Thursday, 17 June 2010

Her Father's Daughter

Last week, the postman brought me these:

My cousin posted them to me. I got them all developed. Wow.

My real dad's name was William. Bill to his friends. Bill Barrie. A tall, proud Scot, straight from Glasgow. He met my mother when they both worked at the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme - he was one of many overseas workers recruited from Europe, she a local Cooma girl.

And so, they fell in love. I think. I'm not sure, I never got told anything. Apparently my mother got back from the honeymoon and whispered to her sister who had come to pick her up from the airport: "I've just made the biggest mistake of my life."

So obviously, something was up. My guess was the booze - he drank like a fish. Complete alcoholic. They had twin girls in 1969, and then me in 1972. I am the boy he always wanted, he just didn't see it. LOOK DAD, MANHANDS!

I have a handful of memories of him, all scary and bad and angry. He ruled the whole house with his anger, went on violent rampages and would hit my mother regularly. (I think, I never got told anything ... it's why I'm such a big snoopy snoopster now.)

She put us three girls in the car one day and drove off. Left him alone. It was my fourth birthday. We went to live with my grandparents. My sisters were scared of men for a long time after that. I was the opposite, clambering on any man's lap with relish. (Which continued WAY into my twenties.)

Linda, Leigh and I still have relatives in Scotland - Bill's sister Netta, our aunt. I wrote her once, asking her about him. What was he like? What were his interests? She said he was a dashing man, who often got compared to Roger Moore.

He liked tennis. He was in the army. He was the youngest in a family full of girls. He was a genius - as in, a brilliant man. He worked for IBM computers in Sydney during the seventies and eighties, developing software. Mum has said that if I was a boy I could have saved their marriage. Something tells me nothing could have saved their marriage.

I didn't cry when I saw these photos. But I felt the familiar deep pull again. I can't miss someone I didn't even know, but to have come from him, to be told my entire life that I look like him; same hair, same build, same stance, same bone structure. Same thirst. Same propensity for self-destruction.

I understand and relate to this guy more than maybe anyone. I wonder if he thought of me much. I wish I had been enough to make him stay alive. I wish he had the same huge awakening that I had when I had my children. But he didn't.

Does this mean I love my children more than he loved me and my sisters? Of course it does. Booze came first, always. In this next photo, he obviously has the worst hangover. I can smell it in his pores. I know that sick, anxious, nervous guts feeling. The pasty skin and wired eyes. I do NOT miss this feeling. Someone give this man a drink, STAT!

He was found dead in his bed in his shitty flat in Batemans Bay. Wray Street. Number 7. I don't know what he liked for breakfast, or what his favourite colour or TV show was. But I know he liked vodka. Empty bottles were found littered everywhere. We went to his flat and walked into his room, I looked at his rumpled sheets and the head indentation in his pillow. He was pretty hopeless - my nan told me that he used to go visit her, ask her if she had any vanilla essence in her pantry. (To drink.)

It will always sting. He missed out on so much. And the daughter he wished so badly to be a boy ended up having no girls herself - just boys. Male energy runs all through my house these days, probably to make up for the lack of it in my early years.

My entire life I have said "I look exactly like my father!"

But searching these photos, I finally realised ... that my father looks exactly like me.


  1. That last picture just cries "Wasted potential!"

    I'm sorry, Eden. I wish your dad could have had that awakening...

  2. What a great post. You are able to put everything in to such heartfelt words that make me feel like your family. I love it. And he does look like YOU.

  3. I agree he looks like you. I'm so glad you were able to get to a place that he could never find.

  4. Jesus we're so alike.

    I just put Z down to a nap and I'm sitting here, throat tight -- chills keep cascading coming and going -- I want to howl I knooooow ...I could I have felt so alone when there was another little girl half way across the world who felt the very same thing.

    I used to think that everything would have been different had my father lived...and then I realized that yes, it would -- I would have had a living alcoholic who would actively disappoint me.

    I believe in a heaven where you're healed and you look down on your daughther to help her out because fuck man, you owe it to her.

    That's what I have to believe so I believe it for you too.

    I put my address on your skype :) I'm still way too shy though. I figure that if sometime after 7pm here when Z goes to bed it will be midday where you are and perhaps we can say hello sometime soon.

    We do look like our fathers and you know what? They loved as much as raging alcoholics can -- but somehow through their example we can love and DO -- we hold back the worst ( like me lately wanting to scream the house down around W's ears -- ah summertime...)

    and we live everyday trying to be better.


    I love you Eden.

  5. not sure what to say here.

    obviously, in my current situation, this post makes me feel all weird inside.

    we have a lot to talk about.


  6. dang this is a good post. I'm in the other side of the world shaking my head thinking of similar stories in my own family. Unfortunately, some things really are universal.

  7. a father can be alive and you can grow up with him and it can make you feel lonely and damaged just like him not being there. he can remain the unanswered question in your life all the while living and breathing before you...
    your post was brilliant and I cried, for you, for me, for all the girls who make their way without him.

  8. Darling, you have your father's colouring and bone structure, but you have your mother's smile. And your eyes are your own.

    See you tomorrow somewhere babe, text me even!

  9. All I can think is what a waste. What a way to live.

    I haven't been through what you have but I have my own dad and his drinking. And the one thing it has taught me is that life is full of choices and I am responsible for all my choices. I learnt that from seeing him not learn that.

    I am sorry about your dad and sorry for him. I wish he could have realized that his life was about choices. I wish he had made better ones.

  10. This is a fantastic post. Your honesty shakes the life into your stories. Your dad may have lost his way, but you are finding new paths through your history now. :)

  11. Seeing these pictures makes me think what a bitter sweet thing to receive. I love old photos and getting a bunch of old photos would be fabulous. But then the reminder of what he didn't or couldn't do as a parent is so sad. One thing here though really struck me. It was the part where your mom said if you had been a boy you could have saved their marriage. How incredibly horrible and inappropriate to put that on you. It was not then or ever your job to save their marriage. It was their job and their job alone. A marriage's survival should never depend on the children that come from that marriage. My heart aches for that little girl who never knew her father and who's father never knew what a spectacular woman she would become.

  12. as I was reading i was thinking, holy crap, they have the same smile. you're right he has your smile. and he missed out on so much.

  13. He was good looking. Those first photos have so much nostalgic glamour. But Eden, it was nothing to do with you. As you say, nothing could have saved their marriage. I think children can be a wonderful gift but I think you always carry your demons and unfortunately you have to deal with them. No-one can make them go away except you. I think if you had been a boy it could have destroyed you, and as it is I think it shows your tremendous strength that you survived and are so full of lust for life now, that you are not hiding under a blanket. I know someone who's father placed tremendous pressure on him to become the man his father wanted and although he is a great person, he is very, very complex and very, very difficult to get close to, and he has a lot of issues.

    Good luck, honey. I think you are doing great.

    (I wonder how many of us girls struggle with not being the boy. If I had been a boy, I could have/should have saved the family business. Instead it was sold and it tears us all apart. My mother waits impatiently for the next generation to produce males.)

  14. I ,look just like my father too. He's crazy as a betsy-bug. If I let it, the dark side of him would overtake me- that's why I've practiced good mental hygiene all my life. Wonder what my kids will try to avoid that comes from me.

  15. Did you crawl into my head for this post?

    I always wondered why my father chose booze over me. It hurt for a long time.

    I finally realized he is the one that missed so much. He never knew me.

    There are too many of us all over the place that can all tell this same story.


Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...