kent showed little interest in farming, he began to run the farm with his mother in between school. My father sadly also had a degenerative disc disease which caused the discs in his back to dissolve and cause immense back pain. He was told not to participate in sport at school in order to ease the pain – this must have been difficult for him as he is very active by nature. Thus, he had no other choice but to throw himself into the farm. As is common when a parent dies early on, Kyle became idealised in my father’s mind and one can detect this when he still speaks of him today.

His mother, Jade was a feisty, passionate and self-sufficient woman who ran a jam factory in order to assist with putting bread on the table. This jam became known as some of the best in the country. Unfortunately she was also very manipulative and bitter. My father met my mother in his final year of school. She was a great comfort to him as he had a lot on his mind and a lot to talk about. My mother is one of the world’s best listeners. Early in their relationship they spent hours walking and sitting – him talking and her listening and comforting.

In a fit of rage Jade kicked my father out of her house when he was 18 in one of their fiery arguments and told him never to come back. My father was delighted to hear it and left home without looking back. My father went to the army after school. My mother’s family were a total contrast to my father’s, being one of two siblings, her parents also lived on a farm and of course had their share of difficulties, however they treasured one another and showed their love and respect openly. It is no wonder my father was captivated by her calm, sweet, kind personality and the love and warmth displayed by her family. When my father was kicked out of his home, they took him in on weekends and breaks wherever possible and loved him as their own son. After the army my father worked as a farm manager and in my mother’s final year of Varsity/college, he proposed to her. My father had a job as a farm manager, which came with an enormous farm house in which they placed the odd piece of furniture they had only for the echoes to fill the rest of the room. He put himself through varsity while working and achieved his degree in agriculture. I was born around about this time and my doting parents painted the perfect family picture.

When I was 18 months old, my father brought me through to my parent’s bed on a Sunday morning. I loved lights and while pointing at one my back arched in a stiff ‘C’ shape, my eyes rolled back and I entered my first epileptic fit. My parents had both done a first aid course and attempted to get me breathing and conscious again. They eventually got me breathing but I was still unconscious – they drove as fast as possible to the nearest hospital, however living on a farm meant it was a fair distance. The doctors did a CAT scan and various tests and told my parents that I was brain damaged from oxygen starvation and there was little hope of me being much more than a vegetable in my adult life. Should I somehow miraculously come around, however, it would take at least 18 months to two years to talk, crawl and walk again. My parents were just relieved that I was alive at that point. It turns out that the doctors were wrong (for the most part ;-) I began to recite the animal noises my mother had taught me the following evening and I was walking again in 3 months, however my body was tired and for a time I became a niggly, winey baby. I had another fit 6 months later but this was easily controlled as they now knew the cause.

A few months later, the siblings of the family called a meeting declaring that Jade was simply too old to run the farm alone and the best person for the job was my father. Both he and Jade being as stubborn as each other refused to speak. After much convincing, my father agreed to come back to the farm and Jade insisted that he buy the farm from her. The siblings tried to convince Jade to move out of her six bedroom house that she lived in alone and to live in a granny flat that we would build for her but she kicked up a huge performance saying no one was throwing her out of her own house so my parents cleared a sugar-cane field and designed and built their first house. My mother was now pregnant with Kyle and when the house wasn’t ready in time, they bought an old railway trailer and lived ‘camping style’ while the last few things were being built. My parents laid all the tiles themselves amongst other things – they worked like slaves to have the house ready in time for the baby. During one of her final scans, about a month before the baby was due, the nurses announced that the baby was ready to be delivered. My mother, being caught off guard, called her parents to collect me and asked my father to bring in a change of clothes. Kyle was born a few hours later and named after my paternal grandfather at my father’s request. When Jade heard of this she simply said, “It doesn’t feel right to have another Kyle.” It was surprising that she was as bitter about that as Kyle and I were exceptionally close to Jade growing up – she adored us and the feeling was mutual. We would visit her on Saturday s and she would dress up and play games with us. She was an incredible cook and would announce that we could ‘order’ our lunch – she would cook us anything we chose – it was always the same though – French toast and chips. We would get stuck in, in the kitchen – with flour and egg all over us. She spoilt us rotten and we loved the time we had together. She was still very critical of my father and the atmosphere was often icy between them depending on the severity of their feuds and who else in the family she was fighting with. My mother wouldn’t let us stay over at her house because Jade had a severe drinking problem, something which she passed onto most of her children but she was an artist and one of the most creative people I knew. She died of cancer which started in her lungs and swiftly spread to her liver, colon and through the rest of her body when I was 10 years old and that is when the chaos of my previous post (Dad’s first Midlife Crisis) began. It almost seemed to be a rebellious behaviour reacting to finally being free of his overpowering, manipulative mother.

