Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Week 4 - thoughts on Fun Home: A family tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Just some thoughts on Fun Home.  I feel so much sadness for Bechdel's father and their relationship.  I see parts of myself in her father.  Perhaps it's the self loathing, the yearning to be "normal".  You end up beating yourself up about it so much that you end up being a complete arsehole to everyone you love.  I've been there, and sometimes I'm still there.  The book made my cry and it made me wonder if Bechdel's father ever truly experienced any form of happiness throughout his life.  His effort to conform to society's expectations of the norm meant that he had to hide his true self, resulting in resentment and pain.  I think that as Bechdel got older she realised that the father she had grown up with, was not his real self and I think that helped her to at least understand why he was the way he was.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Week 5 & 6 - Addiction: gambling.

Some of my fondest memories as a child was accompanying my mum and dad to the horse and greyhound races.
"Which number is your favourite, Ambs?"
"What colour silks do you like the best?"
"What horse do you think will win?
All conversations I remember having with both of my parents.  We never talked about the losses, only the wins.
"We got a trifecta! We had a roughy in that race so the payout should be pretty good!"  A bet that saw us take home $100, meanwhile no mention of the hundreds that had been "donated".
We always got scratchies and lotto tickets.  Running around trying to a find a pen to write the numbers down on a Saturday night draw almost became an Olympic sport in our household.

My first real taste of winning was on Saintly in the 1996 Melbourne Cup.  Mum had let me take the day off school.  She went to local races and we had agreed before she left in the morning on who I would like her to place bets on in the "race that stops the nation".  I can remember the excitement and adrenaline I felt as Saintly crossed the line first, I felt the most amazing high, I was 13 years old.

I spent my 18th birthday at Crown Casino.  I got carded whilst sitting at the poker machines with my mum.  As soon as they learnt it was my birthday they gave me some "free money" to spend on the machines or tables, whatever I wanted. Geez this place knows how to look after people I thought.  I cannot believe how naive I was.  Mum was just as excited as me.

As I got older I found myself heading up to the casino during my lunch breaks.  I was betting on horse races overseas.  I was selecting multi bets that were impossible to obtain.  I know they are 15-1 to win, but if all of the outsiders get up I could win over $1000.  Online betting made it worse.  I could gamble on anything, at any time, any where in the world.

Its the thrill of the potential win that keeps drawing you in, not the actual win itself.  That's what kept me going back, and that's what keeps gnawing at me every now and then when I see another add for sports betting, or I pass a casino, or the Melbourne Cup rolls around.  I hate that it still has this hold over me, but I remember how good it felt when that adrenaline rushed through my body.  Some days are harder than others.

-I feel compelled to write about my struggles with gambling because I feel like even with all the coverage gambling gets, it's still not really considered a "mainstream" addiction.  Gambling is everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE! And yet it is mostly still recognized as a "pastime".  I want people to start having discussions with their kids about this and how dangerous it can become.  

Monday, 8 August 2016

Week 4 - Relationships: childhood memory...

I don't remember exactly how my dad told us he was leaving my mum.  I remember him arriving to collect us early from a church youth camp.  He spoke briefly with a nun who then called my sister and I over.  We greeted dad, he was distant and distracted.  We collected our things and followed him out to his car.  He drove a red Ford Courier which doubled as his off road racer.  It had two tiny butt seats in the back behind the main cab.  My sister and I used to clamber over the front passenger seat and fall into these seats, our knees touching our chins.  We sat there watching dad as he looked at our reflection in the rear view mirror.

"Listen," he started "your mum and I aren't going to be together anymore."

My first thought was of camping and fishing.  I guessed I just wouldn't get to do those things as much any more.  I had no inkling whatsoever of what it really meant.  I had lived a sheltered childhood, one that with all of my dad's misgivings as an adulterer, had provided me with stability, love and encouragement.  There was maybe one or two kids at school who came from "broken homes", but it was still very far from the norm back then.

Dad started the car and pulled into the street.  I looked at my sister, she was completely oblivious as to what was going on.  9 years old and thinking everything would be fine as soon as we got home.  I wouldn't be being honest with myself if I didn't acknowledge that I was thinking exactly the same thing.  Mum and dad had fought before, but they always ended up back together.  But as dad refused to look at us in the eyes as he drove us all home, somehow I knew that this time was going to be different.

