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.