Life is ironic. My mother used to help Jade with catering for various parties since before she and my father were married – she would spend hours in the kitchen and get very little thanks or appreciation for her work. Jade was mostly disapproving of her, for mostly no reason. Jade was big on family and when a particular song came on that she deemed a ‘family’ song, only family was allowed to dance. Even once married, if you were not blood family – you were not allowed to dance. My mother was the one who nursed Jade through her final four months while her five children flittered in and out of her house in no particular order or sense of purpose. It was then that Jade told my mother that Kyle (her second husband) had been a womaniser and had countless affairs and my father’s behaviour strongly resembled Kyle’s. I don’t think anyone knew that about him – not even my father.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dad's First Mid-Life Crisis

So from reading my last post, The other Side of the Sand Dune, one gets a pretty good idea of how most of my childhood played out. My mum and I compare notes since I have grown up but for the most part, I never knew when each blow up was happening, when they were reconciling etc but I did live in the constant fear of the big 'D'. I was terrified of my parents getting divorced. I can't even tell you what it was I was scared of, I suppose it was just the radical difference or change our lives would undertake and transform into something I dreamt would be nothing short of horrific and all for this bony, wrinkly plastic excuse of a woman. I remember watching Mrs Doubtfire as a child and asking my Mum if she and Dad were going to get a divorce. I thought it was pretty safe as she would assume that the movie had sparked the idea and not raise any other alarms but she knew me better than that and I tried to brush it off as "Just asking" but I never did get an answer from her and that always worried me.

When I was 11 years old I began to see how real my nightmare was. My mum, brother and I moved off the farm in December. Dad hyped town up to be the most incredible place with close and easy access to movies, malls and our friends. We weren't interested. We'd been brought up on a farm and didn't care for retail entertainment. We loved our bikes, mud, long walks on the farm, our dogs and the home we'd been brought up in. Of course he tried the 'best of both worlds' card too but let’s be honest - kids battle to see the bright side when everything they've ever known being severed limb by limb.

We moved into a nice-enough house in town, close to school - far from home. The unusual sounds of traffic and police cars prevented most of our nights from sleep but the fact that Dad came and visited twice a week made things pleasant but I imagine hard for my Mum. I remember also being a little confused at the fact that he slept over these nights but it was what it was and it was unpleasant but do-able. My brother and I bonded very strongly with my mum at this time - I believe, with retrospect, it was inevitable - we leaned on each other for support and that became a wonderful thing.

January came around and it was my brother, Kyle's 8th birthday. My mother put in extra amounts of her already unbeatable quantity of planning to try and compensate for some of the disruption he had recently experienced in his life. We were having a pool party, friends were abundant, family was helping out in the kitchen, kids having a ball in the pool, Dad arrives and tells mum he’s marrying Sam….KA BOOM!!!! Yes, right in the middle of the party is when Dad believed that this was the moment he’d been waiting for to drop the bomb. My poor mother – they hadn’t told us yet, of course but my Gran put my Mum to bed that afternoon and of course we knew something was up and my compulsive fear overcame my body as I had more than a good idea of what this had to do with. Kyle and I were supposed to go to my Dad that weekend but Kyle went home with a friend at the last minute and with my Mum just asking to be left alone – I didn’t have the desire to go out to the farm so I asked if I could go home with my grandparents. Begrudgingly my father agreed but he was not happy.

Being at my grandparents house – I was always content and comfortable but my Gran was clearly upset and tearful. She and I never knew the boundaries that age put on most people. We were almost identical apart from this difference and she had always spoken to and treated me like an adult from a young age. I nagged her and my Grandpa to tell me what was wrong but she didn’t want to because my Mum had said to put it off until tomorrow so that I could have “one more happy day”. She eventually gave in and told my Grandfather to tell me. His words were, “Dad’s going to marry Sam what-his-name” and My Gran said her surname for him. Of course this news was devastating for my grandparents as they had taken Dad in and treated him like their own son however I am ashamed to say I wasn’t. I felt indifferent to it – I was numb. I knew I had to show some kind of upset behaviour or they would know something was off but I don’t think I put much effort into it. It was almost as if it was a relief to have this filthy stain hanging on the line for all the family to see at last.