Week 5 & 6 - Trauma: a work in progress...

I graduated from my Australian Customs Traineeship on the 11th of October 2002.  It was a Friday and we were due to have our graduation ceremony at a flash reception centre later that day.  I spent the morning at a tattoo parlour having half my right shoulder covered in a phoenix design.  I had gotten a tattoo the week I started with my traineeship so I had promised myself another one when I graduated.  It was simple black ink design of the bird rising up, it's head tilted towards the sky as it rose from the ashes.  I didn't understand how ironic this image would become until a little more than 24 hours later.

Saturday the 12th of October 2002, I had spent a good part of the evening ironing my uniform for my first shift at the airport the next morning. I was due to start at, ahem, 3am.  I was nervous and excited and I promised myself I would try to at least get an hour or two of sleep before I left for work.  I was at my computer wasting time when the first news reports came on to the tele which was turned on in the loungeroom.  The newsreader sounded stressed but it wasn't enough to pique my interest. I wasn't really listening until I heard something along the lines of "the injured are being evacuated to Darwin by the RAAF".  I pushed my chair back so I could see the television.  Images of fire, people running, people injured, people screaming graced the screen.  A ribbon across the bottom of the screen screamed "TERRORIST ATTACK IN BALI".  I sat, in shock staring at the screen.  it was Saturday the 12th of October 2002 and I was due to start my first shift as a Customs Officer at Darwin Airport in just a few hours time.

After the initial shock I jumped up and raced into my bedroom to throw on my uniform.  Surely they needed me, I thought, I start in a few hours and in a few hours is when the first of the injured pax would be arriving, they would need all hands on deck to help.  I was 19 years old and all of a sudden felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I remember telling myself, just wait, if they need you they'll call you.  Yeah right.  I jumped into my car and headed to the airport, not knowing what I would be confronted with.

I haven't finished this blog post yet...
Some notes....
The family members awaiting any news, clinging to the cyclone fencing trying to see the injured as they were stretchered off the RAAF planes.
The airport fire truck hosing out the back of the RAAF places - blood and skin from those who had travelled back.
The injured who were so terribly injured they didn't make the flight home - I believe there were a couple of people who passed away on the first flight out of Denpasar.
The look of terror on the faces of those passengers who were evacuated out of Bali after the bombings.

Week 1 & 2: I remember...

I remember how quiet it was.
I remember the smell.
I remember the forlorn faces of family and friends of the residents.
I remember a wheelchair bound resident, so skinny, so fragile, not much life left.
I remember the therapy dog who visited, the black lab with a red bandanna.
I remember loving this place and hating it at the same time.
I remember the meetings with the doctors.
I remember how excited dad was when we arrived.
I remember that dad in the hospice wasn't the dad I grew up with.
I remember how angry he was some days.
I remember how sad and completely hopeless he was other days.
I remember taking him for granted.
I remember going up there in the evening and feeding the feral kittens and cats that lived in the drains of the hospital.
I remember trying to catch the kittens, but they were too wily and fast.
I remember the big, white fluffy kitten.
I remember going up to the hospice and spending a hour or two with dad catching cane toads that infested the gardens.
I remember taking them back to dad's house and putting them in the freezer.
I remember the young fella of 17 who passed away a couple of weeks after arriving.
I remember dad breaking the record for longest living resident in the hospice - he lasted 6 months.
I remember the day Dad told us that his mate had sold his motorbike for him.
I remember as Dad counted out $1000 to give to myself and my sister.
I remember the look on his face as he did it and handed the money to us - satisfaction and pride.
I remember scrounging around for coins to cover the cost of smokes for him, because even though he was dying of cancer he didn't really see any point to giving up.
I remember dad getting his words mixed up.
I remember dad getting his physical actions mixed up.
I remember the look my dad gave us whenever we were leaving.
I remember how swollen he was from the medication.
I remember the terrible haircut he had asked the travelling hairdresser to give him.
I remember his oddly shaped head as his brain tumour got bigger.
I remember the last phone call I had with him,
I remember some of the last things he said to me,
I remember him asking me for permission to let go.
I remember dreaming of his funeral.
I remember my sister calling me, telling me he'd gone.