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.