From that point until Dad’s announcement – I have no memory. My parents had been seeing a psychologist who my father managed to convince that my mother had psychological problems over the neurotic renditions she was dreaming up of what my father was up to. The psychologist agreed and began to focus on these enormous problems of Mums...that is until the affair all came out in the open again. My mum continued seeing the psychologist after we had heard the marriage announcement to get her through the difficult time. All of a sudden, the wedding was stalled and Dad announced that he was going skiing in Austria. A trip like this cost an elaborate amount of money – the kind of money that we really didn’t have but he insisted. He backed his decision up with, “I need space I need to get clarity on all this – the psychologist said I had to.” Strange how people defend these actions when no one is attacking them…of course the psychologist hadn’t suggested it. When Mum asked him if he had he said, “Do you really think that’s what I would suggest for him at this time? Leave Jenna at home with the kids – you really need to get away. Come on!” Dad is a very stubborn person, a trait that I have in fact inherited, and once his mind is made up – there is no changing it. He was just young enough to squeeze into a Contiki tour with his friends. This time has become affectionately known in our family as Dad’s first Mid-life Crisis.

I Won an Award!

Hi guys,

I was absolutely taken aback to win an award from Beautiful Dreamer - a blogger with a refreshing take on life. Check it out at: I started my blog as a place where I could openly share my thoughts and opinions on my story as well as getting it off my chest but the beauty of being able to do this annonomously has prevented me from hurting those closest to me and those involved in my story. Thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged me along the way - I never dreamed it would give me as much satisfaction and enjoyment as it has and being able to see and learn from my readers' experiences along the way has been a gift. Thank you

With this award you need to follow these few simple rules:

1. Thank the person who gave the award to you.

2. Copy award.

3. Post it in your blog.

4. Tell us 7 things that your readers don't know.

5. Link 7 new bloggers as recipients.

6. Notify winners of award with comment on their blog .

7. Keep being awesome!

7 Things you didn't know about me:

1. I love to dance and get lost in the music

2. I believe swimming in the sea is theraputic

3. I meditate every morning to keep calmness in my life.

4. I imagine sitting on God's lap and cuddling him when I feel scared or alone.

5. My Mum is one of my closest friends

6. I love puzzles

7. I have two favourite times of day: Having my coffee in bed in the morning and resting my head on my pillow as everything quietens and time begins to slow before I go to sleep.


7 Amazing Bloggers that get awards from me:

1. Jenny Manion - Heal Pain Naturally

2. Paulo Coelho's Blog

3. Danzer's - My Midlife Crisis

4. Always a Mom -

5. Keeping up with the Jonz

6. The Cool Commentator

7. The Adventure of a lifetime

Congratulations all you fabulous writers - keep up your unbelievable work!

Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The other side of the Sand Dune

Having now discussed my side with my mother's side and comparing notes (seeing as she didn't know that I was aware of whtat was going on), I have found it very interesting to discover what was being said and discussed between the two (or three) of them.

My mum and dad put us to bed for an afternoon nap and went for a walk on the beach to talk things over. On the way back, they saw Sam sitting on a sand dune with her head hanging between her knees. Dad asked if he could go and see if she was ok. Mum (clearly not realising the intimacy they still shared) said she would go too and Dad said, no - he would go alone and meet her back at the cabin. The two of them disappeared and after about 3 hours of no one seeing them, Dad came back and announced to Mum that he would be leaving her and marrying Sam. What they expected to happen next, I have no idea because our family of four and Sam's family of five are stuck in the back of beyond for another 2 days with half of the community.

Sam and Dad never got married. My mum tried to leave with my brother and I but the park we were staying in had closed. We left first thing in the morning and somehow they managed to work things out and I went to the local school with much excitement on my first day. However everytime we had a function, christmas party or birthday in the district - I would be terrified that Sam would be there. It was worse at the gatherings becasue she was such a flirt with everyone that Dad would then get grouchy.

This is something that I unknowingly struggled with - I was still learning right from wrong and good from bad but at the same time my Dad was my hero - parents seem perfect when we are young. So I also believed that what he was doing was simply done by all fathers. I remember Dad taking us to Sam's house to 'play' with her kids and I'd just been given an address book for my sixth birthday and it was my new favourite game to fill this book. We had been playing in the bedroom, I walked into the lounge to get Sam's address and they were kissing. I simply thought "Oh dear, they're busy - I'll have to come back later." How wrong is this??? Yet, I suppose I got off lucky after the previous time I caught them. So this is something I came to accept but like I say, as I grew older and began to learn right from wrong - my emotions and insides began their turmoil as something that I had grown up with seemed to be fundamentally wrong.

The district school began to let its affairs run amok so my mother decided to move us to the closest city school, a 50 minute drive from our farm. Our neighbour was teaching there so we were able to get a lift with her on a daily basis. After a year or two, my mother was offered a post at the school and accepted. This allowed my father plenty of time alone on the farm. The affair with Sam continued on and off for years - this was the general pattern. My mother would either notice something initially (eg once he highlighted his hair - very strange for a farmer! - or wore a new style of clothing) and Mum would phone her friends and say "Sam's back". Her friends tried to calm her and often told her she was overreacting or paranoid. A few months down the line we would go to family friends for drinks - for example we had some who were about ten years older than my parents and Ned would say, "Garry - what are you and Sam up to? I was driving back from the city the other day and I saw Sam driving in and a few cars back I saw you driving in."
"That's just a coincidence"
"Maybe a coincidence once every few months - but this is a few times a week - I'm not the only one who's seen it. Do you think we were born yesterday?"
It was blatent to the community and they despised him for treating my mother like he did but he defended it to the end. This is the major disadvantage to living in a small town community if you want to have an affair - people talk. My mother would be approached by people in the community often saying - "they're at it again." She would confront him and he would try to turn it around saying she was dilusional and paranoid. He would be furious with her and told her she had serious psychological problems. He swore there was nothing going on. These heated discussions would usually end with my mother in tears and feeling like she was losing her mind. A few months down the line - the news would come out and he'd confess to Mum, appologising profusely and promising it wouldn't happen again. It was all over. Of course it I said - this was the pattern - two or three years down the line my mother would call her friends..."She's back..."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Things take a dive

Now, because I am not sure what point the incident happened with my father, I cannot tell you when the next installment was only that I still had not yet started school. My parents started a diving course. This caused great excitement for my brother and I as we were introduced to the world of wetsuits, goggles, snorkels and air tanks. There was always a very social atmosphere afterwards where we’d all go to a nearby pub for a beer and the kids could play catchers or hide and seek outside. I was very excited but also cautious about the fact that Sam was doing this course as well. In diving, one has a ‘buddy system’ where you pair up with someone and you have to make sure that they are alright at all times thereby no one can get left behind or get into trouble without being noticed. I was very disturbed to learn that Dad and Sam were ‘buddies’ and I had visions of them making out underwater (5 year old logic here ;-)) – Ah, hated it – it haunted me.

Quiet some time later, once the relevant training had been done, all the divers and their families went up the coast to a resort where the diving is very good, to have a diving holiday. The beach was great, the kids were great, but I could not relax because I knew the two of them were going off on frequent occasions to “dive”. It was on this holiday that my Dad announced to my Mum that he was leaving her for Sam and that she and the children were going to move to the city. My mum has always said that it is so strange what one worries about in situations like this. She said this holiday was in the December before I started “big” school. That was her only focus, she said to my dad, “How could you do this? How could you do this now, to your daughter? She is so excited about starting ‘big school’, going into Grade one and having the same teacher that you had in Grade one at the same school that you went to? How could you possibly tell her she’s going to change schools a month before she is due to go?” She always says now what a huge thing this was for her, it was her first child going to school and she placed a lot of importance on it.

My brother and I knew none of this was going on, until we were told that the whole family was having an afternoon sleep – weird. Alarm bells were going off for me because this was very unusual. I could not sleep so I pretended to and listened to my parents whispering, obviously trying to sort things out but I could not make out what they were saying. When they thought we were both asleep they left to go and discuss probably what I’ve just mentioned in the above paragraph.

That evening we were lucky enough to go on a night drive on the beach to watch Leather-back turtles lay eggs. However my mum was crying quietly during the trip. This was the first times and one of the few times I would see her unhappiness as a result of my father. She did not let on what was going on but I knew it was connected with Dad and Sam.

After all of this Dad and Sam ‘nobly’ went to talk things through on the beach and came back to tell their relevant spouses that they were not going to leave them but they had some ‘rules’ about coming back into the marriages. I obviously don’t know what they are but I think they went something along the lines that they could give each other birthday and Christmas presents, they could call and visit each other etc. So that was how things continued between the four adults for quiet some time. Dad and Sam had their spouses and each other, pretty much, whenever they wanted. This, however, was not enough for them…

My oldest memory

I think you readers will all get a much better idea of where I'm coming from if i give you a bit of history on myself and my family. Trust me - this is going to be a whole lot more interesting than it sounds. I will start as far back as I can remember and give it to you in installments and if i have anything exciting to say about my life now, I'll throw it in at the end. Prepare to be amused:

I grew up on a farm. My parents built our house and our garden from absolutely nothing while I was a year old and my mother was pregnant. Our house was nothing amazing because my parents weren't well off and they did everything they could to save money, including doing their own tiling (bearing in mind, my mother was pregnant). Once they had completed the job, they were very satisfied with their two bed roomed house complete with two bathrooms, kitchen, office and lounge. My brother was then born and we grew up in the house that our parents had built with two dogs and a lot of love. My family loved each other and had a lot of fun together but it's amazing how one takes these things for granted when all is going well. I learnt this lesson at an age far younger than most learn it.

I am not sure of my age when this incident happened, however, I know that I had not yet begun school so I was probably about Five years old. It was a Saturday. My mum was working in the city to earn extra money for the family as things had been tight for a while. A family friend came over, lets call her Sam and her three children who were younger than me. My brother and her eldest son were great friends and so we were thrilled to have company on our weekend. We were all playing in the paddling pool outside and having a marvelous time. It suddenly occur ed to me that we didn't have any towels and with my mum not being there to bring them out for us, we were going to have a herd of little wet footprints running through the house soon. So I went inside to get the towels. Now the towels stayed in a lockable closet at the end of the passage next door to my parent's room but it also had medicine in it, so the lock was placed at the top of the door so children couldn't get in there. I knew all I had to do was go into my parent's room, grab my mum's stool for height to open the cupboard to get the towels. I opened my parent's door - which was unusual as it was never closed - and hit a flexed foot, I pushed harder, not thinking and was faced with the sight of my father and Samantha naked on the edge of my parents bed. My dad asked me what I was doing and I told him I needed to get towels. He told me to ask the maid to open the room and that I must close the door behind me.

I didn't know what I'd seen. I didn't understand it. My mum was in the process of explaining the birds and the bees to us through a book called 'Where do I come from?' but I was so confused at that age because this book said that when a HUSBAND and WIFE love each other very much, they sleep together but Samantha wasn't my mother. You've also got to understand that I was a Daddy's girl. I adored my father - he could do anything, fix anything and make me laugh till I cried. So I didn't see anything wrong with what he was doing - I felt a little weird about what I'd seen but it didn't occur to me that what he was doing was wrong until I had fully processed the book that my mum was reading us. I thought all dads did this.

Once Sam and her children had left, Dad took me aside and told me not to tell my mum what I'd seen because "we don't want to hurt Mum, do we?" Of course I didn't want to hurt my Mum, that's the last thing any five year old would want to do. So I made this promise to my dad because I adored him and in my eyes, he could do no wrong and according to my knowledge, he had done no wrong. I made that promise with ease, not knowing that it would hang over me for the rest of my life. The betrayal of my mother. For years after this, I waited for the divorce, I waited for my mum to find out. I hated seeing Sam at any events, and there were a lot of them because of us being a farming community. I watched her whenever i could to see that she wasn't making a move on my dad in front of my mum but it killed me to look at her. She was awful looking. She had stringy dyed (died) orange hair and her face was prematurely aged from too much smoking and drinking. She was one of those woman that delighted in wearing short skirts and see-through shirts and "accidentally" leaning over too far in the bar in front of married men or letting her dress ride up too high. This chick was a beaut. Rumour has it that no one is sure who the father is of her third child that she had (when she was married) because of mismatched blood types that were discovered at a later stage. She has a smile which is more like a smirk. Its the smile that I grew to hate. She wore it when she saw my dad, or when she came over to "visit" when my mum was out.

For years after that Saturday, once I had figured out that what my Dad had done was wrong, I was subconsciously torn between telling my mum the truth of what i knew was wrong and breaking my word to my Dad or keeping my word and "not hurting Mum". I always felt the desperate need to get this situation off my chest so I'd open notebooks that I had to the middle (where no one would see it) and I'd write in my armature handwriting this story (obviously in far less detail) It basically just read "...and I saw Dad and Sam NAKED having SEX." I hated writing it but it always felt better once I didn't feel like I was carrying it all alone. Then I'd go off and do something and suddenly be filled with guilt and worry that my mum might see it, so I'd rush back inside and tear the page out and rip it into unrecognisably small pieces and the weight would fall upon me again. The burden was back and I was to carry it because I didn't want to hurt Mum.